April 7th, 2013

The Woes of Potty Training

by Jacqueline Whitmore

My sweet puppy, Abigail.

My sweet puppy, Abigail.


I’ve been a little stressed lately. Several weeks ago my husband and I got a new puppy. Her name is Abigail and we’re trying to potty train her. Since she’s still young (18 weeks old), we take her outside every two or three hours.

Sometimes she likes to potty on a small patch of grass in the front yard. Other times she likes to go on the bricks in the back yard. But her favorite place to go potty is on my expensive area rug in the living room.

Abigail is not my first puppy so this is not my first potty training rodeo. But the perfectionist in me thinks that I can housebreak her in five days or less. Perhaps I’ve been reading too many articles on the Internet.

The practical side of me, however, knows that potty training takes time and patience. But I don’t always listen to the practical side. This was evident recently when I had an ugly meltdown.

The other evening, just before bedtime, Brian and I took Abigail and our other pup, Cooper, for a final potty break in the back yard. It was drizzling rain. As usual, Cooper quickly did his business and Brian took him inside and went to bed.

Abigail, on the other hand, just stood there. I told her to go pee-pee but she just looked at me with her sweet soulful eyes as if I was crazy and then turned around and walked back to the door.

I picked her up again and put her on the bricks and told her to go pee. She looked at me and pranced back up the stairs and stood at the back door while I stood in the cold rain with my arms crossed.

I picked her up a third time and put her back on the bricks. She did an about-face and marched back to the door. I finally gave up and we went inside the house.

As soon as I closed the door she dashed into the living room and squatted on the area rug.

“Noooooooo!” It was too late.

I threw my hands up in the air and did something I don’t normally do. I blurted out a string of expletives. I stormed into the kitchen, yanked a handful of paper towels off the rack, then burst into the laundry room and grabbed an old rag and some rug cleaner.

I slammed the door shut and went back into the living room. I got on my hands and knees. “I’m too #@%* old for this,” I said when I was spraying and scrubbing the wet mess. “I’m going to pull this rug up tomorrow and put it in the garage until she’s potty trained!” Abigail patiently sat there and looked at me like I had just lost my mind.

I finished cleaning the stain, turned off the living room lights, scooped Abigail up in my arms, and went upstairs to the bedroom. Stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp.

My husband was lying in bed holding Cooper in his arms. He didn’t say a thing. He just looked at me like I had glowing green eyes, smoke coming out of my nostrils, and horns growing out of my head. I put Abigail on the bed.

I brushed my teeth, put on my nightgown, and crawled into bed. Abigail curled up beside me like she always does and went to sleep. Her little body was warm and cozy. Breathe. It took me a few minutes to calm down but I finally fell asleep.

The next day Brian and I rolled up the living room rug and put it in the garage and then I called Debra, the dog trainer. We’ve had one lesson so far.

I’m learning that in order for Abigail to succeed, I have to do my part too. I have to crate her when I can’t keep an eye on her, pull her water up when she’s not eating, take her outside after meals, naps, and playtime, and praise her often.

I have to remind myself that Abigail won’t be a puppy forever. She has a lot to teach me and I have a lot to learn. With some luck and a lot of training, I’m certain we’ll both graduate with flying colors.

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