Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I just got a 5-month-old double doodle. He goes in and out the doggy door, which opens to a deck, by himself. I trained him in two days. He will go down the stairs into the yard to use the potty just fine. How can I train him to go out to potty all by himself? I’ve only had him three days, so hoping it will just take some time. I would love some tips to speed the process along.
Congrats on your new dog. Sounds like a smart one, which should make solving this problem pretty easy.
First off, you need to come up with a fun word that means to go outside. Dogs are the only animal on the planet who can read a human’s facial expressions, so coming up with a word that makes people smile and laugh can provide your dog with added motivation.
Next, have a family member or friend outside with a plethora of wonderfully stinky high-value treats your dog loves. I often use chicken liver.
With your dog and you inside near the dog door, have the person outside call your puppy by name. When your pup goes through the dog door, they should find this person right outside the dog door. When the pup is completely through the dog door, have them give him a treat and then say the command word after the treat goes into his mouth.
Call your dog back inside, pet him under his chin and say "Sit." Have the person outside call the dog again, but this time move one step farther away from the door. Keep repeating this process for 10 treats, then have the humans swap places. When you go outside, stand where the other person was standing when they finished. Practice the routine for another 10 treats.
The next time your practice, the person should be at the same distance from the door as they were when they stopped last time. Maybe a few feet closer. Practice for another five to 10 treats.
At some point, when the dog is running through the door with glee, try saying the command word when the dog is inside with you and someone is outside waiting. If the dog goes through the door on his own, have the person on the other side give five treats in a row, saying the command word after each one. We call this a jackpot, and its a great way to reward a big accomplishment like responding to the command word.
Once you can say the command word and have the dog go out, you need to start providing the dog with things to discover and motivate him to stay outside and explore. You can leave a small trail of treats from where the person was standing to the grass the first time. The next time, leave another trail, but add a small pile of shredded cheese at the end of the trail (which should be in the grass).
The cheese promotes sniffing the ground, which is healthy and may lead to other exploring. The goal here is to provide motivation to go outside and progressively increase the length of the stay.
Practice this a few times, but keep moving the shredded cheese farther into the lawn — maybe one foot farther each practice. While you are doing this, use less treats for the trail, spacing the treats farther apart. At some point, you will stop with the trail and just leave some shredded cheese on the lawn for your dog to find.
You can also leave new toys outside, as well as chewy items like bully sticks, cows ears, etc. The idea is to leave good stuff outside for your dog to find, which gives him more incentive to go out and explore. With enough positive exposures, your dog will go out often looking for them and this should lead to going potty on his own as well.
Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.
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Karen Windle, copy editor
We’re Bruce and Ernie (left). We love sneaking raw bacon off the kitchen counter, lounging around the house naked, er, without our collars and making friends with deer. (The deer *love* to play tag, but for some reason we’re always “it.”)
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Julie Anderson, news reporter
At left is Clyde. He’s a dog. He’s 2 ½. He’s deaf. At right is Pieces. He’s a cat. He’s 13. He can hear. They would like very much for you to pick them!
Brad Davis, business editor
If you're an avid reader of the World-Herald, maybe you've heard of Cooper. Features reporter Chris Peters has written about raising Cooper. Here he is on the custom pallet bed his mom built for him.
Chris Peters, features reporter
At left is Daisy. Her best friend is a reindeer, who comes to visit a few weeks each year. She complains a lot to the non-magical beings she lives with, for obvious reasons. At right is Diaz. He's a handsome boy who doesn't care about that. He loves walks and belly rubs, all people, most dogs, one cat, and zero racoons and opossums.
Rich Mills, copy editor
At the Ducey Farm in Dundee, we have the blackshirt gals who guard the back yard (Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt), and the chickens who help me garden (Brooklyn and Penny). They produce eggs and inspire pillows for the cutest and most fashionable dogs in the world (Phoebe, Gigi and cousin Tyson), who love to bark at the feral cats (Bunny and Butterscotch) who live outside and have matching tails!
Marjie Ducey, reporter
Gator likes eating snackies, expertly posing for pictures, getting floof everywhere and borking (not barking) at neighbor dogs.
Cory Gilinsky, features (and Sarah Jarecki, civilian)
Gracie the border collie and Beau the red heeler like long walks and frequent car rides, especially to drive-thrus that give treats.
Deb Shanahan, metro desk editor, and Kent Sievers, photographer
Isabel doesn’t enjoy her humans (especially the little ones) a lot, but sometimes likes a good chin scratch. Mostly she enjoys being left alone to sit on top of the piano and watch the birds outside.
Kevin Coffey, music critic
Izzy is 6 months old. She likes to chase her tail (and often catches it), climb up couches (and people), and bother Zake. Zake is 15 years old and unsure of Izzy. After all, Izzy has the high ground.
Zach Tegler, copy desk
Jameson may be named after whiskey, but this five-year-old gal is all sweetness. At first skittish after being rescued from a farm in Oklahoma, now her favorite hobby is stealing hearts — and covers.
Laurel Foster, online
We say Juni found us after my wife was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. This little Havaton brings our family joy, love and snuggles every day.
Jeff Robb, news reporter/data geek
Laika is, hands down, the happiest dog at the dog park. She is named after the heroic Russian cosmonaut dog, one of the first animals in space. Ciara loves to pray. When she joins our family in prayer, she sounds like Scooby Doo. She is fiercely loyal and protective.
Susan Szalewski, copy editor and news reporter
Lolo was adopted seven years ago in Louisiana. She's a mutt, and we think she's part nutria, otherwise known as a swamp rat.
Hunter Paniagua, digital sports coordinator
Minerva is a very hard worker. Two-year-old "Minnie" likes to spend her time cleaning, inspecting boxes and bird watching. (And looking adorable.)
Brandon Olson, digital content hub editor
Molly, a rat-terrier Chihuahua from NHS, loved everyone she met. She was an excellent high jumper and cuddler and gave us joy for 17 years. She died in April.
Betsie Freeman, features reporter
Nellie is a 10-year-old tabby cat who is more like 5 years old at heart. She enjoys sleeping in fresh, warm laundry, eating, chasing lasers and listening to stories with best friend, 4-year-old Sam.
Ashlee Coffey, Momaha.com editor
This is Oliver. He has three legs and a bullet permanently lodged in him. (We didn't put it there). He pretends like he's surly and tough but deep down he's very snuggly.
Roseann Moring, political reporter
Loves tuna, SBH and
A fireside nap
Sarah Baker Hansen, features, and Matthew Hansen, columnist
I'm Sasha. I was a stray in Oklahoma (where my ear was somehow torn) before a shelter rescued me & treated my heartworm. I just tested negative for heartworm, yay! I really like to play dead & get belly rubs!
Alia Conley, news reporter
Slugger, owned by the original Pet Parade Petitor in Chief and saved by Big Red Rescue in Omaha, chases his tail faster to his right than to his left. He ate a hole in the blinds to watch his owner come and go.
Steven Elonich, online editor
Toby is a 4-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix with a big personality. Given the protective tendencies of his breed, he’s very serious about watching over his property — and his owners. Until he isn’t.
Dave Elsesser, features editor, and RyAnne Elsesser
Toothpick loves biting bare legs, gazing longingly at birds outside and dipping his paw into bags of Spicy Nacho Doritos so he can lick off the Doritos dust (which his owners know is gross and bad but are powerless to stop).
Erin Duffy, news reporter
Boston Terriers, Willow, 8, and Dexter, 6, have a closet full of costumes, sweaters, scarves and even some pajamas. They only sit this nicely for photos because there are LOTS of treats involved – but really – they are crazy little puppies!
Tammy Yttri, copy desk chief
Nine years ago, we found Zed roaming the earth (it was a ruff life). He’s a good boy. He likes his toy lobster, pepperonis (which we call pupperonis) and keeping up with his fans at Zedwin.org.
Graham Archer, digital editor
Hi, my name is Zeus, I an eight-year-old American Eskimo looking to get back in the game. They say I am fixed, but I think my only problem is you aren’t in my life. I love long walks and treats. I want someone to chase squirrels with. Won’t you paw right?
Chris Machian, photographer