Friday, we packed up the girls, made sure the boys had someone to check in on them, and left for my parents’ house for the weekend. (My mum had a pool party with family planned for my birthday.) Elsie, unwillingly*, takes her Dramamine and we head off on our three-hour road trip to the Scott’s.**
We arrive without much of an incident and Elsie meets Gyla with the boundless energy only she is capable of harnessing while on Dramamine. With all this excitement, it was difficult for us to catch her before she pottied in the house. We took it in stride and made promises to keep an eye on her.
For the next eighteen hours, she holds it. Not knowing where to go was a HUGE setback for Miss Elsie. She understands where her spot is at our house; the magnolia tree. We have half an acre and Elsie does her business in a small patch in front of the magnolia tree, facing the house. Because schedules and routines are essential for Elsie, we feared we would have a minor complication due to travelling. We underestimated it.
Elsie continued to hold it until we made it home Sunday before dinner. She knew not to go inside, but she did not know where to eliminate. We took her out on several occasions, but there was no magnolia tree. There was no grassy patch facing the house. It was all too confusing. And, I feel a bit of regret for making the trip during a time she was making so much progress.
I am writing this more for advice when training a puppy a lot of things can be taught without routine but with consistency. We don’t tell Elsie to sit at 6:00AM and 6:00PM every day, we no longer set aside training time every after to teach her commands. Rather, we consistently teach her throughout the day and throughout the week. But, potty training requires ALL your patience, UNWAVERING consistency and commitment to a schedule, and familiarity. I know, for certain, we will not travel again until Elsie is 100% house broken.
I have often gotten frustrated with Elsie unfairly. Maggie was a breeze to train. She was adopted young, left outside during the day with her first owner, so when I adopted her at eight months, potty training was a joke. I popped her once when I caught her doing it inside and she never pottied inside again. Maggie spent so much time away from her first owner, she was aching to please and loved the attention and rewards she received from obeying commands. I have held Elsie to these expectations and that was very unfair of me in so many ways.
Elsie was adopted from the breeder at four and a half months. I would not advise buying from a breeder with more than one litter at a time. Human interaction and bonding does not take precedent and can really set you back training.
Prior to adoption, it was just Elsie and the other puppies. The breeder gave the puppies teaching games, but did not interact with the puppies while they learned. (This is something we have gathered having experienced the struggles we have with Elsie.) This resulted in a very intelligent and curious puppy with no relationship with humans. We spent a month and a half to two months just gaining her trust and convincing her our rules were important and she should follow them. (This time would have been best used potty training and obedience training, but when a dog doesn’t trust or understand a relationship with people, it is very difficult to teach much of anything.)
Once her trust was gained, we bought a house. Moving houses is a big and stressful change to any animal. Somehow, this move did solidify Elsie’s trust in her people. We did not expect such an outcome, but we got lucky.
We were busy unpacking for a week or two, so her training was pushed back further. The last two or three weeks has seen amazing progress in Elsie. She trusts us, she wants to please us, and her obedience training is being to take off – we are even training her to pick up her toys starting this week. She knows to go outside and every day is getting better at making it outside. Though she doesn’t know how to tell us when it is time to go out (but seems to be making a connection between the bells and outside), she has a regular schedule that we know and we follow religiously.
I write all of that to share our difficulties and experiences. I have trained several dogs throughout my life and this beautiful, sweet, charming, playful, stubborn bouvier has challenged me in every single way. Yet, she is beginning to turn a corner and we are seeing noticible progress every week. If you are struggling with your puppy, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can do!
*I want to take a moment to explain “unwillingly” because it means different things for different dogs. Some dogs will spit out the pill, some hold it under their tongue and spit it out a few minutes later (I am looking at you, Maggie), some will ignore the pill, some will swallow it when you put it in the back of their mouth and blow in their face. Elsie does none and all of these. Elsie gives you ONE shot to put it in the back of her mouth prior to biting you, clamping her mouth shut, hiding behind Maggie, AND etc. If you miss and say get it on her tongue, she will carry it off to a safe-place and spit it out. It was a disolvable pill, so at least she got some while she was carrying it.
**Elsie gets very, very motion sick. Even with Dramamine, she drools excessively. If she is not given medicine, she will get sick all in the car after 30 minutes of riding. I drive a coupe so crawling in the back seat to clean is a difficult task and the lingering smell takes a lot of baking soda and vacuuming iterations to deal with completely.