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Discussion Starter #1
We inherited our chihuahua from a family friend who did not have the time needed to care for him. Unfortunately, the man waited till he was 9 months-12 months old before he came to this conclusion and allowed us to take the pup. He is not potty-trained. He has been left in a large room and been allowed to go wherever whenever with no consequences. He was 'crate-trained' in that he was taught that he could go as he pleased in a crate much too large for him and get out by whining. For a while, he was learning to go in a box with a puppy pad and he was doing well at that; but he'd often go places he wasn't supposed to and if you turned around and saw him while he was doing it he'd react as if he knew he wasn't supposed to go there.

Since he was doing so well with the box and so badly with everything else, we tried to embrace that. He did amazing at first, and then he just stopped. We praised him heavily whenever he went in it and tried to give him treats which he had no interest in... but he's no longer motivated by the praise either.

If he's not motivated by treats or praise, what am I supposed to do?
someone recommended a mild scolding when he was caught going where he wasn't supposed to, and now he won't go in front of me at all.
I've read that taking him for walks will force him to poop in front of me and then I can praise him... but it's 20ish degrees here and much too cold for a Chihuahua to be out.
I'm at a total loss.

I'm also wondering if perhaps the reason he doesn't care about praise is because I praise him and give him so much attention for doing nothing? I'm so confused and I don't understand what's going on. I've never had to potty train a grown dog before or a dog who doesn't like treats / praise and nothing seems to be working.... he is perfect except for this issue and it is causing issues between him and me because he'll hold it desperately and get stressed and refuse to go no matter what I do. :/
 

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Discussion Starter #2
for those wondering, here's a rough step-by-step for our history with him:

First Days Home

He wasn't a big fan of his food; he was indifferent to it, it was too big for his mouth, his owner had never had him on a feeding schedule. The food was also cheap and unhealthy.

He was indifferent to his treats. He seemed to have difficulty chewing them and was never particularly interested in trying nor did he show much excitement when we brought one out and talked to him excitedly about it.

We went out and bought him some healthy food, plus five different kinds of treats. He rejected the meat flavor and the cheese flavor and the veggie flavors. Of all things he loved the berry flavor. I noticed he had difficulty chewing them so I began breaking them up for him. I sprinkled some crumbs in his new food too, to encourage him, and began limiting to a ten minute window morning and night for food. He passed up about three meals, and downed the whole meal the next chance he got, so I praised him very heavily and we've had no food issues since. He gets crazy excited for meal times. He also gets excited over treats, but only when it doesn't involve potty time. He always goes for me and pets instead of the treat.

After his first meal, I spent hours waiting for him to eliminate to get an idea of how long it might take to go through his system. He took much longer but finally went. However, this time of process didn't prove consistent. I tried occasional potty breaks, constant potty breaks, long potty breaks, short potty breaks, nothing. sometimes it would take 8-12 hours, sometimes 40 minutes, etc. The meals were routine but his potty habits didn't seem to be.
I even tried the term 'last chance' in hopes of inspiring some understanding that he had a limited amount of time to do something-- this worked for his meals when I'd warn him that the food was about to be taken away, but no such luck with potty.

The first few times, he used the box. I praised him highly, my husband praised him highly, and I tried to give him a treat, but he dismissed the treat and went for more affection-- which was fine. When it was new, he seemed entertained by it.... but after a day or two, he lost interest in it. He started going where he pleased again, would deliberately go in the floor as soon as i turned my back for a simple second, etc. I was so sad, not even mad, and he could tell I was sad and tell I was happy when he used the proper spot, but then he'd just move on, stopped using the proper spot all together. for a bit it seemed that all that was needed was to ensure the pads were always clean, but after a while he wouldn't even step in it. We tried praising him when he stepped in it to encourage him to step in it more often, but to no avail.

After he stopped responding to treats and affection, someone suggested a mild scolding. We tried this, anddddd he stopped going in front of us all together.


TONIGHT
I read that they stop going in front of you as a solution to your displeasure, so I sat around for hours trying to get him to go so I could praise him and get him to understand that going in front of me is okay. This isn't great, because again it's too cold to take him outside. The only choice I had left was to let him go in a tiled spot, hope it was the potty spot, and praise him even if it wasn't. After holding it for hours while I tried my best to convince him that my back would be turned for ages and that he could come get attention and go back without concern of my eyes, he finally peed... on the floor, and a little on his blanket. I caught him just after the act and praised him heavily and then cleaned up the pee, placed it on the potty spot in hopes he'd maybe magically make the connection.

So after he peed, I turned sideways; not immediately facing him, but not not-looking-at-him either. I notice him showing signs that he'll need to poop soon, and sure enough he starts acting a little funny, and in a decently short amount of time, he goes right in front of me while I'm not looking but could easily see him at any moment. So I start heavily praising him, and either he knows or he was just trying to reach me ( which he always does when I start praising him no matter what he's doing at the time, ) and he shakily puts two paws in the box while still trying to poop. Then he gets all four in, but then he doesn't stop-- he keeps coming towards me and I can't do anything to stop him in his track lest I make him nervous again, so I just keep praising. Thankfully he did end up going in the box, but I think it was an accident. Anyway, it's hopefully progress that will get us back to him going in front of us even if it's in the wrong spot-- which seems better than refusing to go in front of us at all. :/

After a while he got in the box and started scratching like he was going to go-- which is what he did when he was using it properly. But the he started chewing on the pad and after I got him to stop that ( without scolding ) he grabbed a toy and kept trying to take it into the box-- which makes me think he wanted to use the box as a bed.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
It's also worth mentioning that he's readily gone in his own bed before-- so the tip that he won't go where he sleeps has become useless for him again.... :/
I don't know why he doesn't mind going where he sleeps....
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
on supervision...
I use to allow him to have fun in the room with us, but after he stopped using his box and started on the floor if I turned my back for a single second, I limited him to a large bucket with nice blankets and toys. He slept in said bucket at night, and got to hang out in it beside us whenever we were busy cooking, playing a video game, etc. He started peeing in that too and after that I resorted to limiting him to my lap ( he absolutely will not potty in a human's lap ) and started placing him in his crate any time neither of us could hold him our lap, including at night for sleep. He goes in the crate too... I've had to bathe him about five or so times over the past day or two. ( I only use soap when it's #2, and otherwise water, in hopes of avoiding drying his skin out or anything. ) and I can't count how often I have had to run his crate under scalding hot water. I'm guessing he has never learned that potty in the crate means he'll have to sit with it till we get back / wake up.... I'm hoping he'll learn that after a few more times and start holding it. I use to worry that he was incapable of holding it, but he has made it obvious that he can hold it for at least 12 hours. ( though I never go 12 hours without giving him potty chances )

We also let him down on the floor for supervised potty attempts and supervised play.
I try to let him play often, especially since it's too cold for walks and he can no longer play in his bucket or the tile floors unsupervised... but he usually insists on trying to snuggle with me even more despite the fact that we have already been snuggling practically all day.
 

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So I may have solved most of my own problem...
this morning, he eliminated both times in the box right in front of me. There was still a little anxiety, but not nearly as much.

That being said, I'm still stuck on how to encourage him when he seems mostly indifferent to praise and treats.... so if anyone has any ideas for such a tricky dog, I'd love to hear them. In the mean time I'll just keep hoping and try to give occasional updates. ( less frequent than the ones I provided at the start of the thread, ofcourse. )
 

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Some quick tips would be, stop trying to use regular dog treats with him. Use something really delicious like bits of cheese sticks or hot dogs. Most dogs won't refuse them and those aren't hard or too crunchy for a little guy. If you want to take him out still, get him some warm coats. I also would confine him to just one room if you don't want him having accidents all over the place and until he gets a handle on where to go potty.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Thanks!
I've heard human food is bad because it's often bad for them and in my experience with other dogs they then start begging you for food.... but this might be worth a shot if he won't respond to anything else... and those are two foods that are great recommendations that I would not have thought of. He didn't like the flavors in treat forms, but he might like the real thing and they would be really nice for his tiny mouth...

We did get him some warm coats, but we've had trouble finding boots that will fit his incredibly tiny paws, and I'm worried about his ears and tail as well..
everywhere I've read states that due to their breeding history, they can be seriously hurt by anything below 35 degrees, because they're basically naked, their bodies are not accustomed to coping with such cold, and you can't cover the parts of them which would be most vulnerable to frostbite.... windchill is especially bad here too, so that really adds to the issue.... ( I live in the North Carolina mountain region; it is 21 today not taking into account wind chill... taking in wind chill, it is probably much colder... and during normal winters it can get into the single digits or even the negatives WITHOUT wind chill, and much more easily get that low or lower with windchill.... )

I'm not sure I'd even pick up on it if he got some sort of frostbite, and I'd feel absolutely terrible....
 

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How long have you had him? He may still be adjusting to his new situation and be a bit anxious. This is a good article: Three Ways to Confuse a New Dog

Thanks!
I've heard human food is bad because it's often bad for them and in my experience with other dogs they then start begging you for food.... but this might be worth a shot if he won't respond to anything else... and those are two foods that are great recommendations that I would not have thought of. He didn't like the flavors in treat forms, but he might like the real thing and they would be really nice for his tiny mouth...
There is some human food dogs shouldn't eat (e.g., onions, grapes/raisins, chocolate*), but most unseasoned meat and cheese are fine. And, meat and cheese are generally well liked by dogs, so they're willing to work for it.

Begging often begins because people feed dogs while they're eating. I can't get a handful of peanuts without my two running over and sitting in front of me, but it's my own faulty because I encouraged that behavior by giving them peanuts when they sat in front of me. They never beg while I'm eating meals because I've never given them anything from my plate. Using people food during training sessions shouldn't encourage begging.

* Those are some examples; there are several lists of foods poisonous for dogs if you google.
 

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Thankyou!
I've looked over the lists before, but I should look over them even more often. I knew the meat wasn't bad in theory, but I'd read certain types can give them tummy issues. Maybe all of these instances were seasoned meat now that I think about it though!

That certainly is reassuring.
All my other instances with food were folks he fed them while I wasn't watching, and later admitted they had fed them, so I didn't know the details. Reading this though, they probably did it from their plates. For about a split second, begging dogs are cute... but once they start begging constantly, it really stops being cute fast. He loves to snuggle with me, and I would hate for begging to get in the way when he wanted to cuddle while I watched a movie and ate a snack. :<

The next time we have some cheese, I will pull of a small piece and take it to his own room so he doesn't know where it came from and see if he likes it! ^^
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
also, an update...
he went to the box, found traces of pee, acted appalled, and found somewhere else to pee. It was a long period this time, so I was actually able to pick him up and place him on the pad. He seemed a little nervous, but when he stepped out I replaced the pad with a totally clean one, and in a few minutes he used it.

With the accident, he seemed to notice he didn't get praise or treats-- and the second time when he did it right, he was thrilled. In a little bit, he started to poo right beside the box. I caught myself saying no in a friendly babyvoice instead of praising him while I moved him to the box.... but in a little bit he returned to the box and went in it, and got praise and treats again.

I'm a little disappointed in myself for slipping up in the moment, but it still seemed to be a positive experience in the end.


He seems to have a weird in-between in his desire to find a bit of potty traces on the box.... it seems he prefers and is encouraged by a small trace, but if it gets a little too much, he won't go there... and it's a weirdly fine line. I think I'm learning though. and he is starting to get excited over the treats even in potty situations. I started out by praising him, then when he finishes and runs over I continue to praise him while I start petting him with one hand and reaching for the treats with the other, which he watches for eagerly and jumps excitedly to try to get. There's still a chance that he'll lose interest again like last time, but he's doing really well for Day 1.
 

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I feel a little silly for worrying so much now. I think something positive might have clicked for him.... I got so worried when he started getting nervous, but he has gotten back to his normal self now and is even better than before, and I've learned some too. Thanks so much for all your help, guys.
 
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