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Discussion Starter #1
So I've been struggling with housetraining my five month old pointer puppy. The fact that I'm on a 4th floor walk up doesn't help. My puppy has regularly been holding it for 3-5 hours, but has frequent accidents. He can last the whole night - has since about 10 weeks, and often will hold it up to 6 hours.

So a few days ago, something sort of magical happened. I started just opening the door on the patio and sending him out. I stand on the porch and just watch him go, and click as soon as he goes. Then I call him and he comes right back up to a special treat and lots of praise. Hail Mary.

So I've been doing this steadily, and he always comes up afterwards. Sometimes he stops to sniff the garden, but I clap my hands and have him come back up.

But he's still having occasional accidents so I decided to up the ante and just let him out every hour yesterday. I also skipped our usual walk because I was organizing things at home, though I did play with him a lot more than usual.

Well, he went every hour. And he still had two accidents. It's like he immediately learned that he gets to go, so he started drinking like a fish. He drank more than a gallon of water yesterday - he's only 33 pounds. The first accident was only twenty minutes after his last potty trip. I took him out, then I jumped in the shower. When I came out in my towel, I saw him signaling to be let out. I raced to get my clothes on, but didn't make it - I peed all over the floor.

A couple hours later, he didn't even give me the warning. He had an accident about thirty minutes after he had last went. Overall he peed 14 time yesterday.

So that's problem number 1. I've taken him to the vet and we ruled out a UTI. Today no accidents so far, and he's drinking his normal amount of water (though I'm sending him out every two hours).


Problem #2. Last night, after being aggravated, he went out to pee. Twenty minutes later, he was at the door again. Confused that he had to go again, but also wanting to reward that behavior, I let him out - especially since he had already had two accidents that day within a half hour of his last urination. He just walked out, then dug under the fence, and ran as fast as he could without turning back.

This is the first time he had run away. I ran back into the house and got the juiciest treat I could fine - I giant link of alpine sausage that he's always staring at and never allowed to have because it's for humans, and went out waving it and calling him. I've heard that you're not supposed to chase dogs, because it makes them run more, so I walked carefully and slowly, kind of freaking out, but sounding cheerful and happy. When I found him, he was coming out of the neighbor's yard, holding a rotten guava that he had seen them throw two days ago and had wanted to pick up. He saw me and my sausage and started running to me, but then kept on running past me. Then he went to the next building, straight up the stairs. I know where he was going - the person who lives there has a dog that barks all day, and he's always looking in that direction. I crouched down and played dead to get his attention, in a dark alleyway in Chicago, like a lunatic. But it worked - he got worried and came to check on me.


Anyway, so these are the two problems - the potty training and the running away. If you guys could comment on either one, or both, that would be cool. I'm at my wit's end with potty training - he has an accident at least every three or four days now - two yesterday. As far as the running away - I wonder if I should just stop letting him go out on his own, or if I should continue to do as we've been doing the past few days and give him the freedom to do it on his own (which is super convenient for me). Will it reward him if I continue to give him freedom, and teach him that he's allowed to run away every once in awhile? I'm so glad that he's safe and he got loose late at night. I never want got that to happen again, and I'm already trying to strengthen my recall.

Thoughts?
 

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Wow, I'm glad you got him back. Don't let him out off lead again.

Control his water intake better and do a better job of taking him out on lead, frequently and praising when he goes outside. He drank way too much water yesterday and believe it or not their bladders can't hold a gallon. :) Water toxicity is a real thing and puppies have a tendency to overdrink.
 

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The problem with the way you are doing it is that you aren't rewarding him at right after (and I mean within a second or two of his bottom rising from being done going) he finishes. You can either be right next to him and pop a high value treat in his mouth when he's finished, or clicker train him as you have been doing and click him as soon as he's done pottying then give him the treat within 10 sec or less. The clicker will allow you to be further away from him and still mark the behavior but the delay can't be that long or he won't make the connection to the clicker and the treat. If using the clicker you can go down the steps but not fully out into the yard, that way he doesn't have very far to go to get the treat. Whichever you choose you need to be either rewarding or clicking him as soon as he's finished so that he learns that pottying outside is what gets him those great treats and nothing else.

LOL, sounds like he had a really fun time last night! I wish you had to, but I do know the horror of having one do that and take their sweet time coming back, not fun and has the added benefit of aging us a good 10 years. Practice recall, start inside and slowly work your way outside as he gets good at responding inside. Also pick a special, you're only going to get it for recall, treat. Something like hot dog bits, cheese, or real meat, works well for that. When outside start in a boring place and only move out to the street when he's good in the yard. If you add distractions to fast he won't be able to obey so be sure to go slow.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The problem with the way you are doing it is that you aren't rewarding him at right after (and I mean within a second or two of his bottom rising from being done going) he finishes. You can either be right next to him and pop a high value treat in his mouth when he's finished, or clicker train him as you have been doing and click him as soon as he's done pottying then give him the treat within 10 sec or less.

Yep. Well I got him at 9.5 weeks, and that's what I've been doing between then and this week - 3.5 months, basically. I've been going out with him and rewarding him the second he goes. I hate using a clicker, but I just switched to it this week so I can find a way to mark the behavior if I'm far away when he goes. I mean to be perfectly honest, I'm doing it because I'm just getting lazy and am a fatass and hate going up and down so many times. Plus, when I go out with him, he spends a lot of time sniffing around and looking for the perfect spot before going. But now that I'm just letting him out, clicking, and giving him an amazing treat when he gets back, he does everything really quickly. When I come out with him, a potty break is about 10 minutes, including him going, me rewarding, and coming back up. Now the whole thing takes about 1 minutes tops (he really runs back quickly up those stairs to get the treat)

He seems to understand very clearly that he's supposed to go outside. I think part of the problem is that he doesn't have a pee schedule. I really have no idea why he goes 4 times a day on some days and 12 times a day on others. I keep his water bowl full and allow him to drink as needed. It's occurred to me that I should control his water intake like I did earlier (because at one point he went three weeks without an accident and I only let him have water at certain times) but it's hot and I want to make sure he has as much water as he needs. Seemed like his health should be prioritized even if it sets us back with training a little.
 

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My secret to being a lazy dog trainer is this: put in the work up-front. It takes a lot of consistent effort to get the behaviors you want now, especially if those behaviors are innately challenging (and having a young puppy be able to realize he needs to pee, and then hold that pee for four flights of stairs, is truly a challenging behavior...it is awesome that you're seeing some progress, even if it still seems inconsistent). But the reward for putting in that effort is that eventually, you will get to a point where you can maintain it with almost no effort at all...a short-term hassle for a lifetime of convenience. This is what I tell myself again and again, especially when I am banging my head against a wall over the massive inconvenience of being only four months into owning a know-nothing young dog myself.

After a few days of venturing outside alone, it's pretty normal that he's feeling brave enough to try exploring more, and it's awfully age-appropriate of him as well (as he continues to grow toward teenager-hood, expect even more confidence being away from you). My guess is that if you continue to let him out off-leash, you will soon see a return to his habit of sniffing and exploring instead of immediately peeing...it's just a guess, but I'd bet that his eagerness to run out and pee and then right back to you had more to do with insecurity (and to the natural clinginess of a young puppy) than to a sudden understanding of the rules. To my way of thinking, this sets you up for another problem on top of the frustrations you're already experiencing, where he becomes progressively harder to retrieve (even if you fix the fence) and you end up waiting just even longer for him to go about his potty business.

Given that you've learned that he can dig under the fence, I wouldn't go outside without a leash again. Having him in any situation where he will occasionally run away is incompatible with teaching a solid recall, besides being awfully scary. Again, it's a question of short-term restrictions/effort for years & years of future fun. Dogs are a pain, especially for the first 3-6 months when it seems like we just have to teach them EVERYTHING. But once the pieces start to fall into place, all that effort really does start to pay off. Honestly, it sounds like you've been doing the right things and he's on the right path, and things will get better with consistency and patience.
 

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Since everyone else has the potty training thing down, I'm going to suggest fixing your fence. It's sad to have a fenced yard and not be able to let your dog run in it. Here's some ideas here for dogproofing a fence.

Peace in the Yard: 7 Ways To Dog Proof Your Fence | notes from a dog walker

It won't contain every dog ever but it might be enough. If your pup isn't microchipped, consider getting it done also.
 

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Well, he went every hour. And he still had two accidents. It's like he immediately learned that he gets to go, so he started drinking like a fish. He drank more than a gallon of water yesterday - he's only 33 pounds. The first accident was only twenty minutes after his last potty trip. I took him out, then I jumped in the shower. When I came out in my towel, I saw him signaling to be let out. I raced to get my clothes on, but didn't make it - I peed all over the floor.

A couple hours later, he didn't even give me the warning. He had an accident about thirty minutes after he had last went. Overall he peed 14 time yesterday.

Based on your description of the accidents I would say that in case #1 he had a bit too much freedom... If you're going to hop in the shower or do something else that you can't watch him I would either put him in his crate/pen or restricted area, or restrict his water intake till you're back to supervising him. Second accident of the day seems like the pee caught him by surprise as well. He's only 5 months old so he probably doesn't have full bladder control yet. I think you just need a touch more vigilance and flexibility in your trips outside. If you see him drink a decent amount of water take him out 10 mins after that instead of waiting for his next scheduled pee. And when you can't watch him for signals for short periods of time reign in his freedom a bit. For instance when you go take a shower, take him out before you go, then set him up in his crate/xpen or confined space with a chew stick/kong or fun toy until your done, then take him out again and go back to your schedule.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
My secret to being a lazy dog trainer is this: put in the work up-front. It takes a lot of consistent effort to get the behaviors you want now, especially if those behaviors are innately challenging (and having a young puppy be able to realize he needs to pee, and then hold that pee for four flights of stairs, is truly a challenging behavior...it is awesome that you're seeing some progress, even if it still seems inconsistent).

But the reward for putting in that effort is that eventually, you will get to a point where you can maintain it with almost no effort at all...a short-term hassle for a lifetime of convenience. This is what I tell myself again and again, especially when I am banging my head against a wall over the massive inconvenience of being only four months into owning a know-nothing young dog myself.
yes, you're right. I started going back out with him again.

But today - just now, actually, he POOPED in the house. He hasn't pooped in the house since his first week here! So from 11 weeks to 5 and a half months - not a single poop in the house. And then today he did it! In fact, it was right after I had a professional service clean my home.

What the frack! I don't get it. We're going backwards with training. There were period where he had weeks with no accidents and now he's regressing like crazy.
 

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OHHHH dear, a 5 month old puppy OR EVEN AN ADULT DOG should never be let out to run without a lead, especially in Chicago (or elsewhere!). A secure PADLOCKED fenced in yard would be extremely important to keep him safe if you have this capability....I live in your area....when Fall hunting season begins lots and lots of dogs end up stolen and are used to "hunt" in southern Illinois...and then abandoned! Coyotes are roaming the lakefront....our neighborhood has lost about 3 dogs to them already! Also, he could be easily stolen and used as dog fighting bait. A purebred would be very tempting to steal! If you love your dog please don't be so naive that these can't happen...as far as the potty training....there is usually some regression, it is not usually a straight line progression. Hopefully he is microchipped and neutering might help a lot when he is the correct age for it. Begin at square one potty training and always keep him on lead...even if you think he will obey...as pointers have a high prey drive. They will take off after any varmint without a thought or minding their owner unless worked with and trained well!
 

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I'm glad that you got him back. I got worried about it, to be honest. More training is really needed in order to avoid another incident related to this incident.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Four days no accidents, folks!

Also, have been doing boundary training for the past few days.

How to Clicker Train Your Dog to Stay in the Yard | Karen Pryor Clicker Training

So far we're only doing it indoors. I'm going to progress up and start doing it outdoors too. Until then I take him out at night (for some reason he's only adventurous about trying to get out in the evening).

It's probably best - even though I take him on leash there have been times I've dropped the leash or loosen my hold on it because I'm carrying groceries or cleaning up poop or something. So it would be nice to know that he's no lost forever if I do drop the leash.
 
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