Post 4.4 - Porta Potty

I like to travel with my dogs. In addition to it being a stress-reliever in having them with us, the dogs enjoy the change of scenery, too. But this also means that dogs have to be well-socialized and understand a bit more clearly and specifically what is required of them at different times.

When I adopted my 11-year-old Malinois, he was nine months old, and a friend of mine told me that the most valuable thing he had ever trained his dog to do was to poop on command. And he was right, in ways that might seem surprising.

On long road trips when you're trying to keep to a schedule, dogs can be uncertain, nervous, and even defensive in unfamiliar surroundings. They may be able to urinate, but anything more than that might be a challenge. Once you arrive at a destination, whether for the night or longer, there may also be specific areas where dogs should relieve themselves - which is typically not the area the dog might choose for him- or herself.

So, we did it - from 11 months old to today, he will poop on command.

Basically, all dog training is building on behaviors or interests the dog already has and attaching it to a command. So all we did at first was say the command until he eliminated, and then praised him for it. We sounded insane, of course, and it took some time initially, but as we had already established a regular bathroom schedule at home following his meals, we knew he would eventually go if we waited long enough. Being an extremely intelligent dog, he put two-and-two together pretty quickly.

To date, he's traveled with me from Boston to Phoenix, seen the Atlantic Ocean, and encountered all forms of ground coverings from sand to soil to concrete to asphalt, and he's pooped on all of them. It has also had the added effect of making him more relaxed, because if we stop somewhere and I give the command, there is sort of this look on his face like, oh, THAT's what he wants me to do here.

And it really is fantastic. If I'm in a rush to leave for work or another appointment and I want him to go, I can just give him the command and he will.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

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