Our first Bichon Frise was purchased because my son and I have severe allergies. It was apparent from the minute we got her home that she was definitely one of the most intelligent dogs I had ever been around. She was responding to simple verbal commands almost instantly and in no time she had a slew of tricks under her belt. She was also the sweetest little thing I had ever been around. Potty training her seemed too easy to be true and she had only a few accidents in the initial stages of training. That is why it took me awhile to figure out why, on occasion, I would find she had an accident right in front of the door. I remembered the breeder telling us that potty training was more about the owner than the dog and she had been so easy to train at first. As she got older the accidents right in front of the door grew more frequent. I was puzzled until one day I walked into the room and found her sitting at the door, wagging her tail, and waiting patiently. Ah, I figured it out.
Belle had been trained that she was to do her business outside. When she was just a few weeks old we were with her every moment, never leaving her alone unless she was in her kennel. She would head to the door and immediately someone would jump up and open it. We all clapped for her and then gave her a treat for being such a good dog. She never had to make a sound. But now that she was getting older, we would leave her as we went about our daily chores and she settled into the routine. Sometimes, if we were in the back of the house, Belle would go to the door, sit patiently, maybe even whimper quietly, and when we were not alerted, she would have an accident right there, waiting for us to come. We had somehow trained our dog that we would come if she went to the door and waited – quietly. It broke my heart to find out that she was doing what she was supposed to do. It was the rest of us that had gotten the whole thing mixed up. If we weren’t right there with her, we had no idea she was waiting patiently for us.
We have now added a Shi-poo to our family and this time I decided we needed to use conditioning to potty train him. On the back door we hung a ribbon with several large bells on it. Each time any of us took him out to “potty,” we would hold him in our arms while ringing the bells ourselves. As we began to trust him a little more, we let him run to the door while we called out “potty” and we would ring the bells. One day, he went to the door to get out and sure enough he rang the bells. This whole process took no more than a week and a half to have him fully trained to ring the bells to go outside. Now, no matter what we are doing, he can get our attention through sound and not just behavior. This is wonderful because even if we are asleep, he can get our attention to go outside and do his business.
There are some other interesting behaviors that happened with this training process. It seems our dog has trained us. It did not take him long to figure out that if he rang the bells, he could go outside. Because we have a fenced in backyard this did not pose a terrible problem until he began coming in and out much like children going in and out constantly during summer days! At first it was funny but we soon realized we had to break him of that behavior quickly. We began to be a little more selective of when we paid attention to his bell ringing, and responded only when we new he needed to go “potty.” We also paired a strong verbal “no” if we were certain he was playing a game with us. Soon he tired of this behavior and it quickly resolved.
Another interesting behavior that developed involves the relationship “Boo” has with my teenaged son. My son has long days at school because of extracurricular activities. He is exhausted when he comes home from school and goes almost immediately to take a nap. However, Boo has not seen him all day and is eager to play. Not too long after training Boo with the bells, we noticed that if my son went off to his room to take a nap without first playing with the dog, Boo would run and ring the bells non-stop to make my son get up and play with him. I cannot say I did not find this behavior hilarious! The interesting this was that we had trained the dog to use the bells to get our attention and to let us know his needs. My son altered his behavior so that he gives Boo special attention first.
Pairing the ringing of the bells with certain behaviors and a consistent verbal prompt has alleviated any “potty” accidents in the house. I have always heard that training a male dog is next to impossible. These simple conditioning techniques have provided accident free training for our male dog.
Maybe our dog has us trained, he seems to think so. Either way this has proven to be a most efficient, fool-proof way of training our dog .