Friday, February 27, 2009

I Don't Know How I Did It, But It Sure Is Awesome

Somewhere along the way in Theo's potty training, I managed to teach him a very effective way of letting us know he needs to go outside to potty.  Or maybe he taught us...I'm never quite sure.  Anyway, as I've often mentioned, Theo is a bit of a crybaby.  Crying is his go-to method for telling us he wants something, and it can be hard to distinguish what he's whining about since he's pretty darn needy and usually downright demanding.  If we took him outside every time he cried, we would probably decide to just leave him out there after a day or so.  So when Theo is insistently crying Husband and I will ask in a clear voice "Theo do you need to go out?"  If yes, he always gives an adorable emphatic bark (with full on "do my bidding" eye contact).  If no, then he just silently pouts because you're standing there asking questions and not seeing to the needs he is crying about.  We always make sure to ask a couple of times because sometimes he needs to go out, but for whatever reason didn't feel like responding the first time we asked (probably because he got distracted by something shiny).  

I am so happy we have this system worked out because this way we're both happy.  Theo doesn't have to bounce up and down uncomfortably in a corner, holding his knees together because he has to go and no one will take him out, and I don't have to neurotically wonder every 30 minutes whether he's going to have an accident in the house if I don't take him outside.

Now this isn't full-proof.  Sometimes Theo will "say" he has to go, when really he just wants to go outside and play fetch with the tennis ball in the backyard.  Sometimes he'll say he has to go because he knows it'll get me off my butt and he has a better chance of enticing to a game of fetch (it's always about the darn fetch with that boy), but I'd say at least 8 times out of 10 it results in a successful pee.  I'll take it!

How did we teach him this?  I have no freaking clue.  But we definitely have taken steps to make sure we don't mess it up.  First off, we don't ever use the word "out" with him unless we're talking about pottying.  I'll say outside if necessary, but usually if I'm referring to going outside I'll just mention the activity we're about to do.  For example, when we're about to go on a walk, I'll say "Let's go for a walk!" rather than "Let's go out!".  Second, the minute we're outside after he's proclaimed he needs to go out, I tell him to make his business so it's clear why we're there.   Theo won't go in the backyard anymore.  I played too much fetch with him out there and now it's officially living space.  So when I take him out to go, I snap on his collar and leash and walk him across the street and wait for business to happen.  If it does, it does, if it doesn't, it doesn't.  Oh well, false alarm.  Sometimes I'll fetch play with him after, otherwise back in the house we go.  But if I ask if he needs to go out and he says yes, then across the street we go.  I think that really helps reinforce what I'm asking.

There have been times that I've wondered if Theo actually understands what I'm asking him, or whether he's just responding to my tone of voice.  I've actually tested it a few times.  I'd say "Theo, do you need to go [some random one-syllable word not rhymning with out in any way]?"  Nothing.  That dog knows what I'm asking, and he's darn smart about it.   


Anonymous said...

Brilliant! No idea who did the teaching here, but it works!


ClassyChassy said...

pretty neat how that worked out for you. With our girls, they each have their own signals. One will lay by the door. Another will walk anxiously back and forth. The other two girls will launch themselves into our laps and lick our faces and not give up till they get asked the 'question', and it is the not giving up mode that lets us know ITS FOR REAL THIS TIME!

a corgi said...

of course he's smart, he's a corgi!! I think sometimes they are smarter than us.

seems like you got a good system!!

I don't think we have a system with Koda, but he routinely goes first thing in the morning, lunchtime, dinner and then before nighttime. Sometimes I just send him outside because he's barking at a cat or a lizard or a bird and then he takes care of business. I do tell him when we are outside to "go potty" and he does which is nice when we are traveling in a new environment. But I know he trains me more than I train him. Very manipulative he is.

enjoy the weekend


Infrared Goggles said...

Awesome, never know when we're in the midst of a teachable moment--whether the teacher is the parent or the child is sometimes a mystery, too! ;) Wonder if we can stumble onto something this cool with our little Corgi girl... Will let you know if we do!

ocmist said...

Corgis are unbelievably smart and if you are consistant, they learn a lot of words. We have a doggy door so don't tend to have to worry about it, but when we go on a road trip for several hours, BG and OC will get fidgety and whine a bit and then get "happy" when asked if they have to "go outside--go potty" and then we know. I've used the same words since they were pups, so now, if they are anywhere needing to go, when I put them on a leash and tell them that, they go.

From what you said, you have had a consistant method, and he picked up on it very quickly... typical corgi... Don't you just LOVE IT!!!

Kelly said...

That is awesome that he understands you even when you change the phrase but keep the same tone! What a smarty!! :) We can ask Gibson anything that starts with "Where's the [fill in the blank]" and he will run to the window or start barking like crazy. We tested it by asking him "Gibson, where's the sandwich??" and he ran around barking for 15 minutes lol.

ana said...

Corgi's are so smart! We have bells by the door that we ring every time we take Taco out to potty. After a few months of us ringing it consistently, one day we were surprised to hear Taco ringing it on his own! We adhere to a strict walking schedule and Taco will usually just wait for the scheduled walk, but when he has to go urgently in the middle of the day, he'll ring the bells. I'm still amazed by it to this day.

Ivy@PaperElixir said...

OMG, I gotta try it with the baby once she's here! Saves a lot of diapers ;)

Dances with Corgis said...

That is pretty awesome!

Funny how he fakes it when he sometimes wants to go outside. Love it.

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