The One Thing Your Dog Needs to Know for Hurricane Season

Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA

It’s the one thing all of our dogs need to know for hurricane season – where to poop and pee.

But, wait. Don’t all our dogs already know where to potty? Yes, maybe. And, maybe not.

Most of our dogs know pretty well where to do their business near our home on a sunny or mildly inclement day. Things can get a bit iffy, though, if the weather is really bad (some of us already know that). And lots of dogs forget potty training altogether if they are staying in a different home or (worst case) in a hurricane shelter. It’s up to us to teach them specific potty instructions that will hold up under lots of circumstances.

The core of potty training remains the same:

  • Praise and treats for going in the right spot. We need to be there to pull this off. Practice in lots of places and in all kinds of weather. Pro tip: teach your dog to walk with you under an umbrella. This is so important for puppies, but it can be taught at any age (we can show you how).
  • Supervise your dog inside.
  • Safely confine the dog when you can’t supervise. These last two points are extra important if you are staying at a family member’s or friend’s house, in a hotel, or at a shelter.

And here’s a hurricane hack for folks who already have dogs who are sensitive to pooping and peeing in the rain. You can actually purchase a box of grass and teach your dog to do his business there – maybe in the garage or under a patio. All the same rules of potty training apply. But, remember, you’ll want to practice this now not in the throes of a storm. It may take a few weeks to nail it.

  • Guide your dog to the spot
  • Wait for the poop or pee
  • Praise and treat
  • Pro tip: Gather a bit of pee from your dog (you can use a saucer for this). Put it on the sod in the box. The scent will attract him to go there again.

 

  • Fresh Patch is one brand of grass sod in a box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Build excitement around going potty in the designated spot with a special cue. I use “let’s go potty” or “go outside go potty.” That’s always a sure bet for my dogs. If they hear that cue and go out to poop and pee, they are getting a treat for it. This is video of Stella and Stewie peeing outside during a Hurricane Harvey downpour (so proud of those two).

Related resource: Teaching Your Dog Behavioral Flexibility.

Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA specializes in aggressive dog training. He lives in and works as a dog trainer in Houston, TX

How a Pandemic Reintroduced me to my Dogs

 

Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA

My dog, Stella, is 10. Stewie is probably around 12. Our relationship is pretty solid. I’m a dog trainer, after all. I teach people how to build relationships with their dogs. That’s my job. But, here’s the truth. I often didn’t have time for Stella and Stewie. I’d come home from a long day with clients and crash. We’d chill together, yeah. But the day had slipped away. There was so much to do for everyone else and not enough left for them.

Stewie

Now? Well, you know. Things are different.

All of my dog training appointments are online now. I shower and get dressed (yes, really) and work here at home. My lunch breaks and coffee breaks are just downstairs. I’m guessing this isn’t all that different from your work days recently. We’re at home all day. Because, that’s the way it needs to be. Sure, it’s mind numbing at times. But oh, I keep thinking, what an opportunity this is as well.

By circumstance more than design I’m getting a whole new outlook on what my relationship with my dogs could be. Yes, I’ve discovered they bark much more than I ever imagined. And, yeah, they sleep way too much. But, I’m also discovering just how cool they are. Okay, I knew they were cool. But, their personalities! Senior dogs have such a gentle wisdom about them. I’m actually getting to know Stella and Stewie all over again. Let me share a little of what we’ve been doing.

We play. My old dogs still love to play. I know your younger ones do too. Stella especially loves playing tug and retrieving. It’s refreshing really. The time I would have normally spent driving between clients I can now use to take a breath and play. Play is like the cement that bonds social animals. I can tell you with certainty that it crosses species lines. You want to really get to know your dog? Take some time today to play with him. If you have more than one dog, sit back and watch them play with each other. It can be a beautiful dance.

We walk. What I really mean is we explore. Stella and Stewie do okay walking on leash. What we really like, though, is exploring off-leash. We walk the narrow path along the drainage creek back to the green space behind our subdivision. I’ve spent years teaching these two a strong recall. We practice it every walk. The safer option is just as good. Take your dog out to a wooded area or field on a long line. They love to wander around and sniff. It’s great physical and mental activity.

We train. We practice coming when called every walk. I mentioned that. Next week we will start teaching mat work at the front door. I’ve taught this to hundreds of client dogs. I think it’s time I take on the challenge with my own dogs. Don’t you? Haha.

Stella

We hang out. Life goes by so fast. Our dogs are puppies and then just like that we look over and they are white-faced and cloudy-eyed. Where did the time go? And, where was I all that time? Sorry I’m so late. I’m here now.

Most evenings I just get down on the floor for them. They don’t care how long it’s been or what I’m wearing or even if I’ve showered. One or the other comes in for the huddle. Usually it’s the pair, like an old married couple. They totter over and plop themselves down. And, we don’t do anything. We just share the moment and settle in.

It’s funny how many details we miss when we don’t really look. Their toes and the soft fur in between. The way their mouth curls up at the corners like they are smiling. Their eyes, heavy, when we rub their bellies. Sometimes I just watch them breath – and then notice how my breathing falls in with theirs. It’s a kind of meditation, letting the rest of the world fall away just to be present in this one moment. Stella. Stewie. Me. Nothing else.

What an opportunity. And they were right here the whole time waiting, these damned dogs. All it took was for the world to go crazy enough and grind to a stop, so that we could pause and find our sanity again – in them.

Michael Baugh teaches dog training in Houston, TX. He’s currently offering online behavior consultations.

Freedom to Learn

Michael Baugh, CPDT-KA, CDBC

Give this a try when you’re training your dog.  Leave room for him to make mistakes.  Experimenting with failing can actually help your dog learn.  It also leads to more creative thinking.

The classic example is the dog who jumps up to greet you.  Lots of trainers recommend turning your back and ignoring the dog.  That very clearly teaches the dog what doesn’t work.  Jumping doesn’t earn him any attention.  That’s half the equation, though.  You’ll notice that most dogs will experiment with an alternate behavior.  Some will run get a toy and bring it to you.  Others might try offering you a “sit.”  Pretty much all of them will at least put all four paws back on the ground, if for no other reason than to take a rest.  Perfect!  Let your dog know that does work for him.  Shower him with calm gentle praise, or maybe even a nice bit of food if you have it handy.  He is learning.  In fact, he employed his own “doggie creativity” and tried out a new behavior other than jumping, and it worked.

There’s an added side effect that comes along with this newfound freedom. Your dog will be more likely to watch you for feedback when he tries new behavior.  Does this work?  What about this? That tightens your bond with your dog and enhances your relationship.  The most striking example of this approach is the Karen Pryor training game, 101 things to do with a box.  It requires creative thinking and allows plenty of room for low-stress failure.  Peta Clarke, a wild animal trainer in Australia, also demonstrates vividly how this works with fearful animals in her short video, The Power of Choice.  I also have a short video of Stellla learning “down” using this free approach.

Of course, there are some behavior problems that require we give our dogs more active direction.  We wouldn’t, for example, let our dog pee everywhere until he finds the right spot and earns our praise.   That would be silly.  Sometimes, though, it’s exactly the right approach.  Let your dog learn to fail, then learn to win.  Wait until you see just how creative he can get, and just how fun training can be.

(originally published in Houston Dog Blog)