Potty Training Otis + Why We Didn’t Use Potty Pads

One of the best things about spring is that it’s the perfect time to bring a furry friend into your home. With the longer days and the improving weather, it’s much easier than winter to exercise and train your pet.

When Mitch and I adopted Otis, it was late October. In Sacramento [lately, at least], this just means Indian Summer. The days are still very warm, and the nights are cool but tolerable. We weren’t expecting much, if any, rain until late December or January. With Mitch never having a puppy before, and with me never experiencing a small puppy before, neither of us knew what to expect when it came to potty training. The Dobermans weren’t fully potty trained until ten months old [much of this could be due to the fact that they lived in an apartment for the first couple years of their lives – it’s a pain in the butt to potty train dogs in an apartment complex]. With this in mind, we ended up buying some potty pads for our new pup, just in case. We figured that if he had an accident in the play pen we’d purchased for him, it would at least be an easy cleanup.

Within two days, Otis made it abundantly clear that he would not be confined. The pen we’d gotten him was soft and collapsible, like a camping tent, so even for a tiny four pound puppy, it was easy to destroy. He started biting, tearing and digging in the mesh siding, screaming at the top of his lungs, and trying to jump over the top of it. The potty pads became fun toys to rip apart instead of using them for their actual purpose, so we ended up abandoning the playpen idea altogether. It clearly wasn’t going to work. [Note to readers: if you get a new puppy, don’t buy the soft, collapsible playpen like we did! invest in a pricier metal one – heavier duty and impossible for a puppy to knock over, jump over and destroy].

Without the playpen, there really was no reason to keep utilizing the potty pads. With as much traveling as we do, we didn’t want Otis to learn that it was okay to go potty inside the house – any house. We knew that between Tahoe and Capitola, and leaving the dogs overnight with family and friends when we travel solo, that sporadically placing potty pads all over the place just wouldn’t be an option. So, with this in mind, we decided to brave regular potty training.

Since I had potty trained dogs before, I knew that Otis would need to go outside at least every hour. And with his bladder being half the size of any other dogs I’d potty trained in the past, he’d likely have to go out even more. It didn’t help that in his first day with us, he’d followed Bella to her water bowl and figured out how to drink out of it. This meant he could help himself any time he wanted, and that we had to watch him like a hawk. While he did have a handful of accidents in the house, he actually did really well considering his small bladder. It’s possible that it helped having six-year-old Bella in the house, since he definitely learned from her how to tap on the door when he needs to go out.

If you’re considering adopting a small dog, or recently have, and are trying to figure out the whole potty training situation, here are a few of my quick tips and tricks from a dog mama who’s just recently wrapped up that portion of the training.

Tip #1: If you can, monitor water consumption and take the pup out to go potty accordingly. The more water they drink, the more they’ll have to go. Also, small dogs can be put on a feeding schedule just like large dogs – feed your new pup three times a day until he/she is about 6 months old, then wean off of puppy food and switch to adult dog food and two meals a day. Keep in mind that smaller dogs not only have smaller bladders, but smaller digestive tracts, too. They will likely have to poop within 20-40 minutes of feeding. Every pup is different, so you’ll just have to watch and learn your puppy’s tendencies. The bonus of getting your dog on a set feeding schedule is that this creates high food motivation, which makes training easier! Dogs who free-feed are less likely to care about treats as a reward for good behavior.

Tip #2: Get your pup onto a potty schedule. Be sure to make him/her go #1 and #2 right before bed time. You may have to wait outside with the pup for a bit before you get both, but this will help prevent middle-of-the-night accidents. When you get the puppy up in the morning, go outside immediately and give praise for a successful trip. Usually a high quality treat [aka something that gets your hands greasy and leaves a residue] will mark the behavior pretty quickly.

Tip #3: Try not to let your pup roam freely through your entire home right away. Block off sections or quarantine an area that is easy to clean up in case of an accident. Bonus if the door to go out is accessible from this area – it will make it easier for your pup to learn where to go when he/she needs to go potty.

Tip #4: If you catch your pup in the act of having an accident, quickly pick him up and take him outside to where you’d like him to go potty. Likely he’ll already be done relieving himself by the time you get him outside, but this will help to teach him that this is where you want him to go, instead of inside the house.

Tip #5: Consistency is KEY! Don’t ever give up. Puppies are frustrating and, as grown adults, what seems like the simplest task for us is literally not understandable from a dog’s perspective. They don’t speak our language, which is why repetition is vital to successful training. Smaller dogs can be extremely stubborn, too, which is why it’s even more important to stay strong when it comes to their potty training. They will eventually understand what you’re asking them.

Good luck to you if you’ve just adopted a puppy! Or even a grown dog from a shelter! It’s an exciting step to take in your life, and dogs bring so much joy and happiness to the soul. Don’t be fooled – they are a lot of work and take a lot of time and energy, but they are so worth it!

As always, please do your research before you bring a furry friend into your home. Find out if the breed and its energy will be right for your family, how busy you are and your activity levels. If you’re adopting from a shelter, learn all you can about the dog’s personality and its odd tendencies before you bring it home. The reason so many dogs end up in shelters is because people give up on their dogs. So few of us actually know that dogs become “teenagers” at roughly six to nine months old. They become rebellious, destructive and hyperactive. They seem to never tire, and completely forget all of their training. Almost ALL dogs do this! It’s important as a responsible dog owner to push through the hard months until the wild phase calms down. It WILL calm down! Exercise is important, and getting your dog OUT OF THE HOUSE. Having a large backyard to run in is like a gigantic cage for a dog. This is not exercise.

Also, be sure to socialize your dog heavily from six months to a year old. This is a prime age for them to learn social queues, and often times they can turn aggressive if not socialized enough or properly [aggression due to fear of other dogs, lack of social knowledge, or anxiety felt from the owner are all common]. If you are afraid to do this on your own, take your dog to obedience training at your local Petco or PetSmart – the trainers there are qualified to socialize your dog properly.

I am not an expert nor am I professionally trained in anything, but I’ve raised a lot of dogs, two of which have been an “aggressive” breed. I’ve done enough of my own research, both online and through trial-and-error, to know for my own personal life and that of my dogs what’s right and wrong. I’m always open to answer any questions you may have, whether it be food, training, adoptions, etc. related.

How To Turn Walking Your Dog From A Chore To A Fun Activity

I as a runner, I can honestly say that I do not enjoy walking. I’m accustomed to moving twice the distance in half the time, which makes walking feel painfully slow. But since Otis is still too young to run, with Bella’s front wrists still healing, and as I work toward strengthening my back, walking is our only option right now. So, over the last few months, I’ve figured out how to look forward to my walks with the pups and find joy in the littlest things. [For some of my tips and tricks for a swift and easy dog walk, keep reading after this post!].

Walking your dogs creates an incredible bond and a huge level of trust. Any dog trainer will tell you that the best way to bring a new dog into your home is to take it for a walk. Why should that be any different with dogs you already have in your home? Dogs are pack animals by nature, so walking in a group is extremely natural and instinctual for them. And if you have more than one dog, they also bond with each other on a walk which is great for their relationship, too. Walks are the one place where my two pups are in harmony and aren’t trying to roughhouse, wrestle, or outdo each other. I don’t know about you, but I find that to be extremely peaceful!

If you live close to a school or park, walk your dog there and then let him run off leash. For me, there is something about seeing my dogs run free that just brings me so much joy! Leash walking is good for their minds, but running off leash is so good for their souls. Often times we humanize our dogs at home [admittedly, I am super guilty of this], and when we let our dogs run without a leash connection, it’s a reminder to both them and us that they are actually dogs. One of the highlights of both mine and my dogs’ weekends now is that we get to go to the school down the street from us so they can run around and be dogs. The other bonus of finding an enclosed place like a school to let your dogs run is that you can work on off-leash training and really build that bond and level of trust.

Getting outside does wonders for us humans, too. Since most of us hold jobs that keep us inside all day, we should take every opportunity to get out in nature. Having a dog leaves you with no excuse, since they need at least one daily outing to keep them sane. When I’ve had a stressful day at work [or when it’s that time of the month], I look forward to my evening walk with the pups because it allows me to decompress, and in my own way, meditate. I do a lot of my blog writing in my mind when I’m out with my pups. Something about the fresh air and the quiet evenings helps me think more clearly and get my thoughts on track.

While it’s slower and less effective than other forms of cardio, walking is, in fact, a form of cardio. You won’t burn as many calories or get your heart rate up as high, but you are exercising and you are making a difference in your health. If you live in a neighborhood with hills – great! Try to keep a consistent pace while you’re going up and down them. Don’t slow down! And if you don’t live near any hills, see if there are any neighborhoods or places nearby that have them. It’s a great way to get your heart pumping [and, if you’re pressed for time, you don’t have to go as far].

Grab a friend with a dog and go walking together. This is huge! This automatically makes you have an accountability partner so neither you nor your dogs miss out on a daily walk. I have a friend who lives close to me, and we try and get a walk in together every evening. For the pups, it’s great social interaction and learning to walk in a pack with other dogs. For the humans, it’s exercise and social hour. Need I say more?

Change up your walking route every once in a while. I love the days where I turn down a new street and get to check out different architecture and landscaping. It sounds silly, but it gets me daydreaming about the next home my fiancé and I buy and they way I’d like to design and decorate it. Plus, the dogs will love exploring a street with all kinds of new smells and sounds.

If you’re walking during the day, bring your phone with you so you can listen to music, an audiobook or a podcast. Generally I’d be against this, since the point of being out in nature is to let the noise of daily life fall away, but sometimes it’s nice to pop some headphones in your ears and zone out while you cruise with your pups.

There are going to be days where your walks aren’t fun. Maybe your dog is acting up, or it’s pouring rain, or the park down the street is busy so you can’t let your dog off his leash – whatever the case may be, the bottom line is that you got out there with your dogs. And when they’re sacked out at home, snoring little doggy snores and dreaming doggy dreams, you’ll have this odd and overwhelming sense of contentment. A proud pet parent moment. I imagine it feels something like what a parent feels for their own baby. Elation, maybe. Knowing that not only did you do something for your dogs, but you did something for you, too.

As a(n) [almost] daily dog walker, I’ve compiled a short list of some tips and tricks I’ve learned from both licensed dog trainers [who Bella and I have worked with], and my own experiences.

If you have a dog that doesn’t get along well with other dogs, it’s important to always be looking ahead and paying attention. If you see another dog coming, DO NOT STOP WALKING. Dogs are not multitaskers, which means that if you keep moving, they can’t walk forward, walk sideways, bark, growl, and watch their step all at the same time. If a dog is coming toward you, quickly check both ways and cross the street as soon as the coast is clear. The further you are from a situation, the more power you will have.

If you hope to work on off-leash training, I highly recommend bringing treats with you. Be sure your dog knows you have them before you release him. While he may be a scent dominated animal, there’s no way he will know you have them unless the wind is miraculously in your favor. Be sure you purchase high value treats – something your Fido will be willing to give up the fresh scent of a squirrel for.

Always, always, ALWAYS bring poop bags with you! I never leave the house without at least three doggy bags in my jacket, pants or fit belt. I even carry a roll in my car! Be a responsible dog owner. I can’t tell you how furious it makes me when people don’t clean up after their dogs, especially little ones. Just because your dog’s poo is the size of my finger, does not mean you get to leave it lying on the sidewalk.

In my personal opinion, there is nothing wrong with using a shock collar or a prong collar on your dog. You want to feel comfortable and confident as the owner of your dog – and if that means you can’t overpower him without the assistance of a tool, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. With Bella’s tendencies to dislike other dogs [and with her intimidating size and breed working against both of us], I always have her shock collar on when I know she will be in social situations. It’s more peace of mind for me, knowing that I have the power keep her from getting to a level where she feels like she has to take action on somebody else.

Don’t let your dog dictate the pace of the walk. You are the human, you decide how fast or slow things go. Because dogs are so scent dominant, they will follow any smell of interest that comes their way. My two are constantly trying to stop and smell the roses [literally and figuratively]. I am continually teaching them that they will get a sniff break and a potty break when I decide it’s time.

Puppy Training 101 – High-Value Treats + Staying Consistent

If you’ve ever had a puppy before, it’s easy to forget how much work it is. Especially once they’re all grown up and so easy to cohabitate with.

As you’ve probably read in recent posts, my fiancé and I brought a new fur baby into our home just a little over a month ago. My fiancé has never had a pet before [aside from a goldfish he won at the fair when he was a kid], and even though Otis is the 7th puppy I’ve had [between my parents and myself], we are basically both starting from scratch.

When Mitch and I made the decision to finally bring another pup into our home, we already knew we wanted a Puggle. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find a reputable breeder on the west coast, so our search led us inland – the midwest, to be exact. Mitch really wanted a black Puggle, and that narrowed our decision to a breeder out of Iowa. Before we knew it, we had a deposit down on the puppy and his one-way flight was booked to SMF for that Thursday.

My fiancé and I really didn’t discuss how we wanted to train or raise Otis prior to adopting him. Within five days we went from a one-dog household to a two, without much room for conversation. Being the only one in the house who had raised a dog before, I naturally took on a bit of a leadership role with regards to setting rules and guidelines for Otis from day one [we’ve also been undergoing an overhaul with resetting rules for Bella, as well]. As it turns out, Mitch and I are very much on the same page with regards to raising Otis, however, little dude does not feel the same.


Since night one, Mitch and I have been crating Otis. He sleeps in it all night, and for short spurts throughout the day while we are at work [we have a system where he’s not in his crate longer than four hours during the day without being let out for at least an hour]. We have tried all of the crating tricks: covering a hot water bottle, playing music, putting things that smell like us in his crate, covering the crate with a dark blanket, letting him sleep with his favorite toys, feeding him in his crate – we’ve tried everything! And literally until a few days ago, the dude would scream, howl and cry from the time we put him in to anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes after. We have been dealing with this for a month, you guys. A month! Yeah, persistent little fella.

My biggest advice to you is stay consistent! Don’t give up! Your pup will catch on and follow the rules you set for him. Find out what motivates your dog, and use that to your advantage. Otis inherited most of his mother’s Beagle traits, and therefore has an extremely strong nose which makes him very food motivated. I bought a variety of high-end, raw freeze-dried treats as rewards for jobs well done. He’s also one of the smartest puppies I’ve ever had. Within a week he’d learned to sit when he wanted something – whether it’s to get on the couch [he’s not big enough to jump yet], waiting for dinner, expecting a treat after a good outside potty – he already knows sitting nicely equals delicious treat!

With a predominantly Beagle brain, Otis needs exercise as well as mental stimulation, which is something that training definitely falls under. He is extremely eager to please and will literally do just about anything for a treat. I am constantly finding new ways to teach him to behave and making a game out of them. My current task is training him to be sitting calmly before he gets let out of his crate. We are about a week into this and he has pretty much nailed it. He still has that puppy excitement when we walk up to the crate, but again, with consistency and constant rewards, he is learning very quickly.

If you’re currently training your dog or pup [old dogs can learn new tricks!], I highly advise you to check out training books, podcasts or Facebook groups. I have learned so much from reading books by and listening to trainers discuss the best practices to train and set guidelines for your pets. It’s also great to be a part of a group that can give you support when you get frustrated and feel like giving up. There are some major trolls out there in the world, but there are way more good people who will encourage you and try to help you when you’re feeling like you’re at a loss. Joining Doberman and raw-feeding groups on Facebook has taught me so much about different training methods and how many different ways there are to go about training your pet.

I’ve linked the brands I use for Bella and Otis’ treats below. I usually break them into smaller pieces – if the quality is high, then you really don’t need much treat to motivate them.

  • Stella & Chewy’s – they make great freeze-dried raw food and treats that my dogs think are super delicious. I buy the beef and duck treats and the beef and salmon meal mixers and just give the meal mixers as treats.
  • Plato – these are high-value treats that are the kind that leave your hands a little greasy after [gross, but it means dogs freakin’ love em!]. I buy the salmon and duck real strips treats.

You’ll notice that I only buy duck, beef and fish formulated treats. I tend to steer clear of any turkey or chicken based treats, regardless of whether or not they are gluten-free and grain-free. I’ve done a lot of research on hot and cold food diets, and I have my own theory that chickens and turkeys ingest a lot of grain, therefore there’s likely going to be gluten and grain in chicken and turkey products. I’ve found that chicken and turkey seem to do more harm than good when it comes to dogs, so that’s why I avoid giving byproducts of those two white meats to my fur babies. Bella’s coat has improved tremendously by cutting these two meats out, and while Otis is still too young to test this theory on, I will continue to give him the same treats I give to Bella.

K-9 Konundrum – Dog Aggression

A friend of mine is an avid animal lover and is pursuing a career as a dog trainer and rehabilitator. Naturally, dogs are the topic of most of our conversations. As a trainer at Petco (hey – we all gotta start somewhere!), she often times deals with dogs that have not been socialized due to behavioral issues they have – a doubly whammy. This can lead to aggression towards other dogs because they have an anxiety and feel the need to lash out.

If anyone knows me at all, they know I love watching Cesar Millan episodes. Most of the things he shows on-air are just basic behavioral issues that have spiraled out of control due to incompetence or a lack of education on the human’s part. But the common theme among all of his shows is that when rehabilitating a dog we have to go back to basics.

If we look at dogs as a species, we know that as a whole they are pack animals. They thrive best in groups and they work together to raise their young, hunt, herd other animals, etc. So if this is the way dogs live in the wild, and if this is the way they are socially and instinctually, wouldn’t it make sense that they naturally SHOULD get along with other dogs? Or, moreover, that they would WANT to?

The answer is, YES.

I am by no means an expert on dogs. I know what I know about my own, and what I’ve seen on TV or read about in articles and books. But what I’ve noticed the most about a lot of the issues I witness between humans and their dogs is that the humans are choosing their furry friend based on cuteness or looks. Little to no research is done by the humans on the breed of their choice and whether or not the dog will be compatible with their lifestyle and family.

I will use myself as an excellent example of this.

I came into possession of a Doberman by accident. My ex-boyfriend wanted a “guard dog” or a breed that is stereotyped as protective. His first choice was a Rottweiler. At the time, however, he couldn’t find anybody who had any pups available. Next on the list was a Doberman. Neither of us knew a single thing about the breed. I had grown up with Labradors – my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my parents had all been Lab people. The area I’ve grown up in is mainly populated by Labradors. I actually don’t think I’d ever seen a Doberman in person before, as they are not a popular breed in Sacramento.

So when he found a pup and we went to pick her up, I instantly fell in love. Her gigantic floppy ears and golden eyes sold me on Dobermans the instant I saw her. And that was pretty much where the cuteness ended.

Little did we know that Dobermans are vocal – they protest anything they disagree with (aka crate training, leash training, basic training in general). They are ridiculously oral – I thought Labradors liked to chew. Dobermans might take the cake on oral fixations. Bella would gnaw on anything that was left lying out – shoes, clothes, money, literally anything she could sink her teeth into was annihilated. It also took us about six months to potty train her (this was mostly due to human laziness, however, she was a bull-headed pup and refused to conform to our rules). Dobermans are also extremely high energy. Bella needed consistent exercise and at least an hour or two of it a day. As new dog owners with little-to-no experience in raising such a high maintenance dog, we were completely unprepared for this rambunctious pup.

As with any breed, there are always exceptions to the “breed stereotype” rules. Obviously not every single Doberman will have these same puppy tendencies – that was just my personal experience. However, it brings me to my point of humans not doing their research on the breeds they choose. If you have an active lifestyle – if you run every day, if you leave near a beach, etc, then by all means adopt a high-energy dog. If you work a lot but like to have a companion there when you get home at the end of the day, then an energetic breed is definitely not the right choice for you.

Dogs need just a few basic things to be happy: exercise, rules, and reward (generally, food and affection). That’s it. That’s how easy it is. And providing them with these things will help to keep your home balanced. I’m not saying that it will 100% prevent naughty activities, but it will help to alleviate them.

Which brings me back to our main topic – dog aggression.

My dog that I mentioned above, Bella, was attacked by an Akita when she was only six months old, and then again about three months later when she was nine months old – by the same exact dog (the neighbors, needless to say, were also believers in “protection” dogs). This made her extremely gun-shy of other dogs, and, in fact, brought about an aggression towards unfamiliar dogs. She thought that they would all turn on her, and therefore felt that she had to be the one to make her feelings known.

I always told myself that I would NOT be one of those dog owners who had a dog with issues. I wouldn’t have a dog that was afraid of people or dogs, antisocial, or completely unbalanced and untrained. It broke my heart and upset me that my first dog was already turning out to be this way, and at not even a year old. And so I made a decision to help her. I refused to believe that she would be this way forever. I told myself I would do whatever I could to bring her back to what normalcy is for a dog.

The first step was getting her enrolled in dog classes. I knew that she would be around other dogs, but I also knew that there would be a professional there to guide me through the process. We signed up for basic training classes through PetSmart. The first day went as I anticipated. The minute we arrived, Bella wanted to attack everybody in the class. The trainer immediately took charge and set her straight. I know that initially my anticipation of Bella lashing out was what was causing her anxiety in the class. She could sense that I was not entirely comfortable with the socializing situation. But, as anything goes, the more classes we attended, the more comfortable we both became.

After the classes ended, the next step for both of us was reintroducing Bella to larger social environments, like dog parks. My parents loaned me their old dog’s shock collar (which they purchased from their trainer), which I used only as a preventative in case things got out of hand. They never did. Bella did wonderfully at the dog parks. I was so confident in her social abilities and refused to believe that she could revert back to her aggressive tendencies that she has actually ended up as the opposite dog. She LOVES going to the parks now, and has actually become one of the more stable dogs at the parks I take her to. A couple of months ago, I introduced her to my [now] roommate’s dog, who is extremely unfriendly and actually tried to bite her. She was so calm and relaxed – I was such a proud dog mom!

What I’m hoping you’ll take away from this post is that it IS possible to rehabilitate your dogs. You have to have faith in them, and faith in yourself. However, I wouldn’t recommend just going ahead and doing any training like this on your own. Please, please, PLEASE seek a professional’s help before you start taking the steps to help your fur baby. And if you don’t have a dog yet, do your research on breeds and figure out who is going to be the right fit for you. This can and will be a great way to avoid issues later down the road. A dog that suits your lifestyle will undoubtedly have all of its needs met. A dog that doesn’t will act out due to lack of exercise or lack of fulfillment.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Happy wife, happy life.” The same goes for our dogs. Fulfill their basic, everyday needs, and they will, without-a-doubt, fill your heart with the joy you sought in bringing a dog into your life.

**If you do NOT have a dog, and you ARE thinking about bringing one into your life, definitely do your research on potential breeds. Also, do your research on breeders – many of them breed according to temperament. Some breeders are known for calmer, some for more energetic. Like I mentioned above, there are loopholes and exceptions to the “typical” temperament of many breeds. Just do your research, and you will no doubt find the perfect dog for you. Something else to note – if you are thinking about adopting a shelter dog, make sure you visit numerous times and really interact with the dogs of your choice before you sign the documents. I know we all have a soft spot for dogs that live in shelters, but, more often than not, a dog will act submissive in that environment and then go ballistic the minute they leave. Ask if you can remove the dog from the environment to go for a walk or even play out in a yard where the energy level is different. At the end of the day, you want your dog to be compatible with you from the moment you say “I do.”