Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Maybe there's a medical reason you can't potty train your puppy

Beau's an adorable three-month old sheepadoodle (old English sheepdog and poodle). His dad, Dan, was going to be out of town on business, so Beau came to my house for 10 days of board and train.

Beau barked a lot. No matter what I tried, he continued to bark loud and long. I ignored the noise, which works 9 times out of 10. But it didn't work with Beau. I thought it might be anxiety, so I tried a Thundershirt. That didn't work. I tried pennies in a can, then an ultrasonic no-bark collar. Nothing worked.

I was worried about Beau. He wasn't getting enough rest. Puppies sleep, wake up, pee, poop, eat, drink, play - then repeat all of that. He wasn't napping even after a healthy amount of exercise. His behavior was outside the norm.

Dan had told me that Beau seemed to drink an excessive amount of water and had accidents in the house. I worked on Beau's potty training for a few days to no avail. He was peeing in his crate and Dan was right: he never seemed to get enough water. I decided my original thought - that Beau might have a urinary tract infection - needed to be addressed. I had permission to take Beau to my vet if necessary, so I did.

Diagnosis: UTI. We came home with a week's worth of antibiotics and probiotics. Beau would need to see his regular vet in a week for another round of antibiotics.

Results: Within 24 hours Beau wasn't nearly as fussy. Within a few days, his barking had decreased by 90 percent. Before he went back home, he started taking normal puppy naps throughout the day. The barking that remained didn't last long and was caused by two very specific things:

  • Reactivity to something unexpected - a sound or a something moving unexpectedly into his field of vision (usually outdoors; ex: a jogger).
  • Separation anxiety - less than five minutes of complaint when crated.
These two versions of barking aren't all that unusual in puppies and with some work can be completely eradicated. I believe that the other version of barking - the nonstop version - was a puppy in pain. He may have had a UTI for a month or more. Plus he's teething. Both ends hurt.

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If you've been diligently trying to potty train your puppy for more than two weeks, take a urine sample to your vet for a urinalysis. If a UTI is present, once completely gone, potty training should get back on track.

For more trainer tips, email me and I'll send you a downloadable version of my book, Puppies chew shoes, don't they?. It's also available in print on Amazon.

Check out this video of hand-feeding a puppy from my YouTube channel, too!

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