So I set about teaching Zuri to use the Pet Loo. For those uninitiated to this fine invention, let me describe. It is a dog toilet comprising of a plastic base, corrugated and sloping to enable drainage to a removable reservoir. Artificial grass with holes to allow drainage overlays the base. This is great for toilet training dogs in apartments or in pens. Dogs develop substrate preferences when being toilet trained, so the artificial grass enables a smooth transition to real grass when outside. As a puppy, Zuri was brought up in an apartment and the Pet Loo was a practical and effective means of toilet training. Especially in comparison to running down stairs or waiting for the lift in order to access grass on the ground floor. It was effective then, but I wondered if she would remember how to use it since she hadn't seen it for about three years.
I brought out the clicker and commenced her refresher course. What ensued what quite amusing. She knew I wanted her to interact with the Pet Loo, so she walked onto it and looked at me. No click. So she sat. No click. So she did a circle on it. No click. She backed up to it and put her back feet on it. No click. I needed to help her. Putting toileting on cue is a great idea. I have put each of the functions on cue, with "busy" being the signal to have a wee. I tried it. "Go busy". She looked at me and I swear I heard, "Say what? You want me to wee on this? How about I drop on it, or do another circle?" No click. I repeated, "Busy". So she finally relented and got "busy", was duly clicked and her behaviour reinforced with BBQ chicken. That's all it took. Refresher course done and dusted. Dogs do remember things. I anticipated that going "number two" would be harder to revise since it's not as frequent, but I had a cunning plan for that refresher course as well. As it turned out, my cunning plan was never required.
Now for the hitch, We had been in the house for about two months and she had not used the dog door. In order to use the Pet Loo, she still needed me to open the whole damn door! That kinda defeats the purpose of having a dog door, Zuri.
Task two was to teach her how to use the dog door. To say she was lack lustre was an understatement. She was reluctant to the point of avoiding the door altogether. We had a problem that was not going to go away by itself. She could not be lured or coaxed past the threshold. When I did manage to get her through with praise and the promise of sausage, her avoidance behaviours were noticeably stronger the next time. This is where I had to decide what to do next. I could understand her reluctance. She is a big dog and it's a small door. It's not the ideal size for her. She has to curve her back and crouch to prevent scraping her spine on the top of the door. The floor inside is slippery, without traction to make her feel safer as she moves through. She doesn't like being confined or new things touching her. One experience with a dog door in the past may have been traumatic enough, even painful, to have had a lasting negative association with anything similar in the future. My dilemma was, considering all these reasons, do I persist and devise a plan to overcome her fear or soldier on as we have been doing already?
I chose to persist. My rationale was to give her the independence and choice to move in and out of the house when she wanted. Also the freedom to relieve herself when needed. This would also make my life a little easier, not having to worry about organizing dog visits for her toileting well-being. Part of her well-being is also helping her overcome fear. It is a sad thing to have a dog who is scared of a part of the house. My desire for her was for her to feel safe in her own home. The video below shows the process. It was a most enjoyable experience for both of us.
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