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Carol’s Corner: Dog Training Q&A


Carol’s Corner: Dog Training Q&A

Hi Carol!

First off, I wanted to thank you for a great class! This was Captain’s and my first class together, and it has really helped us both! He’s much more responsive off-leash, and we have an even better connection! We’re continuing to work on building the skills we learned, and both enjoy the training times. I’m also wondering if I might get some advice from you on one or two issues.

Issue 1 (the biggest): Pottying in the yard. We’ve been together 1 year, and it’s taken this long to establish at least a just before bed pee in the yard (he pooped there twice, even, in Feb). We potty on walks first thing in the morning, and while at work. So, it took him awhile to get the yard (and many, many trials of approaches) – he kept holding out for walks. I eventually got him to pee in the yard in the early evening, and just before bed. But now that the snow is gone, we’ve played in the yard a couple times (after he peed) and he is now being stubborn about using it to pee. He mostly will continue to do it just before bed, but early evening or any other time, he just barks and wants to play, now. He’ll lift the leg – but then decide not to go. Once he knows there’s a better option, oh-oh! He usually only poops a couple blocks away. Very particular! I’d also like to be able to offer him the yard OR a walk in the early evening when it’s nice, but fear if I do the walk once, it may make the early evening potty even more of an issue. I’m truly grateful for his progress of at least doing it before bed, AND that he does it outside!!

Issue 2 – Barking at home. We’re making progress! Captain likes to let me know when anyone on the street gets in their car, walks by, etc. He’s getting better about just alerting to door arrivals. But it’s hard to get him to settle once the person comes in and I say it’s okay. I’m not sure of approach or commands, so I know that’s part of it. His breeder/trainer said he responds to “Quit!”, which is true sometimes, but not always. I’ve tried having him sit, and reward him for that, which changes focus, at least. And then reward him for “quiet”, but I’m not sure this is being most effective. I will try with higher-quality treats and see if that helps… So, any thoughts you might have would be great, or setting up a consult would be fine, too. Hope you’re enjoying this beautiful weather, today! Gracie.

Pilot, the handsome Collie
Captain, the handsome Collie

Hi Gracie,

Thanks for your kind words. Captain is such a sweet boy! Here are some ideas for the issues you raised.

1. For at least a couple of weeks, I suggest that you do not give Captain the option of pottying outside of the yard. That does not necessarily mean you can’t walk him, but if you do, keep him moving right along. Don’t let him stop to sniff or engage in any of the precursor behaviors to eliminating. When you take him out in the yard, use a specific cue (I say “Get busy”) when you see him start to sniff or do anything he typically does before he poops or pees. Do not engage in any play until he goes. If he barks, either TOTALLY ignore him (to the point of even turning away) or take him back into the house. If you are concerned about him eliminating in the house, either crate him until you’re ready to take him outside again or tether him to you. Your attitude should be very matter of fact during this time, not punishing. When he DOES go potty in the yard, make a big deal about it; praise him enthusiastically, give him a treat and play with him. In short, teach him the “party starts” as soon as he does his business in the yard, not before.

2. Congratulations on the progress you’re making! As you know, collies can be rather vocal at times. To teach Captain to stop barking when people come over, use a specific command (“Quit” is as good as any) and then say something like “Let’s go get a cookie” as you take him away from the person into the kitchen where you’ll give him several very high value treats. You may have to initially have Captain on leash if he’s reluctant to follow you out of the room, but I have a feeling that won’t be an issue, especially after he’s been rewarded in the kitchen a few times. After a time, you should be able to reward him in the same room as the visitor, and then progress to having the visitor deliver the treats. I encourage you to consider enrolling Captain in an Agility class. Agility is a great confidence builder and I think you would both really enjoy it.

ctc yellow logoSincerely, Carol

Carol Hein-Creger
Director of Training
Canine Training Center

Carol Hein-Creger has been training dogs and their owners since 1979. She has trained thousands of people, including many local dog trainers. Carol is the lead trainer at AnnaBelle’s Pet Station in downtown Lansing. Check out her upcoming class schedule. Do you have a training or behavior question for Carol? Send an email to with “Carol’s Corner” in the subject line or use the “Contact Us” form.

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