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Need advice on housebreaking puppy w/ back yard

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Hi everyone:


Thank you all in advance for your help and advice.


We just got our male puppy yesterday. He is eight weeks old. We have a house with a reasonably-sized back yard.


Initially we have decided that he will not be allowed in the house, so we don't want to encourage behavior that tells him that he is allowed indoors. Also, we want to train him so that he always goes in a specific part of the yard. This will prevent future stepping-in-poo accidents and easier to pick up (you know where it is). So, we are confused as to how we should go about this.


- One idea is to crate-train him. We would keep him in his crate and take him out frequently to the designated spot, etc. The negative side to this is that he is stuck in the crate most of his day. I am sure he would rather enjoy himself more if allowed free-reign of the yard!


- The alternative is to keep him outside and take the sporadic opportunities we will have to catch him in the act to teach him where he should go potty. The problem here is that he will likely develop a habit of going where he is not supposed to and changing that in the future will be tough (or impossible).


Also, I have read that 8 weeks is too young to start potty training but he seems able to hold his bladder rather well and has had no accidents in his crate for the day that he has been with us.


I would very much appreciate your suggestions. We do not have experience with BC and you all have plenty!


Thank you

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(Copied and pasted from the post in "training discussion".)

I'm not sure why you would want to get a pup/dog and not want him to be allowed in the house. A dog wants to be part of the family (his pack) and not a solitary soul living outside in a yard between interactions with family members. A backyard is not really a safe and secure location for an unsupervised pup in particular and even for a dog. Dog thieves, digging holes, getting loose, fence running, barking, squirrels, other animals getting in, etc., all pose hazards or problems.

And, if your dog lives with you (crated reasonably when you can't be supervising him) and you take him out to do his business, you can direct him to the part of the yard where you want him to establish his potty routine (or you can easily scoop, like I do). Waiting to "catch him in the act" to redirect him is too late - taking him to the right spot where he does his business is much more effective.

Some dogs will naturally pick a place in a corner or further part of the yard (one of mine does this) and others are not particular (and I have one that will go anywhere in the yard, including right off the front porch). You can train this behavior by taking the pup to the designated spot consistently but results in the long term may not be guaranteed (my dog that does it anywhere was pottied consistently where I'd rather he went, even though the other two are much more discreet about where they go, and all were trained by me).

You can start potty training from the get-go, even younger than eight weeks. However, the younger the pup, generally, the shorter the time they can healthfully hold it. I have found it very, very variable among the dogs I have trained over a long lifetime. Some pups housebreak at very young ages (even if they can't hold it, they may still tell you when they have to go) and some take quite some time. Some of mine were not reliable until about six months, at which point they were very reliable and clean in the house.

Crate training is a good thing no matter what the reason. It prepares a pup/dog for many circumstances, some of which can be unseen like emergencies, vet visits that require crating, etc. So it's a good thing whether you use it with regards to potty training or not.

I wish you the best with your new pup and certainly hope you reconsider where he's going to be spending his time.

PS - I am one of the "crabby old-timers" here so I am sorry if I come across as judgmental or critical.

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Border collies in particular need to feel a part of their people's lives - it's what they've been bred to do for hundreds of years. If you intend to have a 'backyard dog' I suggest you find a less companionable and intellectually nuanced breed.


Sorry for the rant, but border collies don't do well alone, unsupervised.


Good luck,



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Honestly, no dog deserves a life in the back yard. Dogs are social creatures and need companionship for their emotional well being. As has already been said, border collies require this in the extreme.


Please seriously rethink your decision.


As for training the dog to eliminate in one place, you're right. Difficult or impossible if you're not present to do the training.


8 weeks is a perfect age to begin potty training. But it's way too young to be relegating a baby to a lonely life in the yard. Any age is inappropriate, but doping this to a baby is a sure way to cause permanent psychological and behavioral damage.

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I urge you to please NOT leave your 8 week old puppy alone in the yard. Besides it being dangerous, because puppies don't know what can harm them and what can't, he will most likely be very unhappy and develop all kinds of behavioural problems.


A puppy, and ESPECIALLY a border collie puppy, is not a solitary animal!


Please know: this is not a forum of overly emotional dog lovers, that treat dogs as children. And also know, this is a very friendly forum! Nobody's trying to insult you, or be annoying. So please take our comments seriously.


You mention you don't know much about the breed. The thing is, a border collie craves to be with you and work with you. You'll probably have way way bigger problems than 'where he goes potty in the yard' in a few weeks. Please please read up on how to take care of your highly intelligent dog.


I don't know your situation, but it sounds like you're a bit in over your head. I want to offer to help you out by giving you some specific advice. I hope you'll consider that. We can message or e-mail, just let me know if you want that and I'll give you my contact details.


If not, everyone here is always more than welcome to answer any question you might have.

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Thank you everyone for your candid and well-meaning comments.


Perhaps to ease some of the concerns: "Backyard dog" --in our case-- does NOT equal solitary confinement. We are aware of the intelligence and potential these dogs have and are committed to engaging him as part of our family. Regardless, we will revisit the decision to keep him out of the house in the future. Our first dog was never allowed in the house because he couldn't be trusted to "behave". Our second dog was wonderful in that sense, so he was allowed inside. We'll see how this one grows up. In any event, the backyard dynamic is very good here. Great weather all year round and lots of activity every day.


I was hoping someone could provide some more context (Sue R.'s was very useful, thanks), specially as it applies to this breed, on what would work better and be better for the pup regarding housebreaking. Some questions I have:


- Does intermittent crate-training and access to yard work? This appeals to me because I do not want to keep him constrained in a crate for too long. He is usually very happy when exploring or playing in the yard and, obviously, not so much when in the crate. The backyard is safe for the puppy. We have inspected it to make sure and he is never left unsupervised for too long. From a potty-training perspective, is it a deal-breaker if he goes in the "wrong" place unsupervised? Because if it is, I have to keep him in the crate for longer than I would like.


- Seeing as this breed is so easy to train for obedience, is it absurd to hope that if I allow him to poo in the backyard but I keep showing him where he "should" go, that he will eventually understand and go in the designated part?


- He seems to prefer a different part of the yard to go potty and has yet to poo in the "designated" place. Is this "instinct" to go in a different part a difficult thing to break? Should we persist in the designated area or follow his lead?


Thanks again

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What's wrong with the location in the yard that he has chosen? I have a scooper that I use in the yard so no matter where the pottying occurs, I clean it up. I also use plastic bags.


One way you might be able to help train him to a location (and I'm assuming you are talking about pooping) is to take the poop that he's put in the spot he's chosen, and place it in the area you have chosen. Then take him out there *on leash* when it's time to do his business and give him ample time in the *right place* to sniff about and do his thing.


Just because Border Collies tend to be supremely intelligent does not mean that an eight week old puppy, who is really the equivalent of an advanced infant human, is capable of processing and learning "higher level" stuff. However, if you work with his natural instincts and inclinations, you can do a lot.


The key here is that *you* need to know what to do in order to teach him what you want him to do. I used to take and assist with puppy and family dog training classes. We were not training the pups and dogs - what we were training were the people, giving them the skills to train their pups and dogs.


One thing you can do to help yourself is to use the "search" function here to research previous posts on topics of interest to you. Check them out and ask questions if you want to to clarify what's happening in your situation.


I had a dog that actually spent his first six months outside - he was amazed the day he was invited to move into the house, and was supremely well-behaved in the house all his life. I had another (a German shepherd dog) that was a stray, who could never live in the house (she spent nights in the mud room and days outside) because she had problems that we could not manage to control in the house. As others have pointed out, raise your pup *right* in the house and you will have a good "house dog". Raise your pup largely outside without constant supervision and you are much more likely to experience a range of issues, both outside and (if he's allowed) inside.


Don't overdo the crating, either. In the house with you, your pup can be tethered to you, keeping him by your side (give him things to do and chew on) and learning how to be a good companion. Remember, moderation in all things.


If you have a dog that can't be trusted in one way or another inside the house because you can't train a problem away, learn to manage - for instance, if a dog is a counter-surfer and what you do does not solve the problem, then make sure there is nothing on the counter that he can get to. That's management when training hasn't solved the problem. If he's a sock-chewer and you can't manage to train away that problem, then make sure that all socks are put up and away. Again, management versus training. Crating, x-pens (for some dogs that respect them, which mine do), or choice of rooms when you aren't there to supervise can all be useful alternatives - management when training isn't working for a particular problem.


Good luck with him - I hope that he can be happy within your household, and that your household will learn and grow with him to be happy with him.

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I'm sure your pup is happier running around in the yard. However, the reality is that your puppy needs more sleep than awake time at this point and you should facilitate this and provide a stable and regular schedule for him.


This, coincidentally, is also how house breaking is usually done: through non-stop supervision and a strict schedule.


You take your puppy out every single time at the following moments: after one of his three or four meals a day, after waking up, when he shows signs of wanting to relieve himself (sniffing the ground, suddenly stopping playtime, etc) and during his awake hours at least every 1,5 hours.


When you do this consistently your puppy is housebroken pretty quickly. When you leave him unsupervised in the yard, you will not quickly get a housebroken dog. It is a lot to ask of an 8 week old pup to distinguish between outside, and somewhere else outside.


The only thing I can think of is to do the above, but instead of lifting him outside, you lift him to the other part of the yard.


Final thought:


the 'breed' part of your pup is not even surfacing yet. Breed specific information is not really what you need at this point.


He's just a puppy, excelling in obedience is not what you'll find in the next few months, the only thing you'll be confronted with in the next year is a whirlwind, that needs lots and lots of attention and time and guidance before turning into a good dog. And that should simply be done inside, because otherwise he'll never learn how to behave inside.


These first weeks are of vital importance, because right now you lay the groundwork: you teach your dog to be calm, to focus on you, how the world works and that it's not necessary to be afraid of it. Keeping your dog outside and revisiting this decision later, is not the right way to go.


I hope you'll make the decision to pick up your puppy and bring it inside tonight.

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My dogs tend to poop in roughly the same section of the yard (along the fence line) without training.


If you leave a puppy outside unattended, you will likely have bigger problems than stepping in poop. The puppy will entertain itself in an undesirable manner--one scenario being a puppy with a belly full of foreign objects.


If you are not doing this already, please put the crate in the family room in the evenings and in an occupied bedroom during sleeping hours. You can also use an x-pen in the family room which will give the puppy more freedom than with a crate. Put several toys in the pen....pup can than safely entertain itself while you are watching tv etc, but still be in your presence

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I second the idea of an x-pen to give him safe time outside the crate. both indoors and out. I don't recommend leaving a small puppy outside for any length of time, so a smaller fenced area for him would help keep him safe. X-pens are perfect for that.

Plus you can x-pen him in the area in which you want him to go potty. Though honestly, I've never heard of teaching a dog to potty only in one portion of a yard. Fencing is the best/only way I know to ensure that.

~ Gloria

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I second the importance of teaching housebreaking. I had a dog once who came to me as a puppy in june. The wheather was warm and the backyard door alwyas open. She only peed inside a couple of times and seemed to housebreak herself really quickly.

Then the winter came, the backyard door was shut, and she began peeing inside. She was not housebroken at all. She would do her business outside if the outdoors was readily available, but if it wasn't, she had no idea how to tell me she needed to go, or even that she was suposed to tell me. So yeah, one needs to actively teach them.

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Regardless, we will revisit the decision to keep him out of the house in the future. Our first dog was never allowed in the house because he couldn't be trusted to "behave". Our second dog was wonderful in that sense, so he was allowed inside. We'll see how this one grows up.

I cannot help but wonder how you think that your puppy will learn to behave well in the house if he is not allowed to be in the house.


I want to join those who are strongly urging you not to keep this dog outside. No dog deserves to be left outdoors all the time, not even all day and inside at night, and border collies in particular really need to be with their people and feel a part of the pack, or family. Please bring your baby dog inside.

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I don't recommend leaving a young pup outdoors unsupervised *at all*. Dognappers exist; in some areas dogs and pups are stolen and used as "bait dogs" for dogfighting.


There's really no such thing as a 100% "safe" back yard. Pups will put anything and everything in their mouths. Most wild mushrooms are toxic; a puppy doesn't know better than to eat one. (One of my dogs ate two as a pup; fortunately I was there, saw it happen, and had hydrogen peroxide on hand). Mulch can be tempting to nibble - and toxic. Even if not toxic, rocks will require surgery to remove if swallowed. Many ornamental plants are toxic; I know a dog that almost died as a pup from nibbling on a rhododendron.


Predators exist that could easily snatch a young pup. Even in suburban Baltimore, as I was gazing out over the fenced back yard of our former house, wondering whether my pup was old enough to allow out unsupervised... a coyote trotted across my back yard, its prey in its mouth. (Answering *that* question right away!). Puppies this young haven't received their rabies vaccinations; all it takes is one rabid raccoon or skunk in your yard, and your puppy is dead, and has possibly passed rabies on to you if you didn't realize it had been bitten.


And if you think you don't have predators - there are coywolves in NYC. Raccoons in Brooklyn. Your average backyard fence won't keep either of these out.


I agree with everything that's already been said about Border collies needing human interaction. I hate to think of one being relegated to a position as "outside dog" - especially as a puppy.


Crate training is your friend. Keep the puppy indoors except when you can supervise it outside; crate it when you can't watch it like a hawk; train it how to behave, what not to chew on, where to eliminate, to "chill" when you want it to. It'll enjoy the interaction with you, and you'll have a well-mannered dog that will be a pleasure to have in the house. It won't take long; Border collies housebreak unbelievably quickly (with the help of a crate).


The backyard is safe for the puppy. We have inspected it to make sure and he is never left unsupervised for too long.

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Everything Alchemist said.


Your yard is not safe, because no yard is.


My puppy once trotted into the yard, ate a huge catpoo, the cat next door left that morning, while I wasn't looking. She proceeded to be very sick in the next few days and we needed to go to the vet.


And that was while I was looking away for a minute..


Take your puppy inside, not just at night. Commit to the wonderful dog you just brought into your family.

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I have trained a dogs to use one area for poop. It was not difficult but it required lots of work and supervision on my part. It was my pre border collies days and I had a very small yard. Simply took the dogs there when they had to go and praised them when they did.

Pups potty after they wake up, after they eat, and after crated for a while. I would expect him to go poo 3 times a day, maybe 4. Feed him good quality puppy food - that will reduce the amount and frequency. I would not have more than 1 pile of poo in the area, they don't like it dirty any more than you do.


Even once he is 'trained' to potty in one area I am not sure if he will continue to use Only that area. Some dogs like taller grass, going under or next to bushes, trees ect.

At this point I would be pleased with him going right away outside anywhere.

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Thank you everyone for your comments. They are all helpful and very appreciated.


Honestly, I don't see why having limits will jeopardize the dog's happiness or attachment to the family. We all have limits. My teenage son doesn't like it when I snoop in his stuff (and I don't), my kids are not allowed to drive the car or eat in my room, etc. Though, come to think of it, my wife doesn't have limits. Maybe that is the natural order of things!


I am pretty sure our yard is quite safe but it has been very helpful to have it pointed out to me that it is not completely safe and as a puppy, he should not be left alone for extended periods of time. When is it safe to leave him unattended in the backyard? When is he old enough?


On his third day with us, the puppy has been allowed inside. He has been in the yard (supervised), napping at my feet while I work, snoozing in the balcony, etc. Incredibly, since he came home with us, he has not had one "accident". I am amazed. Last night he practically slept through the night without any trouble. He went out for the last time at 11 PM and didn't wake up until 6 AM. We had to wait until he woke up to take him out! Amazing. I think he will have no trouble in behaving himself inside. He has already learned not to chew on the corner of wall, on electric cables or on my shoes.


However, I think my wife's closet will always be off limits, I am sorry to say.


As for the poop, he is not committed to any area of the yard and seems to prefer the "designated" area for play. He has not gone while on a leash. He holds it in until he is "free" playing in the yard and dashed out to poo. By the time we can pick him up it is too late.

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I think we're all skittish about puppies alone in yards because we have no clear picture of where you live, whether urban or rural, and we've all heard the horror stories. Things like people kidnapping dogs for bait dogs, stealing them to re-sell, stray dogs leaping in to attack them, puppies finding things like cat poop or wind-blown trash and getting sick, puppies getting stuck or trapped in something ... So, we get nervous. B)

Honestly, I would not want to leave a puppy loose alone for more than 15 minutes to half an hour until he was about 6 months old. If I had to leave for longer than that, I'd want him locked safe in a kennel or crated in the house. I have always had older dogs around so I haven't had this issue of a single puppy in many years, and I live rural to boot, so little chance of thieves. But even so, little pups can be so easily hurt or get in trouble.

Anyhow, that's the thought behind our concerns.

Nobody is suggesting you don't establish boundaries. I think it's just a matter of semantics, is all. We just see a new person who says they not only don't want a dog in the house, but they only want him to poop in a certain corner of the yard, even though he's supposedly going to have the whole yard. It just ... rings a little curious, since we can't know the whole picture. :)

On the pooping thing, though, I think most dogs tend to pick a favorite area to use. I have 4 dogs and I don't know who poops where, but I always know what corners of the yard I'm going to find poops. The risk of walking in it is no big deal, especially with daily pickups. So again I'd suggest if you really want him to use a specific area, you'll have to fence it or x-pen it and just turn him in there every time you want him to potty. Otherwise, might as well just let him choose his own corner. :rolleyes:

~ Gloria

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Glad you are softening on your earlier 'outside dog' stance. Border Collies are the most companionable of dogs and to deny them the family life is a real disservice. We currently have 6 border collies and one 'accessory dog' (a border terrier mix). We live in an extremely 'safe' place - 2 1/2 miles down a dirt road, with wonderful long-term neighbors, perimeter fencing and a picket-fenced yard. We've been here 21 years and have raised quite a few pups during that time. Young pups (< 6 months old) are never left longer that 15 minutes in the picket fence yard unsupervised. The older dogs get free play in the 'side yard' (about 1 acre, perimeter field fenced) for several periods of 10-15 minutes during the day and evening, in groups of 1 or 2. We have neighbor coyotes, ferruginous hawks, the occasional skunk or porcupine, and once in a while, an eagle. Small pups, no matter how good the fencing, are at risk.


We also have six outdoor 5 x 8' roofed chain-link kennels where dogs are housed when they can't be supervised. Some of our dogs are primarily 'house dogs' and they are indoors much of the time. All our dogs sleep in crates in the house year-round. We never leave the house without the dogs confined in the above safe places.


Over the years we've had some lamb and sheep predation, but our dogs, thus far, have been safe.


Good luck with your pups - and hey, pictures would be much appreciated!



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Yes, dogs should have "limits" Ironically, leaving a puppy to entertain itself in a yard is NOT placing limits on the pup.


There is no clock or magic timeline for allowing a dog be unattended in a yard for extended periods of time. It depends on the individual dog and situation. Personally, I would not even consider it until the dog has matured and earned my trust.


Border Collies are very smart and can develop very creative ways of entertaining themselves in a manner that would be less than desirable.

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Thanks everyone for your thoughts. If could just pick your brain a little further...


Our dog has been really good with housebreaking in that he has never had an accident in the crate or in any hard surface (terrace, hardwood floors, etc.). However, he has had three accidents on rugs. I removed one rug (which was on a porch that leads to the garden) and solved that problem but the other is difficult to remove. It is in our dining room.


I anxiously recall that our first dog (the one that eventually ended up relegated to the "outside") never learned not to go on the rug. He also had a medical problem that probably made it more difficult for him but nevertheless it was frustrating for all. I really want to make sure our puppy is properly housebroken.


- So, is it a good idea to remove the rug and allow him some additional liberty of walking around the house with out a leash or better to stick it out with having him on a leash and crate?


- And, I have read that there are certain products that help remove the odor from a rug (enzyme-based?) If these are not available where I live, are there household products I can use? Vinegar or something similar?


Thanks for the help.

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Puppies should not be loose in the house until after they have emptied themselves outdoors. Even so, they should never be out of your sight when loose. Confine them to room with a baby gate, tether them to a piece of furniture or to you. If you can't watch them, put them in a crate or in a pen. The danger periods for elimination are after meals, after drinking water, and after/during excitement.


If you catch the puppy going in the act, simply distract them, take them outdoors, and make a big happy deal out of them going outside. Don't punish or yell at the puppy for having an accident after the fact. My puppies wear a light-weight 4 foot leash in the house, so I can grab them if necessary. My last puppy dragged a leash around the yard for months. Never leave a puppy unattended in the house or in the yard while it is dragging a leash.


As for the rugs, I think that I would substitute cheap rugs for expensive rugs for now. I had an old dog that peed everywhere and did not have good luck with enzymatic cleaners. I did have good luck with a procedure that I found on the internet that involved vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide. The procedure was very messy, but it totally got rid of the odor.


You might want to consider taking a group puppy class.

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Thanks for the tips. Can you provide some more information on the vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide procedure, please?


I WAS watching the puppy when he peed on the rug and he had relieved himself outside about an hour earlier. Actually, he bolted from where we were to the rug (another room) and started peeing. By the time I "distracted" him, it was too late.


Another question, please...


If I want to teach him to go outside and I am crating him and taking him out on a leash when he should go, and he is in the yard playing without a leash and stops to pee, should I praise him or not? Although I am reinforcing peeing outside, I am also reinforcing peeing while not on a leash.


So far he has never pooed inside but has never pooed while on a leash either. He holds it in until he is leash-free and then poos in the yard.



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