Dear Poncho:

At nine months, I am a very well-trained toy poodle and have passed my basic obedience course. I love being with my folks, going on walks and practicing what I have learned. Their laps are warm; I love sitting on them, or sleeping on them while they watch TV.

I like sleeping in my crate at night, though I would rather be in their bed. They love me, but there is one thing I do that upsets them. If they leave the door to their bedroom — the only carpeted room — open, I like to go in there when they aren’t looking and leave a little “cigar.” Sometimes I even squat and relieve myself. I am a male, but I squat and don’t mark in their room. Mostly I like to leave a little cigar, but they don’t appreciate it.

Even though they take me out every four hours, I still prefer to relieve myself in their bedroom. I don’t like how my folks are constantly disappointed with me, so I need you to help me understand what’s going on.


Dear AMS:

I must say, for a young pup you really “doo” have it together, despite the potty issue. Taking dog training classes is great, but continuing to practice what you’ve learned is even more important. Please send your mom and dad a “Good job!” from the both of us.

Regarding your little house-training issue, it seems like there might be a few things going on. I’m thinking:

» Misunderstanding what you and I would call normal doggy behaviors (us poochies have specific potty preferences, just like the humans).

» Lack of reading canine body language (you’re communicating you need to “go potty”).

» Fortuitous reinforcement of an undesired behavior (they keep leaving the door open).

Allow me to go through the above in more detail to see if we can help you help them.

» Potty preferences. OK, we’re dogs, right? Two main triggers that tell us to “go potty” are scent and texture of surface. Carpets rock! They feel great on our feet, and they hold all sorts of neat smells. You keep going there because you have to go potty, and because it’s an inviting environment.

» If you’re anything like me, when you gotta go, you gotta go — especially about a half-hour after eating or drinking, and after nappies or a long sleep. They need to pay attention to what you’re doing when you’re not on their warm laps or in your crate. If all of a sudden you get up and wander off, they need to follow and offer you the opportunity to go outside.

Have you found yourself sitting by the door “asking to go outside,” but they’re too preoccupied to pay attention? Make sure they’re watching your body language for signals, such as sniffing, walking in circles and wandering off to look for that perfect spot.

» Rewarding the wrong behavior. OK, when are your humans going to learn? How many times are they going to let you wander off on your own, after they’ve left the bedroom door open for you, then blame you for going in and leaving “cigars” and puddles? I guess finding your little presents in their bedroom isn’t very punishing for them; otherwise, they would remember to keep the door open, or have you tethered directly to them.

What’s the best solution? House-training basics! Check out this previous Noozhawk house-training column I wrote on my moms blog post regarding a similar issue.

The following are a few tips and simple training steps that your humans can use to help everyone reach their goals:

» Keeping the bedroom door closed.

» Paying attention and keeping a watchful eye on you.

» Providing opportunities to take you out to a desired potty spot.

» Rewarding you heavily with treats and praise whenever you go potty in the desired place.

Just think, if you keep this up, and they follow through with their responsibilities, you’ll have more time for sitting in laps!

— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified pet dog trainer and dog behavior counselor. Her column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail

Joan Hunter Mayer

Joan Hunter Mayer

Joan Hunter Mayer is a certified canine behavior consultant, certified professional dog trainer, and founder of The Inquisitive Canine. She and her team are devoted to offering humane, pawsitive, practical solutions that work for the challenges dogs and their humans face in everyday life. Joan offers training and behavior consulting services both in person and online, dedicated to strengthening the human-canine bond. If you are feeling inquisitive and have dog training questions, email and click here for more training tips. The opinions expressed are her own.