, Salem, MA

November 23, 2012

Ask Dog Lady: Couple treat their Lab like their child

Ask Dog Lady
Monica Collins

---- — Q: My husband and I were married in August, and we lived together for two years before that. As you can imagine, our mothers were relieved when we finally made it legal. Now, the questions have begun about when the baby is due. We’re happy living in our new condo with our Labrador retriever, Squiggle. She’s all the kid we need. But people in our lives ignore Squig. A friend knew it was our dog’s birthday and didn’t even bring a present when she came for dinner.

A: Ay, yi, yi, please do not expect friends or family members to bring birthday presents for your dog. You’re the only one who will mark this celebration. Also, please don’t expect anyone else to care a twig about Squig. Guests do not want a Lab jumping on them — or even breathing on them — when they visit your home.

Dogs should not be consciously used as rehearsal kids. Dogs are canines — animals, pets, a different species. They lack the emotional range to ever be full substitutes for humans — although it’s tempting to think otherwise.

Q: My Shih Tzu sisters are 2 years old. I don’t think they will ever tell me when they have to go out. I take them out on a regular schedule, and that works most of the time. But they don’t seem to tell me when they have to go out. I have them in a large wire crate, at night or when I am gone.

When I am not looking, if they have to go, they just go. I only found this out when I cleaned my carpet. I even have Poochie-Bells. I do watch for signs so I can catch them, but they are sneaky.

I have a large, unfenced yard and have to keep these two dogs on a leash. Occasionally when I am out with them, I let them run, which they love to do. I am wondering if it is in the breeding somehow. All my dogs have had papers, so they are not mutts or anything. I have also wondered if it is the leash thing. Maybe if I just opened the door and let them go out, they would get the hang of it then. I am about to give up. And getting the smell out of the carpets is impossible.

A: Readers, please be patient. Read the entire above letter as it zigs and zags about potty-training the Shih Tzus. If you make it through the whole question, you will have a sense of how not to potty-train dogs in general. The questioner has tried a little of this, a little of that, and has even thrown in some bells and leashes. No wonder these adorable muffin hounds continue to go on the carpet. You would go on the carpet, too, if you were confused about the location of the toilet. These dogs have not been properly trained.

OK, go back to page one in the training manual. Keep the dogs in their crate and let them out only to do their business. When they go outdoors, reward them liberally and praise them to the heavens. Do this again, and again, and again, and again. ... Get it? Make sure they do not soil indoors before expecting them to enjoy the run of the house and ring bells when they have to go outside.


Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Follow “Ask Dog Lady” at or Write