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How Should You House Train Your Dog?


Sumo is an American Pit Bull Terrier.  More specifically, he is a two-year old, 79 pound knot of sinuous muscle.  To see Sumo walk is to see fitness incarnate. He doesn’t have to try to flex his muscles; his muscles are permanently flexed.  Yet even in this constant state of contraction, he still has maximum flexibility and bounce to his gait.

In spite of his buff exterior and ballerina agility, Sumo is still a big baby, the biggest of babies in fact.  That’s why instead of this post being about how awesome Sumo is, this post will be about how he can sometimes be downright uncivil.

I’ll admit that I hold domesticated animals to a certain degree of expectation.  The way I think about it is, if this dog is one of the chosen few who is picked up off the street, the kennel, the litter of frantic siblings, if this dog is one of the golden gods who is introduced to the life of people, taken in and treated first as a little baby and later an adult, then this dog better become civilized in return.

In other words, this dog (Sumo) needs to respect the home he is allowed to call his.  If he is sated, sheltered, entertained, and treated as an equal inside these walls, then he must regard the space he shares with his providers as sacred.

Desecration should not occur.  The dog should both be aware of the sacredness inside our home and his duty in upholding this sacredness.

But even after two years of living the privileged life in our home, two years of sleeping on our sofa and our bed, two years of playing fetch in the backyard and leaping into the swimming pool for the tennis ball, two years of eating chicken and steak meals, two years of running at least a mile everyday, this dog, this eternal baby, has the gall, the disrespect, to contaminate our home with the rankest of poop.

Case and point

I unlock the front door, ready to run Sumo for three miles because it’s the weekend.  At first the smell just strikes me as strange.  I wonder if I overlooked some perishable last night and now it has gone rancid, a ten pound sack of potatoes for instance.

I walk into the kitchen.  Dirty plates in sink, some bread crumbs on the island counter, nothing to warrant this airborne putrescence.

I open the door to our bedroom.  The stank!  A redolence as thick and greasy as a frying pan smacks me in the nose.  Nausea twitches the rims of my eyelids.  I turn to look in the bathroom and see, warm and damp in the middle of the marble shower, a pile of Sumo’s profanity.


He looks hangdog.  His ears, cheeks, and tail suddenly become damp with water.  This face, this demeanor, makes him responsible for his actions.

He is not really a big baby, he is not really too young to behave, on the contrary, he is aware of the sacredness inside our home; he is not under the misapprehension that his excrement is somehow sacred; therefore, this act of desecration is intentional.

In the corner of the bathroom, to make sure his message is received, a yellow sprinkle of urine.

Many times he has seen me getting clean in our bathroom, and today, for some dumb dog reason, he decides to sully this space where I practice hygiene.

-Well, since you already relieved all matters of bowel and bladder, there will be no run today.  Bad boy!

I’m so lame at punishment.  I really am.  What should I do?  What am I allowed to do other than verbally chastise Sumo with limp words.

I remember the way my father handled our dog’s first indoor mess when he was still a puppy and not potty trained.  He took Dino by the body, shoved his nose close to his pile of profanity, and spanked him with a rolled newspaper as he yelled:

-Bad dog, Dino!  Never again!  You hear me?  Never again!

Several smart thrashings followed, each with growing intensity as Dino’s moist black nose was shoved closer to his dirt that my father had moral qualms about cleaning.

Dino never had another incident of uncivil bowel or bladder movement.  That one punishment during his formative years got the message through his head.  From that day forward Dino was civil, domesticated, on the sparkling path to adulthood.

How long is Sumo going to be allowed to be a big baby?  Isn’t two years long enough to expect him to be house trained?

And the worst part of the story is about to be written

After cleaning up his stinky disaster, I go into the study for a read, and not less than an hour later I walk into our bathroom for some mouthwash only to find another pile of Sumo’s profanity, this time on the shower rug, as if the shower floor were too easy a cleanup considering the lame verbal punishment I made him suffer through.

He also added to the sprinkle of yellow urine, making it a formidable ravine that seeps wherever the marble floor slopes.

Simply incorrigible, this big baby, the biggest of babies, Sumo kept enough foul matter in store to spite me again!  Twice his sullied our bathroom!  What kind of moody dog is this?

Makes me seriously wonder how Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, would handle him:

How, Cesar, can you fix dogs who express/assert themselves with bowel and bladder movements instead of barks and whines?

June 21, 2009 10:00 am

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