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We thought we were so ready for this !! Yikes !!

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Beautiful Reilly RedSky is now in our home, just arriving this past Wednesday evening. He is 11 weeks old.

We are fully aware that this is a long process, and that Reilly has just been separated from his littermates, mom, and two other adult males in the house for a grand total of 4 days now.

Are we on the right track?  Are we making any mistakes or do we need to just hold the course?

We are:

  • Keeping him in Midwest crate at night, with partition to make his sleeping quarters fit his little body. 
  • In bed by 9:30.  No water after supper at 6pm.  Whimpers about midnight, so right outside to pee, which he does, and right back to bed.  Generally he then goes till 6:30 or 7, and right outside to pee.  Perfect every night so far, no pee in bed, quickly pees outside, and incredibly minimum amounts of whimpering before going to sleep.
  • #2 immediately before or right after breakfast.
  • Outdoor pees and poos get incredible amounts of praise and loving.
  • Taking him out to the bathroom on a leash in our incredibly secure and fenced yard.
  • We did, for a day or two, allow him to romp in the yard under our watching eyes, but we have stopped this.  The yard for now is a place to go to the bathroom.
  • Taking him on short walks, playing with a ball, giving exercise while trying not to be his sole source of entertainment.  [Who is training who? ]

He stays:

  • In our fenced off great room with us, under someone's immediate eyes.
  • If we have to leave this room he goes into a day exercise pen, the folding wire type pen 24" tall that forms an area about 2' x 6', with all his toys.

Our issues:

  • He rarely drinks much water at breakfast, so I give him some about 9-10am, or just leave it out. His indoor accidents then start shortly after drinking water  We go outside incredibly frequently to pee, sometimes every 15 to 20 minutes.   Most likely he as never seen the outdoors, as he is incredibly distracted by everything out there, leaves, grass, bushes, planes, noises, etc, etc.   He will go outside, get distracted, get hyped up, then come right inside and pee, especially if we put him in his day exercise pen.   This is met with NO!! NO!! and nothing else punitive.


  • How much does a 11 week old puppy need to sleep?  I saw 14-16 hours on one internet site.
  • We are using this day pen as a place to keep him when he gets sleepy yet wired up.  He acts just like an ADD kid who needs to sleep, he gets more hyper and out of control, and then we take him outside to pee [does not happen usually], and then in his day pen to calm down and get a nap.  Sometimes he quiets down and naps, sometimes he pees.  Should we instead be using his crate for this purpose?  [We have two crates, one for nighttime sleeping and one in the great room]  BIG QUESTION:  We are wondering if this would make him dislike his crate? 
  • We are also wondering if we are spoiling him, as he has yet to learn to play with his toys, instead relying on us to entertain him.  Any thoughts?
  • Should I give him water between breakfast and lunch? Or should water be left out all the time?
  • We are trying to increase our time away from him to prevent separation anxiety.  Should he be in his crate OR day pen when we are away, for no more than 2 hours? 

I guess that is it.  He is sooooooo incredibly beautiful and we are overjoyed to have him.  We will persist and do whatever is necessary for this little boy.

Any ideas welcome.  I just wanted some feedback to think about at this point before we keep doing something wrong.  I will also sit down and read all I can on this forum about other people's housetraining issues.  I do know it has just been less than a week with him.

Many thanks.  youtube video link coming soon with lots of pictures.



Edited by Dogband1
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I enjoy reading about your adventures with Reilly!

I never had a puppy, so although I can't advise you, but I know others here will have lots of guidance to offer!

P.S. Perhaps your breeder, (who knows Reilly) can also be a source of help? 



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Could hardly get through reading your post as laughing so much. I've had lots of dogs including other terriers but Angus is my first cairn terrier. 12 weeks old when he came to live with me. 4 years old now.

I did pretty much as you are doing. Had virtually no problems at night. He very soon went through till around 5.00am. Out to pee and back to bed till I got up. Walked out on leash and praised every time he peed or pooped. Out to do one or the other every few minutes (it seemed) through the day. As to being reliably house trained I think this varies. Some cairns seem to be completely reliable after a few weeks. Others, like Angus, it's more like a few months.

Angus was confined to x-pen or crate if he could not be watched which was immediately clearly necessary because though his toys were boring to him, the entire house was full of stuff he wanted to carry about and/or chew and destroy like laundry, tv remote, computer wires, shoes and boots, or growl and bark at like the dryer and the vacuum, or climb in to like the dishwasher.

 I did not use his crate when he was naughty - only for sleeping (he still sleeps there) and when I left him. He loves his crate and it was/is his safe place which is very good when travelling and staying places, or when he was overly bouncy when visitors came. I use a cover making it dark and den like. I gave a tiny treat eg Charlee Bear when he went in there.

I left and leave water out always. He soon learned to drink when thirsty rather than chug a lug when it came occasionally.

I received lots and lots of help from this wonderful forum. Just reading the stories of of other cairns' adventures was great. And when I had a question someone was always there with an idea or suggestion. A cairn wants to be boss at all times. It takes a while to convince him other wise.

Patience, perseverance and a sense of humor is what it took for me.

Have fun!

I'm sure others will be around to offer their experiences and suggestions. There's no one way. Each cairn is different, the places they live in vary widely, as do the people they live with.

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The only thing I want to mention is to echo Hillscreek's comment about water.  I have never withheld water from my dogs unless it was necessary (due to them having surgery, for example).  Reilly's accidents in the house may not be connected to the availability of water but, rather, due to his age and inability to control his bladder.  At 11 weeks he is just a wee little baby boy.  With your constant attention and reinforcement of proper behaviors he will eventually catch on.  

Don't fret too much about every little thing.  Reilly has only been with you a few days and hasn't yet adjusted to his new surroundings, new family, and new routines.  Take your time and enjoy the ride.:)     

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Thanks to replies.  We indeed will have patience just did not want to be making mistakes early.  Our first Cairn, Frodo, 1987-1999 ... Looking thru rose colored glasses was house trained in a week.  Soon he was walking on water.  [ no disrespect intended]. I sure do miss that turning water into wine thing, saved us a bunch of money. :)

Our second, third were brother and sister who took well over a year.  We were thinking about just getting live grass in the house instead of carpet. :(

Edited by Dogband1
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Sounds to me like you are doing exactly what I have done in the past relative to housebreaking, taking the dog out often, effuse praise when the dog goes where you want him to, firm "No" when you catch him trying to go inside and, if he leaves an inside marker, make sure you take the dog to the spot, let him smell it and then repeat that "No!" and take the pup outside to his favorite spot with a "go potty!" command -- then completely clean the area of the inside mistake with a biological cleaner that will remove all of the scent.
Cairns are blessed with intelligence so the lesson is generally easily and quickly learned but, at the same time, Cairns are blessed with a stubborn streak that motivates them to do what they want to do--leaving you to walk that thin line between frustration and admiration for their hard headed qualities.
Like the above posters, I have never restricted pups from water and that is primarily because our Cairn pups were raised with adult Cairns in the house (which does make training much easier) so there was no way to restrict the pup without the older dog.
As I advise to all new Cairn owners, the first command a pup should learn and act on is "NO!".  Now that sounds harsh but it is, in my mind, valuable because there are more "no's" in Cairn behavior in those first few weeks than "come's" or "sit's" so it is important to get that hurdle out of the way as quickly as possible!
But, most of all, have fun.  I love the picture of that little one of yours, wish I had the chore you are enduring because the results are just do much darn fun! 

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I'm laughing, because I just found a picture of Addie around that age (I brought her home at 12 1/2 weeks) and as much as I wanted a puppy more than anything, and had done loads of research, I had no idea what I was in for. It was exhausting and frustrating, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Although I still think my next Cairn will not be a puppy. 

As for potty training, everyone seems to have a different method when it comes to potty training, so figure out which one works best for you. I think the most important thing is CONSISTENCY with whatever method you choose.

I used a modified version of a book called How to Housebreak a Puppy in 7 Days (I've attached the PDF I used to this post). 

It took about 2 weeks for Addie to get it, and about 3 for her to be consistent. As she got better and more reliable, I started giving her more freedom. Basically for two weeks she was either 1) in her crate 2) in her playpen or 3) playing with me with 100% supervision. Her feeding was also at specific times for specific times. That way, you have a general idea of when shes going to need to go potty so you can limit the mistakes. This method (the PDF really explains it well) worked for me.


"as far as i am concerned cairns are the original spirit from which all terriers spring, and all terriers are cairns very deep down inside." pkcrossley

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Thanks for PDF and other advice.  We do have him on a defined schedule, and will indeed leave out the water.  We have put him in the crate a bit more today, and I can get him to get calm and even take small naps in my arms.  I think one error we have made was letting such a small pup not get enough naps.  Keep the advice coming. 

You are all so nice, it is truly heartwarming.


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this schedule sounds pretty good except there is no mention of exercise or outside outings.  easy to adapt this to our plan as we're both home all day.




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I'd say you are doing things right. He is taking naps in your arms? Wonderful. Have fun.

Oh and Idaho's advice about teaching NO right away is so true especially with a Cairn.

Edited by Malcolm's Dad
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Right now you are going through the easy stuff. haha  Kelly was the easiest dog to potty train I have ever had. Most of her mistakes were my fault because I hadn't learned her cues. I learned very quickly not to give treats to her for doing good, I tried it with the potting and I ended up being outside most of the day. She quickly learned that a potty meant a treat and would squeeze out just enough to get a treat and 10 minutes latter I was taking her back out because she wanted another treat. I have also heard other Cairns that would bark so they could stop on command and get a treat and start immediately barking so they could repeat the process. They are very smart. So I learned early on to give praise not treats. lol

The next phase you will go through was my favorite, I call it JAWS! That was Kelly's name for awhile and so was NO! haha  I do miss seeing my 6 foot tall 175 pound husband screaming in pain and jumping on the couch (that was the only place ankles were safe) because of a little 4 to 5 pound puppy (Kelly)  I really, really miss seeing that. hehe :evil: I know I'm mean. 

I did't withhold water, and the only time Kelly was in the crate was at night and if we were leaving to go somewhere. If I had to do something that would take my focus off of her I would tie her leash to me and make her follow me. They do sleep a lot and in some of the funniest positions. I could never forget those. Kelly would gets so hyper when she needed a nap and would get the zoomies she would fall over just about anywhere asleep she even fell asleep while eating and fell into her food bowl. 

You are doing a great job, be patient and have fun. Enjoy it while you can. They are puppies only a short time. I really want another puppy some day. SOON!

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