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House breaking and enclosing my cairn

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My cairn is about 9 to 10 lbs and she just turned two years old. She and I live alone and we have had a lot of changes. My husband and I separated due to issues with his family but I feel my poor baby Skylar has suffered too. I feel like I don't do a good job at taking her out on time even though I come home at lunch she won't go. I don't crate her much and if she needs to do, she wIll go ANYWHERE. She prefers to go out but won't wait or hold it and she prefers  carpets. Is it too late to get that habit out of her. She keeps doing it on my bathroom rugs especially. Lol.  I guess she gets the concept of toilets some what. 

I thought maybe a fence would help me to get her out on short lunches while not having to supervise or leash. I can't afford the quotes for aluminim fencimt iv gotten so far but I'm still shopping around. I would hate to but I'm considerin the invisible fencing as it is cheaper. She's really small and I'd hate to use it but I'm under all kinds of pressure. My yard is also really tiny or I'd consider a dog run. I'm going to see what the hoa has to say about that. I'm considering all my options but id like some help. I don't want to be talked unto buying something that wont be good for Skylar. S

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Cairns are very smart and at 2 years old, it's not too late to fix this.  I'd start with crate training.  You can find all kinds of info here if you search for crate training, or just Google it.  Crating your dog is not mean, in fact, our Cairn, Packy, loves his crate!  We have to keep it closed when we're home or he'd be in there all the time! Crate training will get you started on the pottying issue.  I'd much prefer crate training over leaving her out in a fenced yard or dog run.  I don't feel that's safe.

So, this might get you started and I'm sure you'll get all kinds of suggestions and support.  Good luck and remember, you can train a Cairn at any age (At 11, Packy just learned a new trick), you just have to be consistent and practice.

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Jandy and my Cairns, Kirby & Phinney 
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Welcome to the forum!   A few thoughts:  First, I would not recommend invisible fencing.  Regardless of what the manufacturer says, this is not 100% reliable and, with a Cairn, you need something 100% reliable.  One of our neighbors has invisible fencing and their dogs regularly leave the yard,.

Cairns are very sensitive to changes in their environment and Skylar may be upset about the recent changes in your life and home.  Cairns also need plenty of exercise.  Would it be possible for you to take her on a short walk when you come home for lunch?  Is she getting a walk in the morning before you leave?  A dog her age should be able to get through the morning without an accident if she has thoroughly emptied her bladder/bowels in the morning, and the best way to do that is with a walk.

Another question is whether Skylar's accidents could be caused by a urinary tract infection.  It may be worth a trip to the vet to have her checked out.

Finally, once you have come up with a plan, thoroughly clean the carpet and other spots that Skylar has marked.  There are special products you can buy but I find that a white vinegar/water solution does the trick pretty well.  The point is to get the urine scent out of the house so she isn't tempted to re-mark those areas.

Good luck!  I'm sure others will be along to share their thoughts and advice.


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Another welcome to the board, hope we can help you with your problem.  I agree totally with the above comments and warnings about invisible fencing--I have never been a big fan simply because I have never seen it work for anyone--not to say it doesn't but....?
I agree with the idea that a smaller crate may be the answer until you can make your Skyler make the connection between the yard and his potty.  Clearly you can't leave him free to wander around the home until you "re-housebreak" him.  Completely clean or get rid of the effected throw rugs and simply start over. 
Leaving the dog outside while you work is probably not the answer--unsafe for Skyler and way too worrisome for you trying to function while worrying yourself into a frenzy.
Our youngest Cairn still likes her crate and it is the puppy version--the very one she was shipped across country in when we got her and she is a 16lb. dog now.
Training is probably going to take some time--you need to stay outside with Skyler until he goes--no matter how long it takes, he has to make that connection.  Be persistent with him, repeating the command "Potty" and then lots of verbal reward when he does.  Over and over until the link is made.  I have always believed that dogs prefer the outside, where the odor can linger--it's just getting them used to those spots.
Good luck and keep us informed.  Again, welcome!

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I think most here would understand your concern for Skylar and the effect on her of your situation. Our cairns live by their emotions and readily pick up on ours... But they are also very adaptable. 

I agree with the others in not recommending an invisible fence. In addition to other drawbacks, I personally know of dogs who willingly took the shock, (even though they yelped in pain) in order to get through the fence and pursue prey. I assume you are not planning to leave Skylar outside unattended. Your cairn is small...a large dog can enter through your fence and possibly attack her. A prowler can snatch her.

One thing that wasn't mentioned was an X-Pen... A large flexible enclosure which can contain a small dog, while giving it ample, but limited room to roam around a bit. I think these are meant for indoors, but perhaps it can be used outside, under supervision? Again, many cairns are adaptable and accept the limits of an X-Pen.

I'm sorry to read that you don't feel you are doing a good job with Skylar. Please don't be too hard on yourself... Just like the rest of us, you are doing your best  and that's all we can do. Some of us do it better than others, but our cairns can still be happy and content! Skylar is lucky... She has the priceless security of your love and she will thrive even though your world might not be going the way you want it to...right now.

Keep using this site to address your concerns. The knowledgable folks here will help and guide you!

P.S  It just occurred to me that a few sessions with an experienced trainer at your home might be helpful. An on-site evaluation could address your concerns, while giving you a basic grounding and building your confidence as well!

Edited by sanford
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:hug:to you and Skylar. It's tough right now but with patience and perseverence you'll get things sorted. Agree re crate training. Agree re no invisible fence. It would not be reliable.  And even if it did restrain Skylar it would not prevent other dogs or any animal from coming in. Agree re house breaking. Get rid of the mats you have, clean everything with something  like Nature's Miracle and start house training over like suggested above. It may take a while but Skylar will learn. She feels your anxiety - Cairns are so sensitive to our emotions. She will feel better and so will you as you go on your new life together, I live alone with Angus and he is my best buddy as Skylar will be for you. 

You can come on this forum any time and you will get lots of support. Let us know how things go.

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I wish you lived closer I would give you one of our x pens. They are great and have raised all our dogs in them and certainly are a lot cheaper and work way better than a invisible fencing.  I totally agree with all the comments above. A dog is never to old to learn, but Skyler needs your help because she is obviously confused. If you confine her in the pen (see if there are second hand ones around) when you get home let her out and praise her like crazy. You almost have to go back to how to train a puppy. Don't let her run around by herself when you are not around , confine her, take her out on frequent potty breaks and tell what a wonderful girl she is.

Also just another thought. Why not collect a small sample of her urine and drop it in at your vets for testing. Urinary infections are common enough in female dogs to not have it tested. I used my gran mothers silver serving spoon to collect from our Scottie, then put it in a clean container. Poor Gran would turn over in her grave if she knew!

And yes our girl did have a urinary infection as a youngster. She would pee outside or not, then go inside . The antibiotics cleared the infection up and she never made another mess in the house.

Edited by Terrier lover

Until one has loved an animal, a part of  one's soul remains unawakened.  - Anatole France

Adventures with Sam &Rosie


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I second  the opinion that cairns can keep learning no matter what age they are. My eleven year old has been coming up with new ways to communicate his desires with me, and I have to be careful not to encourage the less desirable ways of communicating (like placing his paws on my chair or leg and raking them down to get my attention. Nope. Not encouraging that. Hehe.) Nikki held his bladder for fourteen hours. I really wasn't expecting him to, but I'm pretty sure he napped most of the time while we were away.  He's a totally reliable companion now and has been for the past five years but he was a tough one to potty train.  He figured out that going outside was preferable but he wanted to scent mark his territory indoors too. Ugh. 

I got really frustrated with him and stayed irritated with him most of the time because I knew, after we returned from a twenty minute or longer walk, that as soon as I turned my attention to something else, he'd go off and pee somewhere in the house.  He marked every room and made pee circles around my bed and recliner. I finally realized that the only way we were going to make any improvement was to change my own attitude. So instead of grudgingly walking him, I talked to him cheerfully and walked with a loose leash.  When he went potty, I praised him loudly and cheerfully.  His ears went back.  "What are you doing, woman?"  He didn't make the connection between praise and potty until about a week later, but I noticed a bounce return to his step and less balking and pulling on the leash.  We were starting to learn to listen to each other instead of fighting each other all the time.  It was a huge step in our relationship. 

I tried walking him with treats in my pocket, but that was not too pleasant for me in the summer time. Ick. Plus Nikki was not treat motivated.  He would ignore everything, including cheese and hotdogs, if he wanted to chase or sniff something. So I had to figure out other ways to get his attention.  Playing was one thing he thoroughly enjoyed, so I tried other approaches to reward him, such as running back to the house, getting out his favorite toy and sitting on the floor to play with him.   Encouraging him to chase me home was a lifesaver once, as he slipped out of his harness and went running down the middle of the road toward a blind curve and a pond. I couldn't catch up to him without him playing keep away, panicking from my haste, or ignoring me, so playfully encouraging him to ruin after me was my last resort.  It worked.   

If he went indoors, I told him he needed to go outside to go potty and took him out immediately before I started cleaning up the mess. Taking him out also helped me calm down after the initial disappointment.   It took a lot of irritating repetition on my part to get him to switch gears from going in the house to going outside. I had to block him from all of his hidden potty spots (like on the rug under the dining room table.  Ewww... He ruined that rug), and I took him out every two hours, without walks, telling him to go potty. Walks were reserved for doing number two and for exercise.  Going out meant just quick trips in and out.  Eventually he learned to go potty on command, both number one and number two. I'm not as good about praising him for going now adays but it's been a big help having him trained, because I can tell him when and where to go when we're traveling. 

Now that my guy is older and more inclined to nap than to play fetch, I'm starting to think about adding a young dog to my life. I haven't decided if I want Nikki to train the newbie or if I want to let Nikki enjoy being an only dog for the rest of his life. Right now a puppy would be more hassle and commitment than I want to take the time for, so that is out of the question, but I'm living vicariously through those who have puppies and young dogs now. :) 

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