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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello - My girlfriend and I are pulling our hair out trying to help an adorable little rescue terrier mix we've named Phoebe. The rescue agency definitely left a lot out of her description. I am not the type of person to window shop an animal and return something that isn't perfect cuz I am far from that myself. The vet labeled her level 2 timid, but of course no one can tell me what that means. She had a tiny bit of fear aggression the first week, but now it is just fear. The first 2 days we got her she would not go potty period, then she had a few accidents in the house so we started laying down potty pads in the areas where she had the accidents. The good news is she has been going on the pads, but the bad news is if we move the pads she is really just going in the "spot" -----She has gone pee, and poop 1 time each outside but neither my girlfriend or I can tell why...The general pattern is she will hold the pee and poop for hours and hours and then at night when we turn the lights out in our bedroom she will go.....Or downstairs as soon as we leave the room......
1 - What we are doing - We are taking her on short walks in front our our home (in the place she did actually pee that once) so as to not scare her with unfamiliar surroundings. We have treats in case she goes but she really refuses to take anything from our hand anyway so it will be hard to shower her with treats and praise. We have tried both walking back and forth in the area (where we have also taken potty pads and smeared her pee, and a couple of pieces of her poop) and sitting on a stoop and letting her walk freely for an hour or so...We have taken potty pads out to that same area. We have tried days with many walks, and days limiting the walks.
2 - What we are not doing - we haven't been locking her in her crate throughout the day or night (mainly because we have a teenager that is home for many hours during the day and we were afraid that would feel more like a punishment seeing people walking around while she is locked up).

In spite of her fear of people she is a sweet dog and we really feel like she will warm up to us given plenty of time, but I am at my wit's end with the potty thing..I mean I was outside with her for and hour and a half the other night and she did nothing but as soon as we came in I took the leash off, went to the bathroom myself, and boom she had gone....I have never had such difficulty potty training a dog before and I am at a loss trying to figure out how to turn it around, especially because as I said we tried slowly moving the potty pads closer to the door and she went in the old space where the pads were and where she had that first accident.

Help me Doggie-Wan Kenobies you are my only hope. Dino
 

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I imagine that she was punished in her previous home for going potty in the house, so she made the connection that going potty in front of humans is bad. That's why she waits for the lights to go out or for you to leave the room. Unfortunately, now you have to deal with the fallout of that, but I hope that can give you more compassion and patience moving forward.

First, I would pick up the potty pads. You're going to confuse a dog that is already confused. Clean the spots she has had accidents with an enzymatic cleaner.

Second, don't be afraid to use the crate. It is a tool and I think one that will greatly help you here, especially with a timid dog. Make sure it is the correct size (only big enough to lay down, stand up and turn around in) and make it like a den for her. Feed her inside the crate, have her sleep in the crate. Dogs do not want to eliminate waste in the spots they eat and sleep. Note, this doesn't have to be forever, just until she's potty trained. She will be in this crate when you can't directly supervise.

The next part is going to sound kind of stupid. Do you have a fenced yard? If not, a long line will work, too. Let her get some distance from you, and see if she'll go. If it still isn't working, hide, but still watch. Duck behind a bush or whatever. She doesn't want to go in front of humans, so don't make her. When she goes, just start throwing treats on the ground (try not to hit her poop or pee, haha). I would normally say throw a party, but it sounds like parties scare her, so just throw the treats near her and quietly praise. Or don't praise. Whatever she seems most comfortable with, but I think a shower of treats will get the wheels in her brain turning.

It's probably going to take some time to undo what was done, but give it some time. Set her up for success by helping her never have accidents in he house by using the crate and supervising, and allowing her to potty in the right spot, even if that means you have to hide.
 

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How long have you had her? I actually had a problem like this when I first got Tobi the Bichon, my current dog. According to his previous owner, he was able to go potty on the pad indoors and outside with no confusion. When he came to me, he regressed completely, and I had to take back to square one.

I would say walk it back 100 steps and start from square one. When you are out of the house, keep her contained. You can use an xpen like this one if you don't want to use the crate. Or a sturdy baby gate coupled with the crate in this configuration to make a playpen. There are dog litter boxes like this one, where you put the pee pad in the box, and you place it inside the playpen. I would recommend putting cardboard under and around the box too, so if she goes outside the box, it's not on the floor. I actually have this setup in my house. Maybe I'll take a picture of it and put it here later.

There are dogs that actually get by ok going potty indoors and not outdoors in a proper area without accidents, but its not something people are usually ok with. Anecdotally, with dogs like that, I've seen them eventually get going potty outdoors, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
 

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Actually adding on to what Lilith said...you can litter box train a dog. It's not really widely known or done, but people do make it work. I makes the transition from indoor to outdoor smoother than a pee pad. There is special dog litter, but a cheaper alternative would be wood pellets.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for all of the suggestions. We are basically taking it back and started yesterday. We left her in the crate last night while we slept. My girlfriend took her out first thing in the morning and nothing. So we fed her and took her out again and nothing. We left the house for a few hours and crated her. We let her out when we returned and took a walk with her and nothing. We then watched a movie and she slept on the floor. I fed her around 5:30pm and then took her out for about an hour. At one point it looked like she was going to do something...circling and even squatted for a second then got distracted and for the next 1/2 hour nothing so I brought her back in. We are now making dinner so we will watch her....My big question here is since we have removed all of the potty pads, what should we do if we see her go to the pee spot or start to pee....Do we quickly try to run her outside? Do we scold her if she actually starts peeing? I am trying to do the right things and not "beat her into learning" I am trying to focus only on positive learning techniques, but what is the suggested response to the undesired behavior?
 

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First: Breathe. You're taking the first step. That's good. Keep up the supervision.

Second: I think it's great that you are trying to do this positively. If you see her pee in a spot that she isn't supposed to, you can't really do much. It's already happened, and correcting her definitely won't help things along. Quickly running her outside will just splatter pee all over your house. When she's done, use a enzymatic cleaner, and make sure she doesn't have access to those same spot so she can't repeat her mistake.

Third: Has she seen the vet already? Are you positive that there is nothing medical going on? Usually with these kind of things there is something medical too.

Fourth: Honestly, this is one of those problems where I don't see being resolved with just the crate and supervision. I've used crates and I'm certainly not against them, but I think this will require a more creative solution. I do think litter box training is a method worth trying out in this scenario coupled with the crate inside an x pen. I have seen it used to remedy past housebreaking problems in small dogs and large ones too. What happens is they graduate from the litter box inside to outside. Dogs aren't stupid. They may not differentiate well, but that's where humans come in by timing food and water, as well as supervision. Really there are lots of different ways to re-housebreak outside of just crates. I've fostered a lot of rescue dogs, and sometimes you have to come up with creative solutions and not be afraid to try them when the traditional methods and troubleshoots backfire. I just...don't think there's going to be a resolution with what you're currently doing. It's one of those situations where I don't think the traditionally recommended troubleshoots will work even with time, and it's worth changing tactics. I also feel really uneasy about her holding it for that long. I don't think dogs should hold it longer than they have to.

Fifth: Going off of the previous thing...because your preference for these things will effect which method you choose...I need you answer to the following question.
If you choose litter box training with puppy playpen method, there will be a period where she goes inside the house in a spot you choose...are you ok with that? It's the only way I can think of at this stage where she is contained and doesn't have to hold it for a concerning amount of time. It's also the only way I can think of where she can safely relieve herself without people watching. I know the ultimate goal is usually outside with supervision, but you got to take baby steps with this. She has a long way to go. For the time being, the priority is not setting her up for failure by allowing her to pee in random spots in the house.

If you have questions about this, feel free to post here and/or PM me
 

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If you hop back and forth with different methods, you'll be a long time resolving the issue if ever, so I'd stick with what you're doing. I will confess hell would freeze over before I'd deliberately set a dog up to use the house as a bathroom.

As to what to do if there's a mistake, for me, same as a puppy. A word like "Whoops" in a solemn but not scolding tone, and I rush them outside, even if they've completed the mistake, which they pretty much always do if it's pee. This sounds like a small enough dog you could scoop her up and carry her out like a puppy, and if so, that's what I'd do. The previous poster and I have had different experiences, because I've never had one "splatter pee all over [the] house" when interrupted. Anyway, rush outside and walk around a bit, even though she's probably empty at that point.

The other side of the coin is being noticeably approving when she breaks down and goes outside, but you need to try to figure out what that means for the dog. Some dogs like it when the owner whoops it up with approval. Some are overwhelmed by that and need a quieter celebration.

One thing that worked for me with reluctant rescues was to walk them with another dog who received praise for going. If you can arrange that, it might be worthwhile.

I hope you keep us posted on how things are going.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yes thanks to all, but I do not want to get whiplash. We literally just started on the crate training and did see something last night so I feel I should follow through for a bit on that method...We went the whole day with nothing and then I took her out at 9:45 for the end of the night walk and within about 5 minutes she found a spot and peed. I gave her alot of "Good Girls" and had a jerky treat ready which I gave her, and then we went upstairs and into the crate for bed. This morning my girlfriend took her downstairs when she woke up and I believe just turned her head for a second and she pooped in the "spot" - I will try and do some more cleaning when I get home to try and make sure there are no lingering scents, but for the moment I am going to cling to the one small glimmer of hope I saw last night, and will update as we move along with the crate training.
 

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I have fostered for 20 years and specialize in terrified and feral dogs. You're making a grave mistake, actually several, but they are very common for fosters that don't specialize in terrified dogs. You can easily correct them. The first is never treat any dog like "most dogs", especially a timid dog. It's VERY common for them to never pee or poop while on a leash. Over 90% of timid dogs will not initially go on a leash. They will pee and poop if you have a fenced back yard and aimlessly walk with them, if you don't stare at them. Glance at them, look away and give an exaturated yawn. Yawning is a calming behavior from one dog to another. As soon as they yawn, get excited and reward with play. Terrified dogs will seldome take a treat from your hand. You can toss it on the ground at first, and worry about taking it from your hand later. Not crating is a BIG MISTAKE! It's absolutely crucial with all fosters that they are crated for the first two weeks and at all times that they aren't outside with you or you sitting within several feet of them watching for behavior that tells you they have to go outside. Put them on a schedule and you'll have them potty trained in two weeks. We are home full time and take them out just like a puppy, about every two hours. Get excited and praise every time they go, just like a puppy. Terrifed dogs are really very sensitive dogs to your body language and time schedules. They are all like this. Always take straight out of the crate to outside, let them go and praise, then play with them. Never use pee pads because you are actually training them that the house is ok to pee in! When they are done playing they can come in the house and be out if you are sitting with them to observe them if they begin to nose around to pee. When they go into crate they get high value Stewart's freeze dried liver treats thrown in crate and go in willingly. Then I hand a few more through the cage. There's classical music on which is calming. Terrified dogs see the crate as a refuge and safe place. It's important they have it. If you leave for work, give them a treat dispensing toy. Most dogs like the Orbee Tuff Snoop but I play with them on the floor and bat it around to get them to see that batting it, makes the treats fall out. Note: not dishwasher safe)

Several things help all dogs but especially terrified dogs. If you want the dog to progress quickly, give a nightly massage for 30 minutes. Many will not show they enjoy it but do it anyway. I've never had one growl or be afraid. Most often they tolerate it and you may not be able to tell they enjoy it. Do it every night at the same time. Massage releases Oxytocin and it's a powerful "feel good" hormone and bonding hormone. It calms them for many hours after the massage. It has worked on every dog and I've had some cases everyone thought should be put down. The worst dog, with the help of massages, became a lifetime dog of our home and our "greeter dog" who greeted every guest. She was an amazing dog that helped me rehabilitate over 1000 other dogs!

I train them by switching the order of commands I teach less scared dogs. To teach a sit you have to be over a dog that is already scared. That makes them worse, till they trust you. I teach, "touch" first, because it teaches them to come and touch my flat hand and that they get a reward for being brave. It's a big deal, so I often line all my dogs up to do it. It helps a scared dog to learn it faster and be less afraid. At first you have to quickly but gently touch their nose and say "touch" at the same time. After 2-3 times of immediately handing the treat as quickly as I touch, they will usually touch me if my hand is close. Sometimes they won't take the treat, so I place it right next to them and get excited. After this cue, I work on a much harder one, "watch me", in which the treat is brought up by my eyes and I attempt to get them to look at my eyes. Any split second glance is instantly rewarded. Over several weeks you try to increase the length of time they can tolerate looking into your eyes. After any stressful training, which should be kept to short times, the dog should go into the crate for the skill to "set". The quiet helps them to absorb and remember the skill they learned.

These tips were very basic and not nearly all we do, but I hope they will help you turn around this sweet baby. I specialize in these dogs because they are incredibly perceptive dogs, very gentle, and they make wonderful dogs. None of the scared dogs I've had fight with other dogs or have ever hurt a person. All have developed a high degree of communication ability with me, much higher than your average dog. All have been worth 1000X the effort it took to rehab them into stable fun pets!
 

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That’s a great start! Celebrate those successes, even if they are small.

I got a little bit ahead of myself for spitballing so quickly off the bat; apologies for that.

I look forward to updates.
 

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That’s a great start! Celebrate those successes, even if they are small.

I got a little bit ahead of myself for spitballing so quickly off the bat; apologies for that.

I look forward to updates.
I'm not sure if anyone was offended but I'd say that's always appropriate. Sometimes a person will do this and jog a memory of a specific dog. In fact once I was done, "Clancy" the Cocker Spaniel popped into my head. That little guy was one I took on an impulse from a pound that was doing a mass kill the next day. I never do it without rescue back up, but he was only 4 mos old and my husband had a Cocker when we met and she had passed away. That little dude took me the longest of any dog ever to potty train, a whole SIX months of total consistancy and crate training, but I never gave up on him. He became my daughters favorite dog and I adored him. This was not common as I prefer giant dogs. He was very reliably potty trained once he got it, which I never expected. We just crated, took him outside, rewarded/praised, and when he came inside, he was only out of crate if we were truly itting and watching him. In a family with 10 people there's almost always somebody to watch them, so he was only crated during a 2 homeschooling class time period, then taken out to pee and play. And he quickly graduated to the school room on my daughter's lap. You made me think of him and how I almost never get frustrated, but small dogs who have never had consistancy, or been allowed out to pee in house, can be very difficult to train. The little guy they are training may need a foster home full time to truly train him..... I was home full time and had lots of experienced help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
so last night's update. My girlfriend beat me home and took her out and nothing. I took her out before bed and nothing, so it was in the crate for the night. My girlfriend took her out first thing in the morning and she pooped, she then fed her breakfast and noticed her going over to the spot so she took her back out and she peed this time, then brought her back in and started making her own breakfast, and Phoebe pooped again all over the spot. In a way I am not surprised since she has been holding so much stuff in, so I cleaned it up and into the crate before I came to work...I am actually pleasantly surprised by the fact that she has gone so much outside the past couple of days..She is still having indoor accidents but I think that is because she is trying to get past the bad habit we gave her at first.....She has yet to pee or poop outside midday when we come home from work so I think if she can start realizing that is a good time to go as well, then we will be on our way....
 

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I'm not sure if anyone was offended but I'd say that's always appropriate. Sometimes a person will do this and jog a memory of a specific dog. In fact once I was done, "Clancy" the Cocker Spaniel popped into my head. That little guy was one I took on an impulse from a pound that was doing a mass kill the next day. I never do it without rescue back up, but he was only 4 mos old and my husband had a Cocker when we met and she had passed away. That little dude took me the longest of any dog ever to potty train, a whole SIX months of total consistancy and crate training, but I never gave up on him. He became my daughters favorite dog and I adored him. This was not common as I prefer giant dogs. He was very reliably potty trained once he got it, which I never expected. We just crated, took him outside, rewarded/praised, and when he came inside, he was only out of crate if we were truly itting and watching him. In a family with 10 people there's almost always somebody to watch them, so he was only crated during a 2 homeschooling class time period, then taken out to pee and play. And he quickly graduated to the school room on my daughter's lap. You made me think of him and how I almost never get frustrated, but small dogs who have never had consistancy, or been allowed out to pee in house, can be very difficult to train. The little guy they are training may need a foster home full time to truly train him..... I was home full time and had lots of experienced help.
Oh I didn't think people would be offended. I was going off of the assumption that they have had this dog for a while (more than six months) before they posted here, and thus have been trying to work at this problem for a long time. That's why my mind first went to long-term management techniques. It turns out my initial assumption was incorrect, as they said they just started crate training. In that case, they should continue what they were doing. It was a misunderstanding on my part.
 

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I imagine that she was punished in her previous home for going potty in the house, so she made the connection that going potty in front of humans is bad. That's why she waits for the lights to go out or for you to leave the room. Unfortunately, now you have to deal with the fallout of that, but I hope that can give you more compassion and patience moving forward.

First, I would pick up the potty pads. You're going to confuse a dog that is already confused. Clean the spots she has had accidents with an enzymatic cleaner.

Second, don't be afraid to use the crate. It is a tool and I think one that will greatly help you here, especially with a timid dog. Make sure it is the correct size (only big enough to lay down, stand up and turn around in) and make it like a den for her. Feed her inside the crate, have her sleep in the crate. Dogs do not want to eliminate waste in the spots they eat and sleep. Note, this doesn't have to be forever, just until she's potty trained. She will be in this crate when you can't directly supervise.

The next part is going to sound kind of stupid. Do you have a fenced yard? If not, a long line will work, too. Let her get some distance from you, and see if she'll go. If it still isn't working, hide, but still watch. Duck behind a bush or whatever. She doesn't want to go in front of humans, so don't make her. When she goes, just start throwing treats on the ground (try not to hit her poop or pee, haha). I would normally say throw a party, but it sounds like parties scare her, so just throw the treats near her and quietly praise. Or don't praise. Whatever she seems most comfortable with, but I think a shower of treats will get the wheels in her brain turning.

It's probably going to take some time to undo what was done, but give it some time. Set her up for success by helping her never have accidents in he house by using the crate and supervising, and allowing her to potty in the right spot, even if that means you have to hide.
I couldnt have said that better, every point you made I was thinking, great advice.
 

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You are making progress. Many of these dogs have never had consistency. Make sure when she goes to make a VERY excited happy fuss and praise her and pet her for a minute or two. Then stop and take her longer around the area. Some dogs empty their blaader all in one effort, but maybe 30% of fosters actually go several times before they come inside. We had a half circle driveway. The kids would walk the dogs around once and most dogs went, but we had one giant dog that ALWAYS walked around twice before he was done going LOL You have to learn from the dog what their bathroom habits are and make sure to tell the adopter clearly what they are. Every single time she goes potty, get excited and HAPPY! If she likes treats, then give a treat too, even if you have to put it on the ground. Try very hard to keep the same schedule because these dogs are very sensitive to time. That's one thing that helped me potty train. I was home full time and was able to take them out every two hours or if they barked to go outside. They quickly learned in a few days if they had to go at night, and they barked, I'd take them outside. As soon as they learn you understand them, they calm down lots, and start to show their real happy side.

Dogs like this take a little more of our time, but I promise you they are the ones that become really marvelous family pets. They are sensitive and bond very strongly. They really love their family. Thank you for taking the extra time and effort for this baby. You're on your way to being a really talented foster!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I thought I would update since it felt like we turning a corner but it was premature. We had one day where she went multiple times but then it went back...I have made the following assumptions. I do not think she was around humans before I think she spent her life on the street. Whenever any dogs are around she positions herself slightly out of the eyesight of the dog and lies flat on the ground. Plus when we are walking trying to go she is distracted by everything. A light goes on way down the street, a car drives past on the side street. It seems like she knows that going makes her vulnerable and might only be going when she thinks the cost is clear. Again just my assumptions based on the past 2 weeks being with her. I have been trying out different aspects of the advice. For Instance I tried hiding and she just came to where I was. She seems very aware of me at almost every step but not necessarily like comfortable trust , amost like She thinks I am he alpha and is afraid to upset me. I have tried turning my back so I am not looking. I found a dark corner patch on a neighbors lawn and tried to walk us into it but she wasn't having it. My girlfriend has definitely had better luck than me but still not consistent. For instance in the past 3 1/2 days she only did one nugget of poop 3 mornings ago, and then some pee this morning. It is scary thinking that she might be making herself sick trying to hold it so long. I assure you it is not from a lack of walks we are averaging about 6 walks a day at the moment and usually for around 1 hour each time... We are trying to keep her relatively in front of the house so she feels really familiar with the area. I have noticed a change in her tail as it is not always tucked between her legs anymore, so I keep trying to grasp hold of any sign that is positive, but worry about her....As far as the praise, she is still super timid, so if i make too much commotion, even in a positive light she seems concerned by it. I am trying to keep my "goodgirls" to a more level tone. rather than animated...I heard about sprays that you spray the ground with, are those a scam, or are they something to try?
 

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Try when you talk to her or praise to kneel down or sit on the ground. Always turn 45 degrees off, so you are not facing her. Scared dogs react to the sound of the voice and size of the person. I've never had one that wasn't initially more scared of my husband. He simply sits next to the cage and ignores them. Then every so often he drops food into the cage. When you praise glance at her and smile, but then quickly glance away and give a big exaggerated yawn. If you do that several times, you may see her body relax. Turning your back while she goes is perfect!

If she looks like she is smelling everything intently on a walk, she is sending you calming signals. If you are not completely relaxed and not in any hurry, she will sense it and try to calm you down in her language.

I'm not a betting woman, but I'm betting if you have a securely fenced area, and securely fenced means no gate and fencing rolled in a foot on the bottom, she'd go to the bathroom. Do you have another dog you can walk her with? Dogs can learn a skill very well by observing other dogs. Walking them together makes the dog holding it really have to go to the bathroom, and they won't be able to hold it.

There's a wonderful but very old Video, maybe DVD, we got from the library. I used it to teach my adopted teens how dogs communicate and how we can calm scared dogs. Check your local library. If they don't have it, they may be able to get it through interlibrary loan. Otherwise try to take the book out. It was called: "On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals" by Turid Rugaas

I know it's hard to have hope and then for her to take 2 steps back, but you will find that everything she learns will be firmly learned if she has a schedule she learns. In my mind, I give these dogs 6 months because that's how long it can take. If she seems to stall, it might not be a bad idea to ask the rescue to let the vet try Prozac for several months. It does NOT drug them at all. It simply removes the tremendous stress enough for them to learn. It has helped dogs dramatically, including one I honestly thought would kill herself trying to escape. I was truly speechless that 24 hours after getting her 2nd pill she was able to walk on a leash and her tail was up and wagging! I usually give it for 6 mos and wean off it slowly once they have learned all the skills they need.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I dont want to jinx it but it seems like she finally turned a corner. Thursday night I walked her for an hour and nothing and then Friday night I went out and she pooped and peed within 5 minutes. She then peed Sat morning quickly, then pooped Sat night quickly. Then quick poop sun morn quick pee Sun night, and quick pee this morning.....She seems like she now understands that she needs to go during these times....Its still odd she never has to go in the middle of the day, but I will just keep walking her in the middle of the day.......BOTTOM LINE..I want to thank everyones guidance as we probably couldnt have gotten where we are without all the help....CRATING WORKS LIKE A MIRACLE! ! !
 
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