Puppy Training Questions

I usually adopt adult dogs. Housetraining’s a breeze, the’re settled. But recently I adopted a giant schnauzer mix puppy. She’s actually outstanding, doing wonderfully with housetraining, sitting by both voice and hand signals, rarely jumping up. Even the vet said she could teach his 5-year old lab to behave.

But how can I train her to stay out of the litterboxes? My other dogs don’t bother them. Second issue is teaching “down”. She sits so readily that I know she’d be glad to down if she understood what I’m asking. I usually ask her, then sort of sweep her front legs out from under her until she’s down. Abd chewing. She doesn’t chew everything, but she’s started chewing on cords. She has toys - squeaky, rubbery and plush - and she’ll play with them, but she doesn’t really chew them.

I need new pics since I trimmed her wild hair.



Can’t help with the litterboxes - I have mine in a room that my puppy isn’t allowed in unless I’m here (it happens to be my office, so it all works out), but down was one of the harder things for my puppy to learn. We took an 8 week beginner obedience class that did positive reinforcement (clicker) training and most commands he picked up immediately. Down was (and still is) the most difficult one for him to perform! He just doesn’t like to do it.

I start out with the clicker in one hand, and the treat in the other. I’d do a sit, and hold the treat close to the dog’s nose, then lower the hand with the treat towards the dogs feet so they have to go down. As soon as the dog is down, click, treat, and release. Once the dog knows that is what you want, make her actually stay down and not pop right up again before the click/treat. The action of the hand with the treat being lowered is the hand signal we used for down.

My trainer had us work with hand signals until the action was being performed consistently and only then add the verbal “down”.

Chewing is something we’re working on, too. Luckily mine has left cords alone.

Stanley Coren in How Dogs Think tells how he taught a dog to stop stealing food. He says that dogs do not like bitter things, so he mixed tabasco and lemon juice and applied it to toast. They also rubbed a bit of lemon peel on the plate containing the nasty-tasting bread. Eventually the dog learned to avoid anything that smelled of lemon. Perhaps a variation on this method might be a path forward for you. (I’ve been trying to figure out how this can help me teach my blue heeler to stop licking my face.)

Khadaji - I’m afraid if I put something nasty in the litterboxes to keep her out, it would deter the cats, too.

Hanna - I’m not using food rewards, because she hasn’t needed them. I hate to see a dog that will only respond when it sees a treat. Put it may help reinforce the commands. Maybe se should see how much the PetSmart puppy classes are.


I would start by teaching her the association that the smell of lemon (or something) equals bad. Then put that scent around the box. It doesn’t have to be a bad scent - it is the association: Lemon smell = bad taste.

Many dogs like to eat cat poop. Most people recommend setting up the litterbox in a way the cat can get to it, but your dog can’t.

For most things, I’ve phased out the treats and the clicker. Once he knows what it is that I want and does it, most times all he gets is a “good boy”.

I have had a few dogs - all found cat poop irresistable. I asked around and was told that trying to train them out of it is not usually successful, better to put it where they can’t reach it.
I have an excellent area under my stairs - you may need a baby gate if you can’t find a likely spot - cats can get over, dogs are less likely to make the leap.

Training the dog for “down” can be done using a collar and leash. Put the collar and leash on the dog and step on the leash just in front of the dog. Have the dog in the sit position, when you give the verbal command or signal, gently pull the leash under your foot. This will apply pressure to the collar on the back of the dogs neck and pull him, gently, to the floor in a “down” position. Good luck.

Making the cat shit inaccessible is the only way I’ve been able to deal with it. Using a covered box is one option. Once I kept the litter box in my bath tub. I had two baths and always showered in the other bathroom.

Covered boxes may be OK for some cats, but others may not like the enclosed feeling and may start going in inappropriate places. Covered boxes are more for human convenience (claims of keeping down dust & odor) but the cat has to deal with that dust and odor in an enclosed space. And dogs can still get their heads inside of most covered boxes. I’m not a big fan of those types of boxes, plus most of them are too small for larger or older, arthritic cats who have problems in tight spaces.

Another thought - if you have a spare room to keep boxes in, close the door and cut a little cat door in the door. This won’t work if your dog is small, but if the giant schnauzer is the only one who bothers the litterboxes, it might work.

I put a couple of heavy items in front of the door to the room with the cat boxes, leaving enough room for the cats to get through. Sadie could probably bully her way through but one of the items is the vacuum cleaner and she hates the vacuum cleaner.

We’re having trouble with “down” too, so I’m glad for the training tips in this thread.

I have four cats and three litterboxes, one in each of three rooms. Because of doors and trying to keep my house warm, I can’t segregate them too much. The cats and 5 dogs get along well, and the other dogs don’t bother the litter. I’ll probably remove the most open box, and try to block the puppy from the one that she usually snacks from.

I’ll try the leash on the down training. The problem with putting my hand down is she gets all excited because she thinks she’s going to get petted or treats.



Something like this would help.

Actually, I already have a dry sink that would work admirably if I cut a cat door in it. Good idea, FloatyGimpy.


We use covered cat-boxes, and face the entrance towards the wall; leaving enough room for the cats to enter but not enough space for the dogs to get their heads into the litter-box. It works for us.

I always use “bait” methods for training my dogs. As in treat rewards for behaviour I find pleasing. If they want the treat, they have to plant their butts on the floor on “Sit”, hit-the-floor-and-give-me-ten on “Down” and be a statue on “Stay”. I always accompany the voice command with hand-signals, and after enough sessions they perform on cue. You have to be patient and consistent so that the pup doesn’t get confused. They are eager to please, and clear communication of what you want is essential. And lavish praise on them when they get it right! Not all trainers approve of using food as a training tool, I’m just relating what works for me (I used to show dogs, so good and predictable behaviour was most important.)

As for the inappropriate chewing, puppies will taste anything. It’s part of their learning. You have to let them know that chewing on cords Is A Bad Thing. It takes consistency and a very watchful eye. If you’re leaving the house for a period of time, try to remove the temptation from the pup. It’s like having a toddler!

Here I am, giving advice, and my own puppy is stealing treats outta the litterbox. Puppy was outside. Cat #3 is using the box. Puppy makes noise to be let back in. I let him in, he races into the litterbox room, grabs a turd, then races into a bedroom and crawls under the bed with the turd.

I feed my cat and have his litterbox on a table the dogs can not reach. Some dogs love kitty tootsie rolls. I just remove the opportunity.
Training dogs is easy with the right tools, doggy treats and a claw hammer.