Worm Sticks and Rabbit Poop


Contrary to popular belief, small dogs can be trained. It does, however, take just as much work to train a small dog as a large one – even more perhaps because it is true that their brains must be smaller (I mean look at that head! How big can her brain be?!)

Remembering training tactics from my childhood doggie pets, supplemented with Ruth Terry’s excellent little book, An Owner’s Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet: The Chihauhua, Giselle has been trained to sit, stay, stay on the grassy lawn when outside, to heel, to sit when she wants to be picked up, and to come – all to a reasonable degree. I am particularly impressed with the degree of obedience she shows when staying on the lawn outside and when she walks with me without a leash to the mailbox and back.


I cannot seem to train her to stay away from worm sticks (dried-up worms) and rabbit poop. Both seem to delight her to no end, and even when I rush her with a growl, she will never give up either of those pleasures. And I can’t bring myself to stick my finger in her mouth to pry them out either, so it’s a dilemma. I do walk ahead of her along the curb, kicking rabbit poop out of the way, but always a few escape my attention.

Now I don’t know if it’s those particular treats that give Giselle diarrhea, but something does, and on a regular basis too. And it’s driving me mad.

We had just gotten to the point where I was actually refining her potty training by teaching her to go to the bathroom as soon as we go outside. This is important, because when you’re in a rush in the morning, there is nothing so damnably annoying as a dog who just sniffs here, sniffs there, winks at the neighbor, moving as slowly as possible because she’s aware that as soon as she’s done her business she’ll get hustled inside. So we were taking nice long breaks outside, and if she went poop right away she was rewarded with lots of praise and a walk! Things were going swimmingly. She was pooping outside practically on command. Plus, when your dog is trained to go poop before the walk, you don’t have to wait embarrassedly while your dog pops a squat on somebody else’s front yard and you don’t have to carry a full doggy bag around.

Then Giselle got the runs and starting pooping all over kitchen floor. GROSS. That led to drastic containment measures, which meant she was always in the kitchen and always pooping on the kitchen floor. Well-meaning friends suggested kitty litter boxes and newspaper – but I didn’t want her to start thinking it was okay to poop in the kitchen. And anyway, when we did put newspaper down, Giselle made a point to avoid it entirely… three times. I was despairing and considering making a Giselle fricassee to go with my organic veggies.

Here’s Terry on potty training:

1. Never let her make a single mistake;

2. let her know where you want her to go; and

3. handsomely reward her for doing so; “GOOOOOOOOOD DOG!!!” liver treat, liver treat, liver treat.

And here’s Giselle basically training herself to go poo on the kitchen floor and nowhere else. That’s right, I would take her outside five six times a day, but she was refusing to go to the bathroom outside and making lots of messes on the kitchen floor. That is, her poops were beginning to look normal, but she was only going to the bathroom on the kitchen floor. ARGGGH.

Then we took Giselle to the desert with us and out of necessity let her sleep with us again. And in the middle of the night Giselle woke me up whining, so I took her out. She went poo – several times. I brought her back in. She woke me up again… and again. I was sleep-deprived, but Giselle and I were back on our communicating groove. This lasted for two days and nights, during which time, Giselle did not have a single accident inside. I realized suddenly that she probably hadn’t wanted to go to the bathroom on the kitchen floor, but that nobody had been around to hear her “I need to go RIGHT NOW” cries. Basically the key to training is being with your dog (constantly is best at first) and listening to your dog.

She’s better now. And re-trained.




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