I have two questions. The first is simple. What is the best method for house-training a new dog? I went to the bookstore, and there are so many options. I watch TV shows like The Dog Whisperer, but they never seem to address house-training new puppies. Your column states that you give pet advice, and a friend said he heard you have dogs.
The second is more complicated. I am ready for a change. I have lived in San Antonio for a little over a decade and love it here, but I am from the North and miss having four seasons and the snow. My partner is born and raised and ready to die here. I am not exaggerating. He has a plot in a graveyard. I would be happy to return here for retirement, but I want to move now. I am a teacher and can find work anywhere. He is in a more specialized field, but his line of work is not really affected by the economy and I know he could find a job elsewhere without too much effort. I am thinking that Colorado would be a good compromise. I am from Ohio, but not interested in living there. Denver is a big city, and the mountains are so close. We could easily get back to San Antonio at least once a year for family visits. We could go skiing all of the time, and summers are still gorgeous and not too short. How do I convince my partner to move? I haven’t said anything at all because I don’t want to upset him, but I feel like I will regret it if we don’t live somewhere else. Splitting up is not an option. I would stay if he refused, but I need to convince him that our lives are not complete yet. Thanks for your help. You always have good ideas even if they are the obvious answers I can’t see at the moment.
— Homesick Yankee
Dear 2-for-1 Yankee,
I am no dog whisperer. I adopted a new dog last fall and I crate-trained her to achieve house-training. It took more than a month, and I think I cried several times. We no longer use the crate except when traveling. I think this is another good reason to crate-train: She has a familiar and contained place to sleep when we are in strange places. I believe in using the crates that are see-through on all sides, best described as cages. The dog can see the whole room and is more comfortable.
Ultimately, you need to choose the best system for you and your four-legged partner. It takes time and consistency; you have to train yourself as well as the dog. You could buy a couple of books with different methods and read them (quickly) to assess which method is best suited to you. Fellow Current columnist and multiple-dog owner Gillian Fassel likes the Monks of New Skete (dogsbestfriend.com), but I winged it, combining a number of techniques. Most importantly: Be patient, and remember that it will happen and having a dog is the coolest and most rewarding thing ever.
With your human partner, I recommend the newspaper-training method. Lead him to your goal and reward him positively for each step in the right direction. Avoid negative reinforcement techniques like bad-mouthing San Antonio or complaining about the weather. Loyal natives will take a slight against the region as a personal attack. Especially if you are trying to convince them to defect.
I understand your desire to wander back out into the real world for a bit. It’s natural, or possibly just the result of one too many breakfast tacos on top of a more painful than usual mid-week Fiesta hangover. A native Texan will be a harder sell, but stop procrastinating and open up the dialogue. Ease into it. Maybe start by taking a weekend to Denver, and see how he likes it. Hopefully he does, and then, after blowing him in the nice hotel room, casually say, “Wouldn’t it be cool to live here for a while?” Gauge his reaction. Keep introducing the idea into conversation in an open manner. Let him know after a talk or two that you are serious about a change, but open to dialogue. Avoid letting it become an argument at any time. Yield when necessary and regroup. Apply lots of sex and domestic favors. You hopefully know your partner well enough to understand what makes him happy. You have to show him how this move will make him happy.
Good luck, and know that you’ll be back. We all come back,
Your Uncle Mat
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