Adult Dog Housetraining

ADULT_HOUSETRAINING_FeaturedTeaching older dogs that have not been taught to toilet appropriately can be a challenge. Most dogs raised in a normal domestic environment respond well to a good housetraining schedule, but those that have lived in compromised backgrounds, such as puppy mills, may be more difficult to teach.

Before you begin the housetraining process make sure that inappropriate toileting is not linked to a medical issue, by taking your dog to the veterinarian for a thorough medical check up.

How Do I Start Housetraining My Adult Dog Again?

  • Start with a good toileting schedule that goes back to basics, allowing access to outside areas every hour.
  • Encourage your dog to toilet with a verbal cue such as “go potty”
  • When your dog has finished toileting praise him but do not get overly excited.
  • If you catch your dog in the act of toileting verbally interrupt him and take him outside to finish up. Try not to scare him with your interruption so that he still feels confident toileting in front of you when you are both outside.
  • If your dog has had an accident and you were not there to catch him, it is too late to redirect him.
  • Avoid punishing a dog for toileting, especially if you are not there to catch him in the act. Punishment causes stress that might cause your dog to toilet even more.
  • Feed your dog at set times so you can predict when he might need to toilet.
  • Limit water after a certain time in the evening if your dog is having accidents at night. Ice cubes can help your dog take water in at a slower pace while still quenching his thirst.
  • Keep an eye on times when your dog is more likely to toilet. These include after he has eaten, woken from a nap, first thing in the morning, after vigorous play and after a training session.
  • Take him outside to various locations to encourage him to go but make sure he feels confident enough to toilet in each environment. Many dogs do not want to toilet outside because they feel vulnerable.
  • Gradually decrease the frequency of trips outside as your dog builds up control.
  • Follow a schedule that builds up a predictable and reliable routine.
  • Be patient and sensitive as your dog learns. Never rub his nose in an accident. This will only delay his success and build up a negative association with you.
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25 thoughts on “Adult Dog Housetraining

  1. chaplaindl

    I adopted an 8 year old Cocker Spaniel who had been dumped in a high-kill shelter by the family who had had him since he was a puppy without realizing that he was not housetrained. (He had been kept in the backyard.) It took about a year before he was reliably housetrained, using positive methods (assisted by the purchase of an excellent carpet cleaner), but when he got it I was so proud of him. I told him it would be fine if he never learned another thing for the rest of his life. He was completely worth it.

  2. Kay

    You do realize the article is about house breaking an older pet? So yeah, the picture is appropriate.

  3. Amber

    Are they neutered? They can take longer to learn. Belly bands are a great product that you can look into. Finding a positive behaviorist in your area may also be a great help to you.

  4. Amber

    Belly bands. I know a few Yorkie owners and it takes incredible dedication and patience to achieve a degree of housetrained. Back up to taking her out every half hour and rewarding her when you see her going outside and ignore her when she goes inside, quietly clean it up after she walks away. By taking her out that often you will learn her rough schedule and needs. Through doing this we figured out my mom's terrier mix needs to potty 20 min after drinking and 2 hours after eating, and poop 3 hours after eating. Incredibly valuable information that enabled us to ensure that she was outside when she needed to go so we could show her how much more rewarding going outside is. 🙂 good luck!!

  5. disqus_nT3pGK6Ey9

    You seem to explain the reason right in your statement. He was trying to communicate with you by seeking attention to let you know he needed to go out, and you ignored that. Having learned his communication method, next time you will do better.

  6. jill ann

    I recently adopted a young dachshund from a puppy mill situation. I have two other dogs an 18 yr old mutt and another young dachshund. I have a doggie door and a large yard, but the new dog prefers to do his business inside. He has gotten better when I am gone and the dogs are only allowed a small section of house with access to the doggie door, but when I am home he goes to the bathroom everywhere. He sleeps in a crate and does very well with that. Any advice? Btw he doesnt seem to like treats I have tried a bunch as good behavior rewards.

  7. krisness

    Do you go out with them? My two boys are big babies about rain and storms, but I figured out that if I go out with them (or take them out front on a leash) they'd go potty. It's annoying because then you have to get wet too, but it's worth it not to have to clean up an accident.

  8. Liane Laskoske

    Those who say dogs don't do 'revenge' are clueless. Our Mini Poodle does the same thing to me. When he barks, I take him out. 5 min later he's barking differently for a treat. They get one treat a day. He's already had his treat. If I don't give him a treat at this point, he pees. That's revenge. He's also peed inside right after getting a treat when we've just come in from peeing outside.

  9. momoeb

    We have had two rescued male dogs (one is some kind of terrier mix and the other seems like a chihuahua mix) for 5 years and they are terrible with the marking. Of course both have been neutered the whole time we've had them. We have a pet door so they have access whenever they want to go outside but, of course, it is more marking than urinating. I've consulted a couple of trainers and everyone tells me this is a very difficult thing to stop. Right now our solution is to keep them confined to tiled areas but even on tiled areas, they'll lift their legs on things. Ugh. Any advice, Victoria?

  10. Andi Rawson

    Yes, dogs do revenge. Almost all of mine have. I had a miniature poodle who my old roommate didn't like. She corrected him. He got mad and went up to her room, crawled inside her bed (under the covers) and peed. If that isn't revenge, I don't know what is. That dog never once peed in my bed.

  11. Casey

    Thank you! This is one of the few articles I have read which is using reinforcement instead of punishment. It's sad that many dog owners think by rubbing their dogs face in urine or poop will somehow make them understand that they should be house trained. Our dogs just want to love and trust us so we need to create an environment to do so during training.

  12. Gascone

    Great post, thanks. In my experience, the best way to potty train a puppy is by actually attaching a leash, or training line to you, this way your dog can't wander off into another room and you're in a better position to kind of take clues from your dog that they might want to go outside.

  13. HongKongMum

    I have a 5 year old french bulldog who refuses to toilet outside. We have tried taking her out every hour, staying out for long periods, off leash so she can roam on leash also... yet she will hold it and wait till she gets home and pees in the kitchen....
    I have an older chihuahua who was toilet trained by 9wks and has never had an!!!

    We have no outside space as we live in an apartment, we moved a few times when she was a puppy so she became accustomed to pee pads for a while when we started toilet training, but now is completely reliant on them. I must add she always does her business in the same area of the kitchen.. I just don't know how to break this routine?

    I have a baby who is crawling so it's disgusting to say the least and I must add there is no routine she pees multiple times a day and poos sometimes several times no consistency YET her meals and walks are scheduled and always on time!

    What am I doing wrong??

  14. Amanda Julynn Middleman

    I would say she's probably really uncomfortably going potty outside and extremely comfortable going in this one spot in the kitchen. Have you thought about litter box training her? I know it's extreme, but it might be a way to work around the situation.

  15. Amanda Julynn Middleman

    I agree. You might have to suck it up and take them out yourself, perhaps even with an umbrella for them. Your company might just be enough, though. It's not that your dog is being prissy or a brat, it's that the precipitation is not only uncomfortable but for some dogs, depending on size, it could even be scary. So even just you accompanying your dog could do the trick.

  16. Amanda Julynn Middleman

    You might have to go back through and reword and explain that a little better. I don't quite understand.

  17. Amanda Julynn Middleman

    Is it just overnight or anytime they're out of your sight throughout the day?
    If it's overnight, they might just be used to being crated overnight and it might be too big a step to go to totally free roaming. Maybe try just an x-pen at first, then a small room, then work up from there.
    If it's just soiling when they're out of your sight, are they male? In-tact? Are they marking or actually relieving themselves?
    If they're actually relieving themselves they probably need to be taken outside more often and need to be praised profusely when they potty outside.
    I go cahRAzy when a dog in housetraining goes potty outside. Not enough to scare him or her but enough to make their tail wag in exctasy! That might be what your smushy faces need. 🙂

  18. Amanda Julynn Middleman

    When you're home do you physically go out with him or do you just rely on him to use the doggie door? Because if you rely on him to use the doggie door when you're there, it could mean there's something going on socially where he'd rather be around you and would rather not go outside. Since he comes from a puppy mill, he's already confused as to where to go, outside or inside. And now that he finally has someone who is giving him love, I'm sure he doesn't want to be too far from least for now while he's gaining his confidence.
    If you'd take him out yourself I'm sure he'd have no problem potting outside, especially once you get him on a schedule and give him lots of silly praise for pottying outside.
    After awhile of doing that and once he gets it in his head what the difference between outside and inside, and good and bad is in your household, then he'll be able to get the hang of the doggie door while you're home. But it's probably too soon just yet. It'll just take some time, work and routine. He'll get it!

  19. Sarah Jane

    I'm having trouble with my 2 year old Westie Maltese cross called Buddy. He does toilet outside, but he doesn't seem to understand that he has to let me know when he needs to go out. What do I do?

  20. Riche

    I'm having a problem with my two dogs that I'm not sure how to fix.

    I work long hours, mostly at night, and so I have worked to train my dogs to use puppy pads. They are very small dogs, so this has been (mostly) effective. They will pee on the pads without any problem at all, and they know it's a good thing! They'll pee on the pads and then immediately start dancing while they wait for their pets and "good job!"

    The problem is that they will not poop on the pads. They refuse. Every once in a blue moon, I'll catch Bullet do it and I'll give him praise and a treat to try to encourage him to do it more, but he rarely does. Blur will never. One friend told me to move their poop from the floor and onto the pad when they poop off the pad, to show them where it goes, but my dogs will actively move the poop off of the pad. Blur will use her nose to flip the pad over to get the poop off of it.

    I don't know where this behavior is coming from, so I'm so unsure about how to deal with it and correct it. Any tips?

  21. wolfchick225

    My cousin trained her dog to ring a bell when he needed to go out. She hung a bell by the door and had him nudge it every time before they went outside. Eventually, he learned that ringing the bell led to going outside.

  22. Angela

    We adopted an adult dog who went from a farm right into a household. He is fully altered. When we brought him home, he fully adjust to a cushioned bed, wiggling his back on the rug and he loves watching TV and just being Velcro. However, the housebreaking was a chore. We never yelled at him. When we caught him in the act, we would snap our fingers for his attention, let him know to go out. He never pooped in the house. He would actually ask to go outside. It was hiking his leg. So, I went out and bought him a few trees. Yes, I planted trees for him in his boundaries in the back yard. In a week's time, he was going outside for all his need-to-do's. Now we have pretty trees growing, and our boy is comfortable going out. Happy dog, happy owner!

  23. Meublir Vogn Diego delVideo

    I have four little dogs who have started marking in the house. They have a doggy door. I'm kind of mucked up physically and can't always be watching them like I should. Its gotten worse lately and it's causing strife in my home. They re all about 7-8 years old and all rescues. Help please!

  24. Positively

    Hi Megan,
    I'm afraid that it is impossible to give you help without seeing the behavior in action. We do have a list of fabulous trainers you could try. I will send you a link. Best, The Team at Positively

    For immediate help, I recommend that you visit our website and plug in your zip code or city to see if there is a VSPDT local to you. If there isn't, there is always the option of doing a phone consultation with one of them.
    Here is the link to search for a VSPDT:
    Here is the link to request a phone consultation:
    Either way, you should be able to get some very much-needed help.

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