House Train an Adult Dog

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While housebreaking a dog is generally associated with puppies, there are instances when dog owners may need to use the training techniques on adult canines. Someone may acquire an adult dog from a rescue center where animals have been saved from living in the wild. An owner might also take in a dog that was previously owned and remained outdoors. In either case, the dogs are then not accustomed to living by typical indoor rules. Depending on the temperament of the dog, potty training an adult canine may initially present a challenge. However, with patience and perseverance the task is not impossible.

Basic Techniques

Adult dogs require feeding once or twice a day. Approximately one hour after finishing a meal, take the dog outside. In this way, a sufficient time for digestion has occurred and the animal will be more likely to take care of business. Canine pets should also be encouraged to potty outdoors first thing in the morning, before bedtime at night and after waking from a nap.

If the canine has an accident indoors, say nothing unless witnessing the incident in progress. Startle the dog with a stern “no” and a clap of the hands. Then promptly take the animal outdoors. Never use physical punishment or scare the animal. When traumatized, the dog may resort to stealthier tactics to ensure privacy while continuing to relieve themselves indoors.

After an accident, urine spots must be thoroughly cleaned and neutralized using baking soda, a half-and-half hydrogen peroxide and water solution, white vinegar or an enzyme-based odor elimination product. This is especially true in the case of urine that soaks through carpets and into the padding. Otherwise, the familiar scent will simply draw the pet back to the location for a repeat performance.

When the dog has an accident in the house, take the paper towels or other materials used to clean the spot and place them in the desired outdoor location. The dog then equates the area as a familiar toileting destination. Until the dog connects going outdoors with voiding or defecating, use a collar and a leash. Use simple keywords or phrases that the dog may eventually associate with needing to potty. Take the animal to the predetermined location. Offer verbal and physical praise when he or she successfully accomplishes the task.

Special Circumstances

If despite an owner's best efforts during a prolonged period of time the animal continues making messes indoors, there are other factors to consider. Elderly dogs may have accidents. The animal may have a health condition that requires medical intervention. Rescued dogs often have a history of being abused, which leads to behavior problems based on emotional or psychological trauma. In this case, a professional animal behavior specialist or a trainer may be able to identify the problem and offer a solution.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "House Train an Adult Dog," in, January 26, 2016, (accessed August 17, 2022).