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Secrets to housebreaking adult dogs


By Juliana Weiss-Roessler

When most people think about housebreaking a dog, they imagine an adorable little scamp that fits in the palm of their hand and plays with toys all day — in other words, a puppy.

But what if you have an older dog that isn’t housebroken because she’s a rescue? The rules for training adult dogs can be a bit different.

First and foremost, you want to determine two things:

  • The issue isn’t due to a medical problem.
  • The soiling isn’t a behavioral issue.

If you discover that the issue is related to either of those things, there are specific actions that you can take based on what’s actually causing the problem. Your veterinarian can guide you for medical issues, and you may need to consult a canine professional if the soiling is connected to a behavioral problem.

Convinced their bathroom problems are simply due to a lack of training? Read on!

  1. Use scheduled, consistent feedings
    Feed your dog at the same time every day and take their bowl away between meals. This will reduce the chance of them having, “extra fuel in the tank,” so to speak.

  2. Have scheduled, consistent elimination times
    Even fully trained adult dogs should be let out to go to the bathroom at least four times a day, so you want give your pooch ample time to do his business when you’re training. Another kind of “consistency” that can help is to go to the same area to eliminate. Smelling his own scent can encourage him to go.

  3. Reward good behavior
    When she does her business outside, make sure you’re right there to reward her with treats, praise, play, or a walk. 

  4. Startle, don’t scare
    If and only if you catch them in the act of eliminating (not 5 minutes later!), clap so that you startle them out of what they’re doing. Then take them outside and offer them praise and treats after they finish eliminating. 

    Many pet parents have an urge to yell or otherwise scare or punish their dog for eliminating inside, but all this does is make them afraid of you. When that happens, most dogs simply hide from their owners when they need to go. 

    This is also why you should only startle your dog while they’re actually going inside. If the correction doesn’t happen during the misbehavior, they won’t make the connection.

  5. Watch them closely
    Some dogs give very clear signals when they need to go, such as scratching at the door. Others don’t. To prevent accidents while training, keep an eye out for the signals. If you can’t do that, crating will be necessary to train them to hold it until you can take them outside. Most pups simply won’t eliminate in their crate.

  6. Scrub, scrub, scrub
    No matter how vigilant you are, there are probably going to be accidents. Unfortunately, dogs tend to continue going where they’ve gone before, so you need to engage in some deep cleaning to really get the smell out of any soiled areas.

These tips will be enough to house-train most dogs, but if yours continues to eliminate indoors, you may want to seek out an expert for help.


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