How to House Train an Adult Dog
Potty accidents, caused by adult dogs, is much more common than you think. Most adult dogs will potty outside in the backyard, but will also potty inside when the right opportunity arises (e.g. when it’s raining outside :)). Regardless of the reason, some adult dogs may need a house training refresher course. If your dog potties inside your home, follow these simple steps to house train an adult dog.
Dog House Training 101
When teaching an adult dog potty training skills, you should follow the same steps you’d take for potty training a puppy. Remember, it’s up to you to teach a dog house training skills. Dogs aren’t pre-programmed to understand pottying indoors is considered rude. 🙂
Crate Your Dog
Confining a dog to a small area is an important step for house training an adult dog. Usually, dogs won’t potty where they sleep, so confining them in a crate teaches dogs to “hold it.” Crate training can be extremely helpful when used properly. However, you shouldn’t leave your adult dog or puppy in a crate for more than 4 hours. If you’re unable to keep an eye on your dog, toss a food filled toy into the dog crate and close your dog inside. This will prevent her from wandering into the formal dining room and pottying. When in doubt, crate your dog before chatting on the phone or reading through text messages.
Leash Your Dog During Potty Walks
When asked if their dogs potty in the backyard, pet owners swear their dogs do, yet their dogs come right back indoors and urinate on the carpet. While this raises a red flag from a dog trainer’s perspective, it’s important to rule out any health issues with a veterinarian first. Once health issues are cleared, it’s time for leashed potty breaks in the yard.
Bring your dog outside on leash in the most boring part of your backyard. Now wait for “it” to happen, and reward when your adult dog potties. Once she’s done, give her a treat and unsnap the leash. Leash walks aren’t forever. It’s a dog training tool to verify a dog is actually pottying outside, and it provides plenty of opportunities to reward good behavior.
If a dog doesn’t potty outside, bring her indoors and place her inside the crate with a food stuffed toy. After 20 minutes, take her outside again. Continue until she potties outside and reward her, so she learns that pottying outside makes treats happen.
Set a Schedule
Life gets busy, and dogs are usually forgotten. Creating a set potty schedule is key. Following a set schedule will certainly jump-start a house training protocol. Set your dog’s potty training schedule in a highly visible area, such as a refrigerator. Even better, set a reminder on your smartphone. Check out an example of a house training schedule.
There is One Big Difference Though
When house training a dog, the core principles and skills are the same regardless of a dog’s age. But there’s one big difference that most pet owners seem to forget, and it’s a challenging one. When dogs practice a behavior for a long time, they get really good at it. Behaviors become patterns and habits, which are challenging to fix. It will take longer to house train an adult dog than a new puppy.
This applies to humans as well. Don’t believe me? Try shaking hands with your left hand next time. It feels weird, and most people quickly return to what they know, which is shaking hands with their right hand. You’ve shook hands with someone’s right hand for years, so it feels weird doing anything else. Remember this when your adult dog has a potty accident; they’re relearning new habits and skills.
It Can Be Done
Patience and consistency is key. When your adult dog has an accident, it’s usually because she was allowed too much freedom too soon. Take a step back, and follow the three steps for house training an adult dog. Never punish your dog for potty accidents, as she’ll learn to potty in far away areas, which is counterproductive. Reward often and keep an eye on your dog until she’s had 30 potty accident free days.