House Training an Older Dog


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Everyone knows that puppies need to be house trained – they aren’t born knowing where they’re supposed to do their business, and what areas are off limits. Most of us, though, don’t think of adult dogs as requiring house training. However, sometimes they do.

Why Would an Adult Dog Need to Be House Trained?

Essentially, adult dogs need house training for the same reasons puppies do – they don’t understand the boundaries. For instance, if you have adopted an adult dog, you may not know its history. It could have lived most of its life outdoors at the end of a chain. Or, if you have taken in a rescue dog, it may be so traumatized that it has quite simply forgotten its house training. Either way, you are going to have to do some work to house train your adult dog.

When Is a Dog Considered House Trained?

If your dog can remain in the house for eight hours without having accidents, then he is house trained.

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How Long Should It Take?

Don’t expect to house train your dog overnight, and don’t believe the “experts” who tell you that it can be done in seven days. If you have an older dog that, for whatever reason, missed out on early house training, it is likely to take quite a while – often several weeks.

If you don’t know the dog’s history, you should operate under the assumption that he has not been house trained, and start the procedure the same as you would for a new puppy. If he had house training in his former home, then you should find that the re-training actually can happen in a few days.

How Do I House Train My Adult Dog?

There are a few things that you should do. The most important thing is to create a routine, and not deviate from it. Start with a trip outside first thing in the morning, and end with one last thing at night. Schedule regular “potty” breaks, and try not to miss any.

Of course, you should also watch for any signs that your dog needs to go out – whining, circling, pawing at the door, etc. – and be sure to put him outside as soon as you notice the signs. Obviously, this means that you don’t wait for the next scheduled break. It also means that you go outside as often as it appears necessary, even if it means you’re going out literally dozens of times in any given day.

When you are not able to watch for the signs, keep your dog confined in a small area. A crate is ideal, but if you don’t have one, a small bathroom will probably serve the purpose. Most dogs do not want to “go” where they sleep, so confining when you can’t supervise encourages your dog to wait.

Be vigilant and persistent, and in the fullness of time, you will have your adult dog house trained.

What If I’m Busy?

If you are so busy that you don’t have time for the dog, then I really wouldn’t encourage you to get one. However, if you have ended up with an adult dog, and then a sudden, unexpected volume of work or other commitments, you may need to enlist the assistance of a family member or a dog walker to house train your dog.

How Can I Prevent Relapses?

The key here, again, is consistency. You have to stick with the house training schedule that you have set up even after your dog is house trained. Otherwise, the dog is just going to return to his former, non-trained habits.

Keep in mind, too, that even a dog who is house trained to the point where you can leave him alone can have an accident if left alone for too long. There will probably be times when you are late getting home, perhaps because of an emergency at work, or a tie-up in traffic. If that happens, please don’t make a big issue out of the accident – for one thing, your dog will not know why he is being scolded so long after the fact, and for another, it’s not his fault that he was left alone for a long time.

Also, make sure that your dog gets a good amount of exercise. Sometimes, nervous or bored dogs will mess in the house, and burning off excess energy can help to prevent this from happening.

What Is the Best Way to Clean Up?

Of course I don’t have to tell you that if your dog has an accident in the house, you are going to have to clean it up. The thing is, though, you are going to have to clean far more vigorously than you might ordinarily. Remember that your dog’s nose is incredibly powerful – you may have scrubbed thoroughly, and satisfied yourself that you can’t smell anything, but chances are your dog still can. And he will want to return to the “scene of the crime,” and continue to do his business in that spot.

I recommend a good enzyme cleaner, because it doesn’t just clean up the mess, it destroys the odor. A good one is Nature’s Miracle Urine Destroyer Stain and Residue Eliminator. It is specially formulated to get rid of even the oldest and worst urine stains and odors, and you can use it on practically any surface, from hard surfaces to carpets. You can even use it to wash clothing. It blasts away odors on contact, so your dog will be discouraged from returning to the same spot. And if your home includes pets of different species, you’ll be glad to know that this product works on any type of urine. You can buy a 32-ounce bottle at Amazon for just $8.79 (the regular price is $16.19), and also take advantage of Prime shipping.

Related Content:

5 Reasons Why You Need to Train Your Dog, and 7 Training Problems to Overcome
7 Ways to Help an Older Dog Stay Active
7 Tips for Working Out with Your Senior Dog (Video)


Although we expect to have to house train a puppy, we are often not prepared for having to do the same for an adult dog. House training an adult will usually take a little time, but with love and patience, it can be done.