Housetraining adult dogs: training tips and techniques

Dog next to potty accident on the floor

Many adult rescue dogs have incomplete or no house training skills, and even dogs that have been potty trained in their previous homes sometimes need a refresher course if they don't walk regularly at the shelter.

The good news is that it's pretty easy to teach an old dog this new trick. In fact, adult dogs are usually easier and faster to train than puppies, especially if you use a crate.

The key to solid potty training is to start the day when your dog comes home. If you follow the following routine exactly, you should be able to house an adult dog in a week or less – although some pups will need a little more patience, and that's fine too.

Take your time to train your dog properly

When you first bring your adult dog home, they need to go out for their lunch break in the bathroom.

If you have work, school, or other commitments that prevent you from taking your dog for a lunch break, hire a dog walker. The first week or so is crucial to establishing a new routine for your dog, and you want to avoid as many preventable indoor accidents as possible.

If hiring a dog walker is not in your budget, ask a friend or neighbor to let your dog out in exchange for another service or favor.

Use a crate on the day you bring them home

Dog rests in crate

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Crate training is the easiest way to teach a dog bladder and bowel control, as dogs don't like to soil their sleeping and eating areas.

The crate should be large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie in comfortably, but no larger. If it's too roomy, your dog may feel like they can eliminate in a corner and still keep their living space clean. Keep the crate in a high traffic part of the house so your dog doesn't feel isolated.

Also, make sure your dog has plenty of time outside the crate to exercise, train, and just hang out and bond with you. If you keep them in their crate too long, they will feel trapped and frustrated.

If you're worried about putting your dog in a crate, remember that with adult dogs, you don't have to use it for long – maybe just three days – before they're fully house trained. Most dogs actually enjoy having a safe, enclosed space where they can rest and recharge. So don't worry about them feeling confined.

They may even prefer to lie down during the day, even if they don't have to anymore.

How to streamline house training adult dogs

Follow these guidelines when using a crate to house your dog to ensure he doesn't suffer from anxiety or get eliminated in his crate. These steps will also help your dog understand what you want – so he eliminates it outside – and that he'll stick to it.

  • Never hold your dog longer than it can hold. If they are forced to go into their crate because you didn't let them out in time, you have made house training much more difficult.
  • Use the same "elimination station" every time. Dogs develop a preference for potty training in the same places. Make it easier on yourself and choose where you want them to go from the start.
  • Do not distract your dog with games and talking. Just stand still and let them circle and sniff. As soon as your pup starts to go, give a command like "go pee" or "do your business". In short order, your dog will eliminate on cue – handy if you're traveling or don't want to spend walks with poop bags.
  • Shower them with praise when they get it right. Make sure treats and praise come right after elimination. Make praise enthusiastic and treats first class. You want to make it clear that eliminating the outside is a great thing to do. Don't wait until you're back inside to do something good for yourself. They won't associate the reward with what made them do it.
  • Don't punish your dog for accidents if you haven't caught them in the act. Clean thoroughly so they are not drawn to the same place by the smell of feces or urine. If you catch your dog in an accident, startle him in mid-stream with a yell or clap, then push him outside to finish up. Praise them when they are done so they learn that outside elimination is not only allowed but rewarded.

Give your dog at least six bathroom breaks a day

Dog pees on tree

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

You don't always have to give your dog as many opportunities to go to the bathroom, but until you're done house training, you need to give your dog as many opportunities as possible to go outside.

Try to take your dog out first thing in the morning before you leave for the day, twice a day, once after dinner and again before bedtime. Once you know they have it, you can move them to four bathroom breaks a day – the standard for adult dogs.

Take your dog for a walk or give him some playtime as a bonus. If they keep returning to the house after eliminating, they will learn to hold it to extend their time outdoors.

What cleaning products to use in case your dog has an accident?

During house training, there will inevitably be an accident here and there, no matter how closely you stick to a training routine. If your dog has an accident, follow these rules when choosing a cleaning product.

  • Use a cleanser that contains live bacteria or enzymes this breaks down the mess rather than masking it with another scent.
  • Stay away from ammonia based cleaners. You smell like urine to your dog and want to pee in the same spot again.
  • Leave some soiled towels at your dog's "elimination station". The scent reinforces to your dog that this is the potty area.

Stick to your training routine and your adult dog should be doing his business where he's supposed to in no time at all. Good luck!

Have you ever taught an adult dog? What tips would you recommend to new dog parents? Let us know in the comments below!