House Training Adult Dogs
Behavioral Reasons for House Soiling continued...
If your dog only soils when left alone in your home, even for
short periods of time, she may have separation anxiety. If this is the case,
you may notice that she appears nervous or upset right before you leave her by
herself or after you’ve left (if you can observe her while she’s alone). For
more information, please see our article, Separation
Your dog may have a submissive or excitement urination problem
if she only urinates during greetings, play, physical contact, scolding or
punishment. If this is the case, you may notice her displaying submissive
postures during interactions. She may cringe or cower, roll over on her belly,
duck her head, avert her eyes, flatten her ears or all of the above. For more
information, please see our article, Submissive
What to Do About the Problem
Treatment for Lack of House Training, Incomplete House Training or a
Breakdown in House Training
If given a choice, dogs prefer to eliminate away from areas
where they eat, sleep and play. You can accomplish house training by rewarding
your dog for going where you want her to go (the yard, for example) and
by preventing her from going in unacceptable places (inside the house). Crating
and confinement should be kept to a minimum, but some amount is usually
necessary to help your dog to learn to “hold it.”
House training takes time and effort in the short-term but
gives you the long-term benefit of a dog who can be a part of your family.
Realize that adult dogs adopted from shelters, rescues and kennels are often
not house trained. If your dog came from one of these settings, she might need
refresher training, or she might need to start from square one. No matter what
your dog’s history, it’s best to adopt as many of the following recommendations
as you can, as soon as you can. The longer your dog is allowed to soil in her
living area (your home), the harder it will be to teach her to eliminate
- Keep your dog on a consistent daily feeding schedule and remove food
- Take your dog outside on a consistent and frequent schedule. All dogs
should have the opportunity to go out first thing in the morning, last thing at
night, and before being confined or left alone. Fully house-trained adult dogs
should have the chance to eliminate outside at least four times a day.
- Know where your dog is at all times. Watch for early signs that she needs
to eliminate so that you can anticipate and prevent accidents from happening.
These signs might include pacing, whining, circling, sniffing or leaving the
room. If you see any of these, take your dog outside as quickly as possible.
Not all dogs learn to let their caretakers know that they need to go outside by
barking or scratching at the door. Some will just pace a bit and then eliminate
inside. If letting you know that she needs to go out seems to be a challenge
for your dog, consider installing a dog door. You can also try to teach your
dog to ask to go out.
- If you can’t watch your dog, you must confine her to a crate, put her in a
small room with the door or a baby gate closed, or tie her to you with a leash
that’s approximately six feet long. If you confine your dog in a crate or small
room, the area needs to be just large enough for her to lie down comfortably.
Dogs don’t like to soil where they sleep and rest. If the area is too large,
your dog might learn to soil in one corner and rest elsewhere. Gradually, over
days or weeks, give your dog more freedom. Right after she eliminates outside,
give her some free time in the house (about 15 to 20 minutes to start). If all
goes well, gradually increase the amount of time your dog spends out of her
- Accompany your dog outside and reward her whenever she eliminates outdoors
with praise and treats, play or a walk. It’s best to take your dog to the same
place each time you let her outside because the smell can prompt her to
eliminate where she’s eliminated before. Keep in mind that some dogs tend to
eliminate right when they go outside, but others need to move around and
explore for a bit first.
- If you catch your dog in the act of urinating inside the house, clap
loudly, just enough to startle but not scare your dog. (Avoid yelling or
punishing your dog. It’s not necessary, and if you do, she might decide that
eliminating in your presence is a bad idea and start to sneak away from you to
urinate in other rooms.) If startled, your dog should stop in mid-stream.
Immediately and quickly lead or carry her outside. If you take your dog by the
collar to run her outside, do so gently and encourage her to come with you the
whole way. Allow your dog to finish eliminating outside, and then reward her
with happy praise and a treat or two. If you don’t catch your dog in the act
but find an accident afterward, do nothing to her. She can’t connect any kind
of punishment with something she did hours or even minutes ago. If your dog
seems upset or scared by your clapping, just clap a little softer the next time
you catch her in the act.
- Clean accidents with an enzymatic cleanser designed for cleaning pet urine.
You can find one at most major pet stores and some grocery stores. This will
minimize odors that might attract your dog back to the same spots to eliminate
- If you’re unable to get your dog outside quickly enough, possibly because
of mobility problems (yours or your dog’s), or if you live in a high-rise
apartment, consider training your dog to eliminate on paper or in a dog litter