While adopting a puppy comes with more than its fair share of challenges, so too does adopting an adult dog. One of these challenges is housebreaking, which can be an issue if your dog has never been taught before. This is often the case with rescue dogs. And unless you like your home messy, you are going to have to do something about it!
The process of training an adult dog not to go to the bathroom indoors is different to puppies, and it is going to require a lot of patience and the right strategy. In fact, a lot of people find it easier to housebreak a fully grown adult than a new puppy as they have more life experience and interaction with humans. Also, they are generally able to ‘hold it’ for longer than the little babies. Ultimately, it all depends on what is causing the issue and your specific dog’s capacity for learning.
Before you do anything, you should establish that there isn’t an underlying medical problem or behavioral issues which are negatively impacting what is going on with your pooch. If either of these things is a problem, you may need to adjust your training accordingly. A trained veterinarian can help with the medical issues, while you may need to consult a canine behavioral expert if it is the latter problem.
Possible Causes of Housebreaking Issues
Identifying what is causing the issue can help you in your quest to successfully housebreak your dog. A trip to the vet can be a useful first step that gives you the answers that you are looking for. Your vet needs to rule out medical issues as a first port of all. There are several possible health related issues which you need to watch out for. First, it could be a gastrointestinal problem such as an infection or an allergy to a particular type of food. You are likely to notice that your dog needs to defecate more often and that it is more watery than normal. Alternatively, your dog may have more general incontinence issues, which are stopping them from regulating their bathroom habits in the normal way. If your dog is on any medication or has recently undergone surgery, these may also be possible causes that you need to watch out for.
If your dog is a little older, this could be a possible problem in itself. A loss of cerebral or bladder control are two possible culprits causing the issue. Sometimes, it is simply the case that your dog has found a surface that they are fond of and will keep returning to that spot over and over again. There is also the possibility that your pup is simply marking their territory. Or the issue could be the result of anxiety or stress in their life. Often, a change in their living environment can cause this, which is why there is often a problem with newly adopted dogs. Separation anxiety is also a very common cause of going to the bathroom outdoors, so if you are out of the house for extended periods of time, this could be what is causing the problem.
Sometimes, it is simply the case that your dog doesn’t like the look of going to the bathroom outdoors! Perhaps it is particularly cold or wet outside or there is something frightening like a thunderstorm going on. And you should also watch out for submissive behavior in your dog. This sometimes happens when they get excited or they are getting yelled at. It can even occur when they meet somebody new for the first time. At the same time, you may notice some cringing or cowering behavior going on.
Some dogs have never been pets before, meaning that they have never lived indoors and nobody has taught them to go to the bathroom outdoors. Alternatively, they may have spent a long time in a crate or other enclosed environment and are only used to going in a specific location.
However, if it is simply a lack of training that is causing the issue, here are a few steps that you can take.
Housebreaking Secrets for Adult Dogs
First, you should get out of the bad habit of yelling at your dog when they go to the bathroom as this doesn’t serve to do any good. In fact, you may be having the reverse effect to the one you intended and you will just make your dog afraid of you. The correction needs to happen when the bad behavior is occurring as you can’t expect your dog to make the connection otherwise. If you do happen to catch your dog while they are going to the bathroom indoors, take them outdoors and let them finish. You can then offer them treats and praise to reinforce the good behavior.
To start with, you should feed your dog consistently at scheduled intervals. This will stop your dog from having to go more often than they would usually. You should also implement this same sense of routine and structure to letting your dog out to go to the bathroom. You should be allowing them to go outside at least four times a day to relieve themselves. If possible, direct your dog to go to the same place every time to keep up this consistency.
A system of rewards is so much more effective than a system of punishment, so offer your dog praise, treats, play, or a walk when they go to the bathroom outside when they are supposed to. The closer your watch your dog and get to know their behavior patterns, the more likely it is that you will be able to spot the signs when they need to go to the bathroom. These include scratching at the door or making whining or yowling noises. However, bear in mind that some dogs won’t give you these clear signs.
But you also need to accept that dogs are going to have accidents from time to time. When a dog finds a place that they like to go, it can be very difficult to dissuade them from continuing to use this spot. This is where calmness and patience can go a long way. It is frustrating and time consuming, but you need to make a special effort to clear the smell from where your dog has been before as this can end up encouraging them to go there again.
You may just need to take your dog outdoors for longer. Some dogs aren’t used to going on command and may want to sniff around a bit, run around, or check out the area in closer detail before they feel comfortable enough to relieve themselves. If your dog is presented with more opportunities to go outdoors, you offer them more chance to take them.
Crate Training Your Dog
Some people decide to go down the route of crate training their dog for successful housebreaking. But if you use this improperly, it can end up having the reverse effect and will not be as successful as you had hoped. However, many people use them with new puppies as they need an especially big enclosure for adult dogs. They may work better for smaller dogs. If your dog has a small potty, they can get used to the scent and understand that it is their bathroom. Find out more about indoor dog potty here.
There are a couple of things to bear in mind if you decide that crate training is the route for you. If you leave them alone in there for too long, this can end up leading to distress due to the isolation of the experience. So, you shouldn’t leave them cooped up for more than a couple of hours as this can lead to emotional withdrawal in your pup. You should make sure that you choose a crate that is comfortably big enough to contain your dog. And you should never use it as a punishment as this can be a particularly stressful experience for your canine companion. For more options, check out our detailed review of the best dog crates.
Training with a Pee Pad
An increasingly popular way of housebreaking a dog is by using a pee pad, which can be a serious help in protecting your floors from your dog going to the bathroom all over them. There are plenty of advantages directly associated with pee pads. First, they are quick and convenient and can be especially useful if you live in an environment where the outside world is not easily accessible such as a high apartment building. Working like a diaper, once they are used, you can simply throw them away in the trash. Alternatively, if you are environmentally conscious, you can get those that are washable. You can use them to teach your dog to go to the bathroom in a specific location outdoors. Once that have got used to it, you can take them away and hope that they will continue to go there automatically. Also, if the outdoor world looks totally appealing to you and your dog (perhaps due to bad weather conditions), you can use them indoors.
However, there are also some downsides which are worth taking into account. If your dog associates a similar material to a pee pad, they may start going on these as well. Also, when you are trying to train your dog to go outdoors, you may be sending mixed messages by allowing them to continue going indoors. If you have a dog who likes to chew and swallow things, the pee pads may prove to be something that they like to get their teeth stuck into. And some dogs also have the gross habit of eating their own stool, so this may prove to be an invitation to engage in this behavior more often!
Items Required for Housebreaking Your Dog
Having a few products can help you in the task of house training your dog successfully. When you are unable to supervise your dog, having them in an enclosed area like a crate or exercise pen is highly useful in stopping them from going in other areas. Obviously, you should have a collar and a leash for the times you need to go on your bathroom trips. We have already talked about the value of positive reinforcement, and some treats that your dog loves will help to give them the incentive to keep going outdoors.
If you want to be especially well organized, you could make yourself a chart displaying feeding times and when you take them to the bathroom. You could also record your progress and any times when your dog has little accidents. And when these do occur, an enzyme-based cleaner for feces and urine will clean up without leaving odors behind.
If you decide to use pee pads or a litter box, you are going to need these things. And when you are out of the house for extended periods of time, you may find them to be necessary items of equipment.
Housebreaking adult dogs can be an ongoing and difficult task, but it is one which is necessary to ensure that you create a comfortable living environment together. First, you should try to get to what is the root cause of the problem. Rule out any medical issues as a first step. You can then pick your strategy accordingly. There are plenty to choose from in this blog post, so you may have to mix and match until you find the one that works for you and your dog. The personality of your dog is bound to play a big role in this, as well as your own personal living situation. Whichever one you choose, it should be based on positive reinforcement rather than anything too negative. Remember, your dog won’t understand why they are being yelled at. There are always going to be some accidents from time to time, but you should continue to persevere in order to achieve the success that you are looking for.
- Re-Housetraining Your Adult Dog – paws
- How to housetrain your dog or puppy – The Humane Society of the US