Teaching your adult dog housebreaking basics is much the same as training a young puppy. An older dog may develop housebreaking problems in a stressful environment or a new home, and it is possible that an adult dog was never housebroken in the first place.
Pet owners who acquire dogs from humane societies or animal shelters may find that they end up with adult dogs that are not housebroken. Training a dog to eliminate out of doors is a similar process regardless of the dog’s age.
Step 1 – Establish an Appropriate Location and Time
Dogs of all ages thrive on routine, and it is important to establish a pattern in order to help your dog recognize when and when not to eliminate. Always take a new dog to a particular spot in the yard or area surrounding your house when you would like him to eliminate. You can further help to establish a routine pattern by encouraging him to eliminate outside at designated times of day. After waking up, before going to bed and before or after a mid-day meal are common times.
Step 2 – Praise Good Behavior and Punish Quickly
Reinforce your dog’s developing elimination behavior by praising and rewarding him for successfully eliminating outside. Use verbal praise and food rewards, but be sure to praise your dog while he is still outside. Giving him praise even more than a few seconds after the act will not serve any function, as dogs cannot successfully associate rewards after the fact.
Similarly, punish your dog promptly and gently when he has an accident indoors. The critical thing to remember is that you should only reprimand your dog if you catch him in the act of eliminating, as delaying a punishment will only contribute to your dog’s sense of fear or anger.
Scold your dog gently and do not frighten him. If possible, startle your dog in order to interrupt his eliminating, and then take him outside to finish. Be sure to praise him if he successfully finishes outdoors.
Step 3 – Supervise Your Dog
Unsupervised dogs are much more likely to eliminate indoors than dogs under constant supervision. While you are at home, keep a careful eye on your dog during the housebreaking training period. This will discourage him from eliminating indoors as he begins to develop a sense that such an act is “wrong,” and it will simultaneously afford you the opportunity to praise or reprimand him promptly.
Additionally, keep your dog confined in a familiar space while you are out of the house or unable to watch him. A canine crate is an excellent choice, although a small, enclosed room will work as well. This further discourages the dog from eliminating indoors, as most dogs will not defecate in an enclosed area where they are trapped.
It is important to remember that every dog makes a mistake on occasion. When this happens, clean up the mess and continue to show your pet affection. These situations often come about when your dog is under stress, so becoming angry at your dog may only make matters worse.
Follow these steps to train (or retrain) your dog and to keep your home clean and your family happy.