How to Housebreak an Adult Dog

Initially, tethering your dog confuses the housetraining process.

Initially, tethering your dog confuses the housetraining process.

An adult dog that urinates when excited or has accidents when he’s expected to “hold it” for nine hours at a time doesn’t need house-training, he needs a dog walker or a trainer. However, if you adopted your dog from a shelter or a rescue group, it’s possible that this is his first experience living indoors, making house-training a completely new concept.

Restrict your dog’s access to the kitchen and laundry room area. This will allow you to monitor his behavior. Tile or linoleum floors make cleaning up his accidents easier, as well. As he becomes house-trained, you'll slowly expand his access to areas of the house.

Hang a bell on the backdoor doorknob and gently touch your dog’s nose to it every time you take him outside. Eventually, he’ll associate nosing the bell with going outside and he’ll tap the bell whenever he needs to relieve himself. Some dogs let you know they need to go out by whining or barking, but a dog whose background includes abuse or poor socialization often doesn’t know how to communicate his needs to humans.

Praise and reward your dog every time he urinates or defecates outdoors. Give him the treat every time he does his business, and praise him. In this case, a simple “good boy” won’t do. Effective praise is enthusiastic and lavish, complete with a high-pitched “baby voice” that tells your dog he did something wonderful and worth repeating.

Take your dog outside whenever he displays warning signs of elimination. Such indicators include circling, sniffing and pacing. When you see him doing any of these things, drop what you’re doing and take him outside immediately.

Stop your dog whenever you catch him urinating or defecating indoors by clapping your hands and calmly walk him outside to finish his business. Repeat Step 3 once he’s outside, even if he had a partial accident in the house.

Place your dog inside a crate for 20 minutes after each meal. Dogs prefer to keep their living space clean. This makes him less likely to soil inside his crate. The crate must be large enough for him to comfortably stand and lay down. Remove him after 20 minutes and take him outside. Slowly increase the length of time he spends in the crate by 20 minutes every few days until he begins responding to the training methods.

Items you will need

  • String of bells
  • Treats
  • Crate
  • Enzymatic cleaner


  • Clean any accidents in the house with an enzymatic cleaner. Only a product with enzymatic cleaners can actually break down the odor-causing compounds that encourage your dog to re-mark his territory.


  • Medical complications are a key reason why otherwise house-trained adult dogs begin having accidents inside the home or appear unresponsive to the above training. Rule out the possibility of medical illness by taking him to the veterinarian before you begin house-training.
  • -Although the house-training process is frustrating, scolding or spanking your dog when he has an accident doesn’t teach him to go outside, it teaches him to relieve himself behind the sofa or in another part of the house where you can’t see him. Punishing him for an accident he had a few hours, or even minutes, ago is a complete waste of time and will defeat his progress.

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About the Author

Christina Bednarz Schnell began writing full-time in 2010. Her areas of expertise include child development and behavior, medical conditions and pet health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international relations.

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