How to Housebreak an Adult Dog

Initially, tethering your dog confuses the housetraining process.
i police dog 7 image by Andrew Buckin from

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.

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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.

Step 6

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.

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