How to Housetrain a Stubborn Dog

Positive reinforcement works with stubborn dogs.

Positive reinforcement works with stubborn dogs.

The adage that you can't teach an old dog new tricks is not true. You can house train a stubborn dog by going back to puppy basics. Confining the dog, keeping a potty schedule and rewarding good behavior are all common methods used with pups and stubborn dogs.

Expect accidents. Dogs are not stubborn; some just need more time to figure out what you want from them. Some came from puppy mills and had to potty where they slept. Moving to a new home can upset a dog's routine. Some suffer from separation anxiety. Patience is essential.

Observe your dog's behaviors. Some dogs turn in circles before squatting. Others walk to the door and stand. Some begin to search for an area to use. Once you know his behaviors, you are more able to correct the problem.

Confine your pooch to one area. If you have a crate, reintroduce the crate by feeding him in the crate and tossing treats inside so he will enter. If you don't have a crate, gate off one area in the house for your dog.

Create a potty and feeding schedule for your dog. An adult dog should eat twice a day. Feed your dog and immediately take him outside to potty. Remove food and water two to three hours before bedtime. Take him out just before bed. First thing in the morning, take him out to potty. Take him out every hour throughout the day until he learns that he is to potty outside. This may take a few days or a few weeks.

Repeat the same phrase for his time to potty. Use this phrase when you take him outside and when you take him to a specific spot to potty. When he potties, praise him and repeat the phrase.

Give him a treat. Keep small pieces of food in your pocket. When you take your pup outside and he potties, praise him and give him a treat. Treats are a powerful reinforcing technique for dogs.

Create a specific routine when taking your pup outside to potty. Use the same phrase. Go out the same door and lead him to the same spot. Give him time to explore before going to the bathroom. If he doesn't do anything in 15 minutes, lead him back inside to his confined area. Wait 10 minutes and take him back out again.

Items you will need

  • Crate or gate
  • Treats
  • Schedule


  • Some dogs need to exercise to help them potty. Go for a walk with your dog. If there is a place in the neighborhood for him to explore, take him there to potty.


  • Don't scold him if you catch him making a mistake in the house. Take him to his place outside and use the phrase for potty time.

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About the Author

Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.

Photo Credits

  • black dog image by Stefan Andronache from