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How to Completely Housebreak an Older Dog

Updated on March 31, 2013

Do not despair if you have adopted an adult dog who isn't house broken. It is possible to teach an adult dog where you want him to go for toiletry maneuvers, it may just take a little longer because they can have a life time of poor training or no training to overcome.

Ten of my dogs have been 6 months or older when I got them and I've had a few adult foster dogs too. Most of these have needed to be house broken or house trained. What I've discovered is that one way doesn't necessarily fit all and how difficult a dog is to house train will depend on what habits or 'beliefs' they have picked up on the way.

For example one of my dogs, Moby, who I adopted at 18 months had been kept kenneled all his life. I realised after living with him for 48 hours that he firmly believed that he must not toilet in front of a human and also that he must not toilet outside.. I'd spent that 48 hours taking him on two hour walks and taking him out regularly aside from that but he wouldn't produce a dribble of urine or poo. Then as soon as I went to the loo myself (so I couldn't see him) he would toilet in the house.

Don't put the dog outside and expect it to perform, go out with it especially if it's raining. If you're standing in the doorway out of the rain the dog will be thinking about joining you rather than toileting!

Housebreaking success - the dog poo crouch
Housebreaking success - the dog poo crouch | Source

House Breaking Adult Dogs

  1. When you first get the dog do not react negatively if you see the dog toileting in the house. This may sound counter productive, but bear in mind that if you tell the dog off all it may understand at this stage is 'I get told off for toileting in front of humans, therefore I should avoid toileting in front of humans.'
  2. Do give verbal praise and even treats when the dog toilets outside. I used to believe treats shouldn't be necessary for house training, I changed my mind when Bob my terrier, who had seemed house trained in summer, was reluctant to toilet outside in wet weather. Treats persuaded him it was worth the discomfort!
  3. To start with treat the dog as a puppy and take him out to toilet after meals and every two hours through the day. This will increase the chance of him going in the right place.
  4. Keep the dog with you as much as possible - if they start to toilet inside you can whisk them out and you will quickly learn the signs that they show before toileting.
  5. Putting the dog in an indoor kennel with their dog bed in may help for those moments when you can't keep an eye on the dog. Most dogs would rather not toilet in their bed.
  6. If the dog has been kept as a puppy farm breeding dog for many years, they may housebreak faster if there is another already trained dog in the house. This is because exbreeders feel more secure with other dogs round them and will follow their lead. 'Many Tears' dog rescue, who have a lot of experience with rehoming exbreeders, strongly recomend that they are homed to people who already have a dog as this helps with house breaking and accustoming them to human company.
  7. Be patient, persistent and consistent!

Moby | Source
How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days (Revised)
How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days (Revised)

Perhaps I should have used this book with Moby!


How did I House Train Moby?

There I was with Moby who was determined not to toilet in front of me. I realised I was going to have to keep him with me for every second of the day. So I walked him lots, kept him shut in my bedroom overnight and even took him into the bathroom with me.

After 24 hours at the end of a two hour walk; we were nearly back home and he still hadn't produced anything. Then suddenly his bladder overcame his iron will. With a horrified look on his face he realised he was weeing with a person there to see. I didn't want to put him off, but I praised him quietly as Niagara flowed! This was the breakthrough.

After that he began to toilet outside more often and the praise he got increased his confidence in toileting with me there. Initially I had to keep a close eye on him in the house so that he didn't sneak off into another room and wee and he needed taking out frequently like a puppy to have the best chance of getting it right. He had a short phase of weeing in the same room I was in. (This was a good result in a way, because it meant he was over his 'weeing in front of me' hangup) Concerned about setting his progress back I didn't chastise him, but whisked him outside mid wee to continue it in the garden.

It took two months of persistence for me to feel confident in Moby's house training. He was a real challenge, but it was worth it.


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    • Easy Exercise profile image

      Kelly A Burnett 4 years ago from United States

      Great advise! Parenting and dog skills and basic human skills - we all need reinforcement. This tells us allot about ourselves. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      When I adopted my retired racing greyhound, she had the same problem, even though she went to a halfway house to be acclimated. It didn't do much good, other than to let her know that it was good to sleep on the couch.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      Wish I had this information several years ago! I so did not know how to housebreak dogs - and I very much wanted them as pets. Great guide for making a happy owner! Voted up!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi Nettlemere I was reading this hoping to get some ideas on housebreaking one of my feral dogs. She is old, but of course I am not sure how old. Since I moved her to a compound I take care of, she only urinates and defecates on the tiled veranda of the house. Like Moby, she never does it when I am there, and since she is feral, she will not take a treat from my hand. A crate is not an option, and although I take my dog with me every day, she does not follow her lead.

      The only thing I can think of is to build a fence around the veranda. Any ideas?