How can you house train an adult dog?

Posted by Betty. February 8th 2014.

Anyone who decides to give an adult dog a home will meet an entirely different animal to a puppy.

On the one hand, there could be the advantage of the dog already having undergone training but on the other hand, there is the possibility bad habits may already be ingrained in the animal. When an older dog leaves a familiar environment, it can feel stressed and its training routine may become more relaxed. As its new owner, you could find there are some problems to address, including toilet accidents, destruction to furniture and even possessive displays over its toys and bed.

How to train an adult dog - Labrador and man


If a dog feels anxious, this may disturb its usual toilet routine. This could result in the dog soiling parts of the house in unpredictable ways.

While it is necessary to enforce some discipline, the problem may work out once the pet feels at ease in its new home. It is never wise to angrily scold a dog for out-of-hand urinating and soiling, especially as it may be a passing stage.

It’s necessary to clean any area of the house which has been soiled in order to get rid of any traces of the scent which could encourage the dog to re-use this spot. Remember that urinating is part of how dogs mark their territory but it’s important you don’t allow them to do it inside the house. Clean the affected area with suitable cleaning fluids and detergents to remove traces of the smell and ensure floors are hygienic.


Any expert will explain that routine is essential when re-training an older dog.

The owner of a recently-arrived older dog needs to select a spot in the garden which can be used as a canine toilet. First thing after waking up, last thing at night and once an hour during the day, you should walk the dog around that spot for five minutes and let it become familiar with the area through sniffing. If you leave newspaper on the floor in the house to catch any accidents then use these soiled newspapers to encourage the dog to go to the toilet outside by placing them in the designated area. The scent will help the dog associate the area as their territory and a place for them to go to the toilet.

When the dog starts to use the spot as a toilet, give praise and keep this routine up for at least two weeks afterwards. This should help cement the practice in the dogs mind and stop household accidents.

In addition to this, you may also need to re-educate the dog on what it is and isn’t allowed to do in the home. This may include going upstairs, getting onto furniture and where it sleeps.

How to train an adult dog - German Shepherd

No supervision

Of course not everyone can undertake such a rigorous routine if they have other responsibilities.

In this case, it may be necessary to confine the dog in a set place during times when it cannot be supervised. If you don’t want to leave the dog free to roam the house for fear of damage or accidents,  you could try a crate (although if an older dog is not used to a crate, this in itself could cause problems), or keep it in one room/ area; use of a “dog” (or baby) gate can be invaluable.

Place the dog’s bedding in the area (or crate) you leave them in and make sure they have access to food and water. You’ll find that most dogs won’t go to toilet in their beds so this could cut down on accidents too.


If a pet owner sees their dog about to soil indoors, they need to stop it and take it outside to the designated toilet spot. After an  initial two-week training period, the best advice is to increase the length of times between visits to the garden so that the dog starts to become accustomed to using its toilet at set times.

It is important to remember that praise is vital after success and sticking to a basic routine will help instil into an older dog’s mind that its toilet is outdoors.

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