House training is an important part of living with a dog in the home that is usually easy to do with puppies but can be challenging with adult dogs.

To house train an adult dog, you will need to stick to a strict routine, give them plenty of opportunities to use the bathroom outside, and reward good bathroom habits instead of punishing indoor accidents.

In this article, we will tell you exactly how to house train an adult dog. This is so important for people that adopt older dogs that need homes. We will go over some of the most common signs that your dog might be giving you that they need to go out. We will also give some tips for if you have a senior dog experiencing incontinence that can’t be managed with house training.

As a long-time dog owner and lover, I will walk you through the process of house training an adult dog. This is an important skill for a dog of any age to learn. There could be countless reasons that an adult dog may not be house trained. In most cases, they just need some structure and love. Let’s get started!  

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How Do You House Train An Adult Dog?

House training is important for any dog that lives in the home with you. Usually, puppies are house trained when they are young. Sometimes, however, adult dogs either grow up without being house trained or have forgotten how to be house trained.

If you have recently adopted an adult dog that has accidents in the house, it is important that you house train them. Remember to use positive reinforcement, and try not to be angry with your dog when they have an accident in the house.

You will need to practice taking your dog outside to use the bathroom on a strict schedule. With time, your dog will learn the routine and be perfectly house trained.

Keep to a Routine

One of the most important parts of house training a dog is keeping to a strict routine. Dogs usually respond well to routines. If you keep up with a strict routine for when you take your dog out, feed them, and put them in their crate, they will slowly learn about the correct times to use the bathroom.

Even if you have a work schedule that varies, try to keep your dog on a regular schedule. This will be the best way for them to learn the best time for them to use the bathroom. This can be further reinforced by giving them praise and treats when they use the bathroom outside.

Keeping to a routine is something that is essential during house training, but should also be kept up once they are fully trained. Eventually, your dog will get to a point where they know exactly when they should be fed and when they should go outside to eliminate. Keep up this routine to keep your dogs happy and regular.

Take Them Outside On a Leash

The best way to house train a dog is to take them outside on a leash. Even if you have a backyard for them to use, take them there on a leash. This will add some more structure to the bathroom routine. They will eventually learn that when they are out on a leash, they need to use the bathroom and that when they are out without a leash they can freely play.

By taking them on a leash, you can also confirm that they use the bathroom before taking them back inside your home. Stay with your dog for as long as they need to use the bathroom. Oftentimes, dogs like to sniff around an area for the best place to do their business, and this process can take some time.

Be patient and stay with your dog until they go to the bathroom to prevent an indoor accident.

If They Don’t Go, Put Them In Their Crate

Sometimes, when you take your dog outside, they won’t go to the bathroom. This may be the case fairly often when you first start house training. When this happens, put them directly in their crate when you come inside. Then, you can try again after ten minutes or so. If they still don’t go, repeat the process.

This is generally recommended because it will encourage your dog to go outside. Your dog will not go to the bathroom inside their crate unless they are having an emergency. Their crate is their safe space and should be a place of comfort, so they will not want to make it dirty.

If you instead bring your dog in and let them have free roam of the house, they are more likely to find a quiet corner to use the bathroom indoors.

Don’t Punish Them For Accidents

One of the most important things to remember when house training an adult dog is to not punish them when they use the bathroom inside. If you punish your dog for this, they might become afraid to use the bathroom in front of you. This could lead to even more indoor accidents.

If you notice your dog going to the bathroom inside, don’t yell or frighten them. Calmly try to get their attention. Then, you can take them outside to finish and remind them that they are supposed to go outside for this.

In general, positive reinforcement is the best tool for this type of training. Rather than punishing your dog for an accident, give them lots of praise and treats when they use the bathroom outside.

If you notice an indoor bathroom accident, just ignore your dog and clean up the mess. Be sure to do a thorough cleaning job, because dogs are more likely to use the bathroom in places that are already soiled. If you clean the area properly, they won’t be able to smell the mess and won’t try to use the bathroom there again.

Signs That Your Dog Has To Go Out

When you are house training an adult dog, it can be helpful to know the signs of a dog that needs to go to the bathroom. You will eventually learn the specific signs that your dog gives you, but you should be on the lookout for these while you are learning your dog’s signals:

  • Pacing
  • Whining
  • Sniffing the ground
  • Circling

If you notice any of these signs, take your dog out as soon as possible. These are all indicators that they need to go, and soon.

Why Are Some Adult Dogs Not House Trained?

Many people assume that most adult dogs are house trained when adopting them. However, this is not always the case. Adult dogs that aren’t house trained are not bad dogs or disobedient. There are many reasons that an adult dog might have bathroom accidents in the home.

Some adult dogs were never house trained. Many people adopt puppies thinking they will be easy to train, then find themselves overwhelmed. Oftentimes, people will allow their dogs to use puppy pads for indoor bathroom uses and never train them to go outside. The dog has simply reached adulthood without learning how to go outside for the bathroom.

In some situations, an adult dog will be at a rescue for a very long time before they are adopted again. If a dog has been out of a home for many months, they may forget proper bathroom manners in a house. Oftentimes, rescues house their dogs in cages with concrete floors, then take them to a yard for the bathroom and playtime. Since these areas are not the same as a home, they might forget how to behave in a home when they are adopted.

Some adult dogs may also have trouble learning the rules in a new home, even if they are fully house trained. If you bring a dog into a new building or home, they may not realize how going to the bathroom works or may want to “mark their territory” in this new place.

No matter what situation applies to your dog, remember to have patience and compassion for them. They might have been abused or left in a cage for months at a time. With a little bit of love and training, your dog will be house-trained in no time.

What To Do If Your Senior Dog Is Incontinent

Sometimes, senior dogs that were once house trained lose control of their bathroom functions. In these cases, you will start to see your dog having more accidents indoors. If you are experiencing this, you may need to adjust your schedule and take your dog outside more frequently than previously needed.

If the problem becomes worse, you may need to use dog diapers or indoor bathroom pads. Indoor bathroom accidents in senior dogs are mostly not due to training issues but instead are a medical issue associated with old age.

Take your dog to the vet for further recommendations if you are experiencing this with a senior dog. Oftentimes, there is nothing that they can do to help your dog’s incontinence. They will likely recommend that you use diapers and take them outside more frequently. However, your dog could have a medical issue that needs immediate attention, so it is best to discuss these habits with your vet.


Russell Wright

Russell Wright

I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.

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