House-training an adult dog

House-training an adult dog

THROUGH no fault of their own, some pet dogs reach adulthood without being fully house trained. Fortunately, with time and patience, it is possible to establish new habits and teach your dog to stay clean in the house.

What to do

Before starting the new routine

Carefully clean all areas where your dog has previously ‘been’ using a warm solution of biological washing powder (for example, a teaspoon of powder dissolved in a cup of warm water) or a specially formulated product from your vet, which will remove all traces of the smell from your house.

Every day

When you first wake up, last thing at night and very regularly during the day, take your dog outside to a place in your garden that you have chosen. Put soiled newspaper or faeces in this area as the smell will help your dog to know where to go to the toilet. Let your dog walk up and down or run about and sniff the area (both exercise and sniffing help stimulate going to the loo).

Avoid playing exciting games in the garden during this process, as this is likely to distract your dog from the main purpose of going outside! If they want to come back inside straight away, or look confused, patiently walk up and down slowly to encourage them to move about and sniff the ground. Stay outside with your dog until they have done their business at which point you can give gentle praise.

If they still haven’t gone to the toilet after five minutes, come back inside the house, but keep a very close eye on them. Repeat this process 20 minutes later (and 20 minutes after that if they still haven’t gone) and hopefully your dog will eventually toilet in the right place. Set aside lots of time for this and be prepared for several visits to the garden at first as this is a new routine your dog will have to learn. Be patient and your persistence will eventually pay off!

Between trips to the garden, supervise your dog when in the house. This means keeping your dog in view at all times and being aware of what they are doing – this is especially important in the first two weeks of this training. Pay particular attention to the times after your dog has eaten, woken up or after periods of excitement, such as play.

Signs to look for

Watch for the typical signs that your dog needs to go to the toilet – these may include sniffing the floor, circling, looking restless or going into a room they have previously toileted in. Take your dog immediately to your chosen place in the garden and wait patiently until they have done their business and praise gently.

Dog crates (also known as indoor kennels)

Dog crates are a fantastic tool to use during this process if used correctly. Dogs rarely soil their own beds and if your dog is used to a crate, you can pop them in there for short periods when you cannot directly supervise or have to concentrate on other things. If your dog isn’t used to a dog crate, refer to our ‘indoor kennel’ leaflet to help them get used to being left in there for short periods of time. It’s important to help them feel comfortable, otherwise they may become distressed which can lead to toileting.

Establishing the routine

You need to continue with this routine for at least two weeks, although some dogs may need extra time and help. During this process, your dog learns about getting praise for going to the toilet outside and, since they don’t have the chance to go inside, they will get into the habit of going outside instead. Throughout the first few weeks and for a while afterwards, continue to go out with your pet to the garden in order to praise them until your dog knows exactly what to do.

After two weeks of the above routine, gradually increase the time between visits to the garden. Your dog will eventually want to go to the toilet at a time other than the one you choose. At this time, your dog will probably become more active or may wander over to the door. Watch for a change in their behaviour and take them out quickly. Gradually, as you start to recognise the signs that mean your dog needs to go, you can relax your supervision in the house. Some dogs may need reminding regularly (especially those who have a history of house-soiling), so make sure you give them plenty of opportunities to relieve themselves outside.

House-training will happen more easily if you keep to the same routine of feeding and exercising each day.

Although house training a dog can be hard work and tiring – be patient and consistent, and all your efforts should pay off!

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