Free training tips: Teach your dog the manners and potty skills to be a welcomed member of the household

FREE TRAINING TIPS: House breaking an adult dog

There is an adult dog now living on the inside of the house. House training a dog includes teaching acceptable behavior and bathroom skills while inside the house. Whether a new pet or an outside pet is being relocated to the inside, this is a big adjustment for both the dog and household members. Be patient with the dog and with yourself as you both learn to harmoniously share the indoors.


House training an adult dog can be much easier than house training a puppy. Since the adult dog has permanent teeth, the need to chew has been outgrown. The adult is less likely to be destructive. Also, the personality of the dog is fully established by adulthood and the behavior is more predictable. A common misconception is that it may be more difficult to train an adult dog as in the adage that you “cannot teach an old dog new tricks.” This is not true. Adult dogs actually have better attention spans as well as stronger bladder and bowel control.

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House breaking an adult dog


The first lesson in the house is to use the bathroom only in designated areas, usually outside. Because adults have better bladder and bowel control than puppies do, potty training is just a matter of getting your dog to understand that he is to go outside for bathroom uses. If the dog has not lived on the inside of a house before, relieving himself on the inside is a completely unnatural feeling. Therefore, he is already questioning just where he should go.

Before beginning the potty training, have your dog neutered or spayed. This will prevent the “marking” behavior. When a male or female dog urinates to mark his or her territory, it is to claim the area from other dogs that would enter and compete for mates. If the mating issue has been removed, urination is done solely to empty the bladder and not to claim the territory.

Begin training the bathroom behavior by confining the dog to a small area of the house so that he can be supervised at all times, preferably in an area where cleanups will be easy in case of mistakes. Take the dog outside about every two hours. The dog is likely to be more excited by being on the inside and may increase the need to urinate or defecate. For the first few days, you should set your clock at night to take the dog outside every two hours. If the dog is pregnant, you will want to take her out even more frequently as the pregnancy progresses and her bladder becomes increasingly stressed. It is better to accompany the dog outside rather than turn him out on his own. Go outside with the dog and lavishly praise him at the moment he relieves himself. Dogs thrive on praise but a treat may add positive reinforcement. Soon the dog will immediately relieve himself when you take him outside. Then start setting a routine of taking him out first thing in the morning, after meals, after a nap, or after playtimes, and just before retiring at night. Watch for behaviors such as restlessness, turning in circles, whimpering or whining. These maybe indicators that the dog needs to relieve himself. Most dogs tend to relieve themselves about the same time each day. When this pattern becomes evident, make it part of the daily routine as quickly as possible. Stick to the routine as consistently as possible. Do not scold the dog for mistakes. Bathroom accidents are sometimes indications that the dog maybe sick or needs medical attention.

Once the dog has successfully established a potty routine, you can stop accompanying him outside. Installing a doggie door makes it convenient for the dog to go and come when the urge hits. Just remember to consider any other animals inside the home that you do not want outside or those critters outside that you do not want to come in!


There are also other desired behaviors expected of the well behaved indoor dog. Give the dog a few toys of his own. These designated chews may prevent doggie fun from including your favorite shoes or an expensive piece of furniture. Make the toys more interesting to the dog by playing with the dog and his toys. Because you handled the toys, your smell remains on them even when you can not join in the play.

There may be areas in the house where the dog is not allowed, such as the kitchen, the nursery, or on the white carpet in the formal living areas. Put baby gates in these doorways to restrict the dog’s access when he is unsupervised. When he can be watched, a firm verbal reprimand will usually discourage him. If the dog is not allowed on the furniture, provide a comfortable bed in a quiet corner for resting. The dog will most like enjoy his bed if it is located in an area where he can still see the family members moving about the home.

When visitors arrive, the dog should sit quietly and allow guests to enter without barking, jumping, or overly aggressive greeting. Teach this behavior by snapping a leash onto the dog’s collar whenever someone arrives at the door. Ask the dog to sit. As soon as he is sitting quietly, open the door and let the visitor enter. Have the visitor greet the dog calmly and offer him a treat. Remove the leash and continue to visit with your guest.

Mealtime is another time when a well-mannered dog is a pleasure to have around. NEVER feed the dog from the table while you are eating! If you do, mealtimes will become very unpleasant for you and frustrating for the dog. To share leftovers with your dog, feed them to him only from his dish and only after everyone has finished eating. Dog behavior dictates that the alpha dog eats first and the subordinates eat whatever is left. If your dog sees you eat first and then he gets what is left in his dish, you reinforce your alpha status in a language the dog understands.

Crate your adult dog only in emergencies and only with the advice of a trainer or animal behaviorist. Improper crating can frustrate and frighten a dog and may actually cause dysfunctional behaviors. Use of choke and prong collars should be left only to experienced trainers and with extreme discretion.

Finally, avoid any “training devices” such as shock collars. These cruel tools are not only physically painful, but can cause your dog to become confused and distrustful. There is no substitute for basic obedience training and is a must for every dog! Every behavior you want your dog to have can be learned using a few basic commands. Check with your local pet store, the yellow pages, or with your veterinarian for obedience training opportunities.

Dogs are basically pack creatures and are happier and healthier whenever they are in the company of the ones they love. Investing a little time and a lot of patience in teaching your dog to live on the inside of your home will deepen that bond between the devoted dog and his family.

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