If you recently adopted an older dog, either from an animal shelter or from a former owner who kept the dog outdoors or in a run, you may find you need to house train her. A dog that has lived most of her life in a cage or run is accustomed to eliminating in her living space, and this is not acceptable behavior in most pet homes.
The best way to house train a dog that is older is to help her to understand what you want her to do, and then reward her once she succeeds.
Avoid Negative Reactions!
Try to avoid letting the dog soil in your house initially, which may leave a scent that will cause her to do it again. Accidents do happen, however, so when it does, just don’t say anything. Clean up the mess without acknowledging the behavior, because a negative response could confuse the dog and make your task to house-train her more difficult. Remove the scent left behind with soapy water that contains a small amount of dissolved baking soda or bleach, depending on what you’re using it on.
Anticipate the times of day when the dog may need to go. Most adult dogs need to eliminate on waking in the morning, as well as immediately after each meal and approximately every four to eight hours during the day depending on their age. Follow this rule of thumb to house train a dog effectively:
- For a dog aged two to four years old, six-hourly intervals are adequate until she’s house-trained;
- For a dog of six to eight years old, every four hours is better.
Based on the age of your new dog, take her outdoors frequently and give her the chance to do business. Once she realizes that you take her out often enough, she’ll learn to wait until the walk to do so.
The Name Game
Give the action a name. Watch the dog until she starts to eliminate, then say “do business” or “go potty” at exactly the same time she does so. Reward her with praise, a cuddle and perhaps a tasty treat, so that she learns to associate the word with the activity and understands from your response that you are pleased.
My dog dances a jig every time she has done her business, because she was taught that doing so brought her praise and cuddles! Do this every time you take your dog out for the first week. Eventually, she will learn to go on command, which will mean your efforts to house train a dog are a success.
Keeping a Schedule
Keep to a schedule while you house-train your older dog. Dogs are creatures of habit and gain confidence from routines, and a regular program helps them to know what to expect and how to behave. Until the dog is fully house-trained, maintain walks and feeding at the same time each day, unless you notice that she is showing signs of discomfort, such as pacing or whining.
Use crate training selectively. While this is a popular method of house-training for puppies, an older dog that has spent its life in a cage may consider a crate an acceptable place to potty. Putting it into a crate might encourage it to soil there, defeating the objective of all your training.
Understanding, patience and kindness go a long way towards helping you successfully house-train an older dog. Dogs naturally want to please their owners, and most learn quickly by watching other pets. Overcoming the habits of a lifetime can be challenging, however, and a dog that has not had the benefit of training may take longer to realize what you expect from it.
For more advice from Dr. Kadri on how to house train a dog, contact us today to schedule a consultation.