Potty Train an Adult Dog

Dog outside on leash
Photo: Lindsay Stordahl

There are plenty of helpful guides out there on how to potty train your puppy. But what if you adopt an adult dog from a shelter? The dog may or may not be potty trained. The following are some

Tips to help set your adult dog up for success.

1. Don’t assume the dog is potty trained.

When it comes to potty training, treat your adult dog like a puppy until you know she is potty trained. Even if the previous owner or foster owner says the dog is housebroken, that doesn’t necessarily mean the dog will know what to do in your home.

2. Take the dog outside every hour.

Be on the safe side and take the dog outside for a potty break every hour that you are home. Of course, make sure your new dog has a collar and pet ID tags on right away just in case she gets loose.

3. Keep the dog in your sight when you are home.

For the first couple days, keep your dog on a leash even while you are in the house. This will prevent the dog from wandering off and going to the bathroom in a room where you can’t see her. At the very least, keep the dog in the same room as you with the door closed or a dog gate up.

4. Keep the dog confined when you can’t supervise.

Obviously you can’t supervise the dog every single minute, so when you are busy or not home, make sure to keep the dog in a kennel (crate) or a small room. This will decrease the likelihood that the dog will have an accident. I prefer using a kennel, but if the dog is afraid of being confined, a bathroom or bedroom or laundry room could also work well. A dog will also be less likely to cause damage by chewing your property if she is left in a smaller area vs. the whole house.

5. Be patient.

The dog will probably have an accident or two. No big deal. Don’t scold the dog. Just be better at taking her outside sooner the next time.

6. Keep the dog on a consistent routine.

If you feed your dog at the same times every day, you will have a better idea of when she needs to go to the bathroom. On the other hand, if you leave food out all the time, the dog will be eating at different times and it will be more difficult to determine when she needs to head outside. Make it easier on yourself and the dog by feeding her at the same times, walking her at the same times and putting her in her kennel at the same times every day.

7. Reward the good behavior.

Make sure to reward your dog when she goes to the bathroom outside. Give her dog treats or praise immediately. Don’t wait until after you’ve returned to the house. It will also help your dog understand what you want her to do if you take her outside to the same area every time for potty breaks.

How about the rest of you? What are your potty training tips for dogs?

About Lindsay Stordahl

Lindsay Stordahl is a blogger for dogIDs.com. She has a black Lab mix named Ace and two naughty cats named Beamer and Scout. Lindsay owns a pet sitting business called Run That Mutt and also maintains the blog ThatMutt.com. ... Add Lindsay to your Google+ circles at . You can follow Lindsay on Twitter @ThatMutt.

  1. What if you’ve had a dog for over four years and he still urinates in the house? He only does it at night and yes he has been fixed. I want to get new carpeting, but I’m afraid he will ruin it.

  2. How frustrating! There are many different reasons a dog could be going to the bathroom in the house, but one of the first things I would do is really look at the dog’s routine and how much freedom the dog has.

    For example, since he is successful during the day, what is different about his day routine vs. his night routine? I would compare them and maybe think about some ways to reduce his freedom at night by using a kennel or keeping him in a smaller room like a bathroom or laundry room.

  3. My problem is my dog will not go potty while on a leash but I live in an apartment complex and she has to be in a leash at all times outside my apartment.

  4. I have a 9mo old lab I just got. She is EXTREMELY intelligent, very eager to please and VERY HYPER. I have tried a clicker w/ treats, playing fetch with her for an hour- #1, she doesn’t wear out. I can have her fetch and she gets bored and quits picking it up even when I give her a treat for bringing it back and also she wont potty train! I have tried everything to get her to potty train! She will be outside for an hour and come inside and pee right in front of me. She doesn’t even try to hide it. Its beyond frustrating! Please help.

    • Hi JP,
      Since she is food motivated, focus on using that for potty training. Try establishing a routine when it comes to letting her out in the morning and at night so she learns that outside is the where to go. Have you tried using the bell system at your door? It may be something that helps train her since she is an intelligent one!


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