But…I thought my newly adopted adult dog was already house trained!

Many times I receive calls from owners of newly adopted adult dogs who are distraught that the dog they believed to be house trained is soiling their house.  Unfortunately, house training is a behavior that does not always generalize to new places.  Therefore a dog may never have accidents in one home but soil another. This is especially true in the case of a newly adopted dog that may be under stress, adapting to a new diet and new routines.

To start off with on the right foot with your new family member, your best bet is to provide constant supervision the first few days whenever your dog is not confined to a crate or dog proofed area. Put your dog on a food and water schedule so you know when your dog needs an opportunity to relieve himself. Give him a nutritious treat after he relieves himself outdoors to reward him.  Sometimes keeping the dog on leash when you are home to directly watch him can help.

Remember not to yell at your dog if he makes a mistake and never ever “rub his nose in it.” The only thing your dog learns from this is to be afraid of you, and you risk damaging your relationship with your new dog.  Instead, if you catch him in the act, you can make a sound that interrupts him, such as “ack!” and immediately take him outdoors.  Keep in mind that the goal is to interrupt your dog, do not make a sound that is loud or harsh enough to scare him!

Sometimes, house soiling in an adult dog indicates that there is another problem. It is always important to make sure that your dog is healthy. Be sure to tell your veterinarian about your dog’s house soiling behavior specifically. Your veterinarian will not know to check for medical problems that may lead to house soiling otherwise.  House soiling can also be caused by behavior problems. Dogs that house soil only when their owners leave them alone may have separation anxiety. Other dogs may urinate when excited or frightened, or may exhibit marking behavior.  A qualified dog behavior professional can help you identify and address behavioral reasons for house soiling.

Some individual dogs may be more difficult to house train, even when the owner does everything right. Dogs that came from puppy mills are notoriously challenging to house train. Some individual dogs and small dog breeds may be more challenging to house train.

Tips for House Training an Adult Dog:

  • Use a product specifically made to clean pet urine and clean completely.
  • Make sure there is no medical reason for your dog’s behavior
  • Reward your dog with praise and a treat when he goes where you would like him to.
  • Supervise 100% of the time when your dog is not in a crate or dog-proofed area
  • Put your dog on a food and water schedule and give him frequent opportunities to relieve himself.
  • Call to get professional help if needed, remember that the longer a behavior problem persists, the harder it is to address.

By Veronica Sanchez M.Ed. CABC, CPDT