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How to Potty Train an Adult Dog

Have you recently adopted an adult dog who isn’t house trained yet?

When most people think of potty training a dog, they imagine training a little furball, but some adult dogs need to be potty trained, too! If you’ve recently adopted an adult dog, there are lots of reasons why they may not be potty trained. But, whether your new dog is living inside for the first time or no one simply ever bothered to train them, you can “teach an old dog new tricks” and house break your adult dog.

Determine what the cause of the problem is.

Before we go over how to potty train an adult dog, it’s important to ensure that potty training is, in fact, the right answer. In some cases, adult dogs may have accidents even though they are already potty trained, either because of a behavioral issue or a medical problem. If you’re unsure what is causing your adult dog to have accidents inside, take them to the veterinarian to narrow down what is causing the problem before potty training them.

Training your older dog using the umbilical method.

Though many of the principles of training an adult dog are the same as training a puppy — getting them on a schedule, taking them out at regular intervals, rewarding good behavior, etc. — training an adult dog can be a little tougher than training a puppy. One big reason for this is that adult dogs not only have to learn new behaviors but also unlearn old habits. An effective method of training older dogs is the umbilical method, which we’ve outlined below.

#1. Put a six-foot leash on your dog and attach it to your belt. This way, wherever you go, your dog will go, too. When your dog cannot be attached to you all the time (like when you’re at work), put them in a kennel. Remember, even adult dogs can’t hold it all day. If you kennel your dog, you’ll need to make sure you can let them out every three to four hours.

#2. Every hour or two, invite your dog outside using a verbal cue, like “let’s go outside,” and make sure you use an excited voice when you say it. Try to use the same door every time you take your dog out, and let your dog mull around for five minutes or so.

#3. If your dog does their business, give them lots of praise and maybe even a treat.

#4. If your dog has an accident inside, and you catch them in the act, startle them by clapping your hands, take them outside, allow them to finish and give them praise or a treat. While startling your dog is acceptable, you should never yell at or scare your dog for having an accident.

#5. Once your dog has had 10 days without accidents, disconnect the leash and give them a little more freedom. It’s still a good idea to minimize their space with gates, gradually giving them more and more freedom as time goes on. However, you’ll want to ensure that you are still constantly supervising them.

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