House Training Adult Dogs

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on July 11, 2023
3 min read

If you have recently adopted an older dog there may be challenges you didn’t realize at first. 

One big issue could be that your adult dog is not house-trained. The reasons for this may be that they were never trained, or never lived indoors. They may have spent a long time having to go on concrete, in their pen, or even in their crate. Luckily, adult dogs learn potty training quicker than puppies. 

There are various medical problems that could cause your dog to have accidents in the house. This becomes a common problem as your dog ages. If your adult dog was previously house trained but has started relieving themselves inside, they may benefit from a trip to the vet. 

Brain diseases in dogs can cause your dog to have accidents in no particular pattern. If your dog is passing stool in the home, they may have elimination problems. In these cases, pay attention to your dog’s stool consistency and the frequency or infrequency of their defecating. 

If your dog suddenly starts having accidents in the house, this may be a sign of a bigger medical condition. You’ll want to see the vet if these problems persist. Diagnosing conditions early can save you and your dog stress and embarrassment. 

If medical reasons have been ruled out and your dog is still having accidents in the house, there may be a behavioral reason. Different behavioral reasons may include: 

  • Lack of House Training
  • Incomplete House Training
  • Breakdown in House Training
  • A Surface Preference
  • Anxiety
  • Fear of Going Outside
  • Dislike of Cold or Rainy Conditions
  • Urine Marking
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Submissive/Excitement Urination

Treatment for lack of house training. Your dog may not have been completely trained to go outside. They may lose their house training as they age. Establish a routine for them to know when to go out. If your dog is used to going on certain surfaces, try to take those surfaces outside. 

Treat the medical or behavioral reason for the cause of house soiling. Understanding the underlying cause will help you train with compassion. Make sure your dog has plenty of time to exercise and spend outdoors. This can help them get comfortable if you have recently moved to new surroundings. 

Useful Tips. Be patient with your dog. They may need time to adjust to new surfaces. Pay attention to the signals that indicate your dog needs to potty. Give your dog plenty of time outside. They use potty breaks to sniff and explore their surroundings. They may need more time to choose where to go to the bathroom. Take them out frequently so that they have many opportunities to go. 

Paper Training

Paper training your dog is not recommended unless there is a specific reason to do so. The reasons may include that your new adult dog is only used to going to the bathroom on paper. This should only be a temporary fix while you housetrain your dog. 

There could be multiple reasons for your adult dog peeing inside. The types of house soiling may include: 

  • They’re used to specific surfaces like concrete or paper instead of grass.
  • They’re afraid to go outside.
  • Bad weather makes them fearful of going out. 
  • They have severe anxiety that triggers their accidents indoors.  

Do not punish your dog or use harsh treatment if you find an accident in the house. Rubbing their nose in the accident or yelling at them will only make your dog afraid of you. There is nothing productive about hitting your dog or scolding them once the accident is over. Negative punishment will do far more psychological harm than any good.

Your adult dog may already have negative associations with people or surroundings. They may also have behavioral issues that cause the accidents. It’s important to be patient and to train your dog using only positive reinforcement.