If you’ve adopted an adult dog, you’ll need to teach your new companion the appropriate place to toilet in their new environment. Moving to a new home with new owners can be stressful enough, so don’t expect your dog to guess where it should ‘go’ – they aren’t mind readers.
Training should begin as soon as you bring your dog home. Not allowing your new dog to make mistakes means they’ll only ever learn to toilet in the right place. Watch your new dog closely and look for signs they need to relieve themselves. These include sniffing the ground, turning in circles and losing interest in what they were doing. This is your cue to take your dog to their toileting place, armed with some tasty treats.
You may find that placing your dog on a lead can help you guide your dog to the right spot - just ensure it doesn’t turn into a game! When your dog is in the right spot, you can begin forming a word association with this behaviour by introducing a cue word such as “outside” or “go now”. Once your dog learns this word means bathroom time, you can use it inside the house to tell your dog it’s time to go out.
For any accidents (hopefully there won’t be many), remove your dog from the area and use an emzymatic cleaner to remove the mess and smell. Never punish your dog for any accidents as this is counter productive to their training.
If you stick to a strict routine, your dog will quickly learn to be clean in the house, the first step to being house trained. But don't get complacent or your dog's toilet training can lapse. Continue with the training routine until you’re sure your dog knows not to go indoors and can wait to go outside. Gradually phase out numerous outdoor trips, but if there are any accidents just start increasing the number of visits again.
Sometimes, for a number of reasons, dogs that have been housetrained can forget their training or go backwards in the housetraining department. Reasons for this type of behaviour can include:
- A change in the environment - more rain than normal, for instance, making your dog more reluctant to go outdoors or you having access closed off
- Separation anxiety where your dog uses their scent to relieve their discomfort at being left alone without your company
- Changes in the household – moving house, changes to or a new addition to the family (human or animal)
- Illness like a urinary tract infection or other health conditions, like senility.
The first step is to rule out any physiological illness so a visit to the vet is recommended. Once a medical condition has been ruled out, you can begin retraining your dog as if you’re getting a new puppy. Take your dog outdoors after every mealtime, play session and sleep and rest times, as this is when they’re most likely to need to toilet. Also keep an eye on their body language to see when they may need to go out. Look for behaviour cues like sniffing the ground, turning in circles and losing interest in what they were doing. Always remember to praise them with your voice, and with treats, when they toilet in the right place.
Refrain from punishing your dog if they’ve had an accident, as this will only encourage them to go behind your back – and if there is any anxiety already, the behaviour is actually likely to increase. Some dogs just take longer to learn, and some will revert back to house soiling on occasions throughout their lives. Be patient and consistent and your dog will soon get back on track.
About the Purina PetCare Advice Centre
The Purina PetCare Advice Centre brings together a team with in-depth knowledge, experience and special interests with the skills to advise about health and nutrition, behaviour, training, socialisation, as well as basic first aid for your cat or dog. Our team of dedicated pet lovers can also provide information about Purina products and services to help you give your pet the best possible care. If you've got a question about any aspect of pet care, then ask the Purina PetCare Advice team.