Disclaimer: We have never potty trained a puppy but we have plenty of experience with adult dogs peeing inside the house. We have adopted 3 adult dogs (approximately 1.5, 1, and 4 years old at the time of adoption). One of the benefits of adopting an adult dog is that they were usually potty trained at some point. This is not the case for all adult dogs. My sister adopted a 1 year old dog that had lived most of her life outside and was taught to eliminate on a towel when inside the house (that lead to some not-so-pleasant surprises when she came home).
Our dogs spent varying amounts of time in the shelter before getting adopted and the longer they are in the shelter, the longer it took for them to consistently use the bathroom outside. Our dog Chloe was the oldest when we adopted her and she had already spent more than half her life in a shelter setting due to being part of a dog abuse court case. Animal shelters do their best to get the dogs outside but there just aren’t enough volunteers to get every dog outside as many times as needed to use the bathroom. Long-term shelter dogs like Chloe get used to living in their own excrement.
Here are the tricks we used to get our adult dogs to use the bathroom outside:
- In the early days, take them outside more frequently. This can be a pain and you might have to call in some favors or hire a dog walker. But, it will be worth the extra effort. They will be able to hold it longer and longer as they become accustomed to going outside on a schedule.
- Crate training. Most shelters keep their dogs in a kennel type area so there is a *little* bit of separation. Get the right size crate for your dog, something that is not too big and not too small. Dogs do not want to lay in their own excrement.
- After an accident, disinfect and clean the area with an odor eliminating spray. We like this one. It is important to remove the odor because they will usually seek out where they have eliminated in the past.
- If eliminating the odor doesn’t do the trick, we will feed them in their elimination spot. After the area has been disinfected, we will sprinkle dry food or treats directly on the floor. If you’re concerned about mess, you can try to let them eat from their bowl. But, putting it directly on the floor seems to work better in my experience. They don’t like to crap where they eat!
- Learn their cues. Each of our dogs has a telltale sign of when they need to go outside. Denver will whine and stand by the door. Benji will hop by the door. Chloe will move from her nap spot and just stare you down until you let her outside.
Hopefully that helps! Let us know down in the comments what tips you have for potty training adult rescue dogs.