5 Key Points For Housebreaking An Older Dog

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to yourself.

training-and-older-dog-by-flickrized.jpg A housebroken dog is a dog that can remain in the house for up to 8 hours without having an accident.

If your dog goes to the bathroom in your home more than once every few months, then you need to re-focus on housebreaking that dog.

If you have an older dog that is still having accidents, there are steps you can take to stop these bad habits and housebreak your dog.

Here are 5 important points to consider when housebreaking an older dog…


#1 – How long will it take to housebreak an older dog?

Some claim that you can housebreak a dog in 7 days.  But for an older dog that was not housebroken at an early age, it will take decidedly longer.  It can take as long as several weeks to housebreak an adult dog.

According to the Sacramento SPCA, re-housetraining an adult dog will take a few weeks.

For the first few weeks after you bring him home, you should assume your new dog isn’t housetrained and start from scratch. If he was housetrained in his previous home, the re-training process should progress quickly.


#2 – What steps should I take to housebreak an older dog?

To housetrain an older dog, you need to:

  • Establish a “potty break” routine and stick to it.  This begins with the time you get up each morning and the ends with the last trip outside for the night. Especially at first, this may not perfectly coincide with your own personal schedule.
  • Constantly supervise you dog for “signs” when he has to go outside. To succeed at housebreaking, everything that looks like a “sign” should be taken seriously (especially at first) — even if that means you’re taking your dog outside 20 times a day!
  • Confine your dog (like in a crate or a bathroom) when you cannot supervise him. Dogs are less likely to eliminate in the places where they sleep.
  • Clean any soiled areas inside the house very well to remove the smell and prevent repeat accidents. Dogs continue to go where they’ve gone before.


#3 – Can I housebreak my dog if I have a busy schedule?

If you have a very busy schedule — to the point when you are not able to housebreak a dog — you probably shouldn’t have a dog.

Everyone goes through busy times in their lives where they need to work extra hours or travel, and that is understandable.  However, if your schedule is always hectic, then you will have a very hard time getting your dog housebroken without help from a dog walker, friend, or family member.

Here are some special tips on dog training for busy people.


#4 – How do I teach my dog to go quickly and in the same spot?

A dog can be taught to go to the bathroom on cue.

Taking him to the same spot each time will make “going on cue” easier.

Be sure to use the same word (like “potty” or “go outside”) each and every time, in order to help it sink in faster. Plus, you can then use this word on-the-spot to encourage your dog that you mean business and he needs to go right now.

Here’s how to teach your dog to go on cue.


#5 – What can I do to prevent a relapse in housebreaking?

One thing’s for sure: if you are not consistent with your dog, he will go back to his old habits right away.

You must continue the housebreaking schedule way past the point of success and continue with the schedule — for the benefit of the dog and of your home.

And remember, just because your dog is housebroken does not mean that he can hold it for an unreasonable amount of time.

In addition to regular bathroom breaks throughout the day, dogs also need a long walk every day to burn off excess energy. Why? Because pent up energy can also cause a dog to eliminate in the house out of nervousness and boredom.


More Tips For Housetraining An Older Dog


I have been a certified tightwad since I became pregnant with my first child and decided to find a way to stay home with him. I enjoy sharing my experiences in my journey back to financial health and planning for a future -- which will include sending 2 kids to college and early retirement.

16 thoughts on “5 Key Points For Housebreaking An Older Dog

  1. I have a 3.5 year old female lab. I rescued her 6 months ago and she is still peeing inside. I have an 11 month old male lab that I have had for 8 months and he is potty trained 100% (hasn’t had an accident inside in over 6 months). I have trained my female very consistently and have tried everything! She is on a schedule: eats, sleeps goes out the same time every day. She is taken out every 3-4 hours. I know she can hold it, she holds it all night while we are sleeping, that is actually the only time she does not potty inside. I praise her for going outside and I have even tried to bell train her. She is extremely stubborn and likes to do everything on her on time and her own way. She has even started pottying in her cage, which was never an issue until last week. It seems like nothing is working and I am running out of options, I am considering taking her back to a rescue organization because I am 5 months pregnant and can’t have a newborn with an adult dog that is not potty trained. Please help me save this dog!

    1. Jessica – Gosh, it sounds like you’re doing everything right! Other than giving amazingly-overwhelmingly-positive praise every single time she goes outside AND associating it with one word each time so she makes the connection that the praise comes every time she hears that word and goes outside… I can’t think of what you could do differently here. A dog’s own willpower sometimes wins out over our own — so it’s up to you to decide if you’ll ultimately let that happen or not. It might be time to consult a professional. Call around and ask for per-session rates. You might be surprised :-D

      1. Thanks for the reassurance. I think a professional is the last option. If that doesn’t work I guess I will try to find her a home where she can be an outside dog only.

    2. Hi! I used to have a female lab who was very stubborn and hard to train. We scolded her once for pooping inside and for a few days after that, she wouldn’t go at all! So, when she finally had an accident, I picked it up in a paper towel, took it outside with her, put it on the ground, showed it to her, and praised her. I think this let her know that it was ok to go outside. After that, we never had another problem with her having accidents in the house. Sometimes it’s strange how a dog’s mind works. Labs are very intelligent, you just have to get inside their head. Good luck!

  2. I have a dashound who is brilliant, and who has been housebroken since he was six months old. When we leave the house he has started to test us by peeing while we are gone. Pees on our back packs, brief cases, purses, etc. We believe he is angry with us. What to do???? We have a pug who is housebroken and never makes a mess in the house. Is the doxie mad at us or at the pug? Is crate training the only answer to the doxie???

  3. I have a yorkie , dat uses to pee and poop inside the house but that is why I ddnt houbreak him right because I wasn’t consistent and now since my has been taking care of her for a couple of months she does her business outside but now that I brought her back to my apartment she only time she pees and poops inside is at night so I have to lock her in the bathroom. What can I do for her not to do that at night?

    1. Vasthycarolinamuniz – Here’s what I would do…

      1. Make an extra effort to take him outside at the latest possible time each night. Even if you’re already in your PJs and it’s not convenient for you.
      2. Wake yourself up a few times in the middle of the night and glance to see if your dog is acting like he needs to go out or not. If so, you’ve GOT to take him out — on his timeframe… just until he gets the hang of holding it through the night, which could be awhile.
      3. Praise him like CRAZY every single time you take him out at night and he goes even the slightest bit outdoors.
      4. Don’t scold him for any accidents in the house. Instead, always try to catch him in the act and carry him right outside to finish going.

      Those are the steps I would go through if my dog was still peeing & pooping in the house at night time.

  4. I have a female Rat Terrier that I got from a rescue a few years ago who I have never really been able to get house broken, I think she is about 5 years old now. She will almost never go to bathroom when I am around, I take her out in the back yard and she either just stand next to me or begs to be petted. I take her on long walks and she still rarely relieves herself. But when I leave and go to work she often goes on the floor. She can go outside when ever she likes and I have another male Rat Terrier who is house broken.

  5. This is a very good article. We are so glad to read that cleaning the stained area properly was included. One of the biggest mistakes in issues involving reoccurring pet stains comes as a result from the area not being properly cleaned. Dogs urinate based on scent. If any trace of urine is left in the carpet, your dog is likely to return there. In some cases when the area is not properly cleaned, and the dog keeps going in that spot, it is often blamed on age or health issues. While these factors can indeed contribute to accidents in the house, the odor is often overlooked.

    These spots need to be cleaned thoroughly, and this does not mean just the visible stain, but also the odors. In many cases, the urine seeps into the padding and needs to be removed. Surface cleaning will not remove that odor. The area should be cleaned with a machine so that the cleaning solution can effectively remove what is in the padding.

    Another HUGE mistake in cleaning pet stains is the use of vinegar. Vinegar has the same acidic base as urine with a similar pH level. This similarity can actually draw a dog back to the spot as he/she may mistake the scent of vinegar for that of urine. When this happens, the process just continues and the dog will keep going in that spot.

  6. I am so done with this dog. He belongs to a dear friend I am keeping him till they have a home where they can keep him. He is a 2 year. Old Shipoo. Pees outside no problem. Then comes in and pees on fridge stove, food bin, desk, water bottle. You name it he will pee on it. Not marking pees but full pee
    I have 2 dogs of my own. They get along very well. He gets most of my atten, is crated. I have to keep him crated 24/7. I have tried retraining and it worked for a little while. Any suggestions. Sprays, deodorizer. ANYTHING…..?…

  7. I have a 3 year old sharpei saint banard mix that i have been trying to housebreak since she was a puppy I’ve tried puppy pads walking every few hours, I have tried everything I can think of that worked with every dog I had ever owned but she still does it. She does it when I am never around but never does it when I am in bed . I am out of ideas on what to do.

  8. We rescued a 7 year old yorkie about 3 years ago. We have another yorkie the same age. Since the day we brought our rescue home, the rescue has pooped and peed in the house. If I went outside with him (and I did VERY often from day one), he would just sit in front of me and look at me..no matter how long I stood out there with him. Refused to poop or pee. I tried leaving him alone outside to see if he’d go in privacy. I’d watch through the window and he would simply go to the back door and look at it as though he is waiting for me. I hoped that he would follow our other yorkie’s lead, to no avail. He would NOT go to the bathroom in the grass (we have about a 1/4 acre of grass). After some time, when he did go pee or poop outside (if I was not outside), he would only do it on the flagstone patio. On nice days, we would leave both dogs outside for an hour and when we’d let them in, he’d walk in the door and pee or poop on the floor within 10-15 minutes. Early on, we tried crate training him which we had success doing with our other dogs. Nope. He would poop in the crate all the time, which ended up a big mess. He didn’t have a problem pooping where he slept. I tried walking him, thinking maybe he’d poop on the walk. (Someone suggested maybe he had been a city dog and only pooped on walks.) Nope. He’d pee, but never poop. He sleeps on my bed with the other yorkie. But at night, he’ll sneak into my children’s room and poop – every night….so I started blocking him in the tile restroom every night. First few nights, he’d poop in the bathroom. By third night, he’d stop. Then after a few more nights of no pooping, I would let him out to sleep with us. We’d have no poop for 3 days and then he’d start pooping in the room again (this time my room because I shut the children’s door).

    I love this little guy an I’m pretty tolerant – picking up the poop doesn’t bother me so much but it makes my husband insane that he continues to poop and pee everywhere and does so throughout the whole day despite us letting him out 10 -12 times a day. He regrets ever rescuing this dog, which makes me sad.

    I’m at my wits end and I don’t know what else to do. I would never get rid of him. It’s against my principals and my conscience (and my husband understands this) but I need to find a way to resolve this so my husband isn’t so miserable about him all the time. Any advice is appreciated.

    1. DesertChildAZ, thanks for posting. I am going through the same issue myself with an 11 year old yorkie mix. I rescued him and his brother recently. The smaller of the two can go outside without an issue. The larger one just refuses to poo outside. No matter how long a walk we take (I live in NYC) or how long I stay outside with him, he will only poo in the apartment, on the carpet. Most times he’ll go within 5-10 mins of being back in the apartment.

      I spoke to their previous owner and it looks like the problem originated with her. She bought them from a pet store as gifts for her college-aged children and never attempted to housebreak either. She would just lay pee pads down and be done. Then they were both shuffled around between her kids for years until finally being abandoned in an empty apartment for at least a month, where a neighbor would check on them only a few times a week.

      I would NEVER consider returning them to the rescue, but I am VERY frustrated with these multiple daily accidents. What’s worse, neither was ever crate trained and they have separation anxiety. When I’ve tried to focus on the one pup who has the worst habits, the lack of attention makes the other anxious and so he then has an accident. I’ve looked into obedience training, but I am not sure how successful it can be since they were never trained from the time they were puppies–they don’t even know basic commands or to recognize their own names.

      Any advice would be much appreciated!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts