House Train Your Puppy or Adult Dog

Edited by Sean, Eng, Jen M, Alma

Dog meme.png

How To House Train Your Puppy or Adult Dog?

Movies, televisions, and magazines will often throw around tips or ideas about training dogs that makes everything look oh so very easy, but it isn't. House training your dog, whether they are young or old, is challenging and requires a great deal of dedication. Between a dogs breed and their personality you may have everything stacked against you (some breeds of dogs are particularly stubborn and resist training, like Shih Tzu or Chow Chow), but there are always many options to consider and a variety of different types of training that you can try. Below are two sections, the first section focuses on reasons why your dog may be having issues with potty training while the second is going through different methods of potty training.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Reasons why your dog may be having issues

My life as a dog.jpg
  • The most obvious reason, they were not completely (or even partially) potty trained before.

-Solution: Re-house your dog or train them for the first time.

  • Medical reasons: Your dog could a medical condition that makes potty training impossible or very difficult for them.

-Solution: If you suspect your dog is being affected by a medical condition, take them to a vet and tell them any sign of a possible medical issue. Better safe than sorry.

  • Emotional reasons: If your dog suddenly goes from being house trained to urinating and defecating inside your house, then it may be related to anxiety from some large event, like someone permanently leaving the household, another pet passing away, or moving to a new house.

-Solution: Sometimes time is the only way to see if your dog's house training issues are related to something emotional, but you can always try to start house training them again to see if it helps them get back into the regimen you had taught them before.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  • The weather: This may sound like a stupid one, but I've seen first hand how some dogs will forget all of their training as soon as storms, rain or the cold come around.

-Solution: One way to deal with this, if you have a yard, is to show your dog a safe and dry space out there that is okay for them to use while the weather is bothering them. Another method, is to take them out anyways in the rain or cold (with weather appropriate dog clothing if needed) and use positive reinforcement to reward them every time they make the effort to urinate or defecate outside.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  • Excitement: Some dogs get so excited when playing, or just seeing their owners or people, that they will immediately urinate, and puppies often do this but grow out of it.

-Solution: One way you can deal with this is to immediately take them out on a short walk the moment you get home and before your dog gets overly excited. You can also try ignoring your dog when you first get home so that they calm down a bit. Also, try not to rile them up when you know they haven't been out to pee yet.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  • Diet/food: Changing your dogs food is normal, but sometimes your dog can react negatively to it and all of a sudden they seem to forget their training and start defecating around your house.

-Solution: If your dog is having issues with their diet then your first need to make sure it isn't just an issue with over or under eating. Put your dog on a strict food schedule to rule out that problem. If the problem persists you can try switching food again, but that may just make it worse, and you should either talk to your vet or try some dog foods that are specifically designed for dealing with these types of digestion problems.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

House Training Methods

Puppies are the easiest to train, yet like adult dogs they have certain aspects that make them difficult to train in various conditions. Ideally by the time you have an adult dog he or she will already is house trained, and if they aren't a lot of people will throw around that phrase, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" to try to dissuade you, but don't listen. It may be a little harder to train an adult dog, but it can still work and you can do it! Now onto three different methods of training that you can use to house train your puppy or adult dog.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Positive Association and Reinforcement Training

Something that animal behaviorist's often focus on is how important it is to train your dog using positive associations or positive reinforcements. This applies to many different types of training, but it especially applies to crate training and using pee pads. But what are positive association and reinforcement training?

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

An example: Say you just got a new dog and you want him or her to really enjoy bath time. Well, with positive association training you would first prep the dog for bath time by letting them explore the bath area (bath tub, large sink or just outside) until they become comfortable with it. Then you can start putting them in that area and turning on water, but not wetting them with it. You would then positively associate that activity and by reinforcing their good behavior with treats and verbal praise. You keep up with this same idea when you finally give them a bath the first time. More on that on our other articles on Wash a dog.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

The whole point of positive association training is that you want your dog to continually think of that activity as something positive and rewarding. This way you can make anything activity or action positive for them, which will help with house training. This combines with the next two methods of training, but it is also a valid way to train your dog just on its own. Just by taking your dog outside to do their business and using positive association you can train them to see outside as the one and only place to go to the bathroom.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Crate Training


Many people see crate training and just think of it for transporting dogs, but many people use crates for their dogs when they are out of the house. This is especially useful if you have a destructive dog who will tear up your house or apartment while you are gone, or if you have a dog that is not potty trained. One way to help break that habit of your dog going to the bathroom in the house is to crate train. If you do it right, crates become a kind of home or den for your dog and that alone makes them not want to urinate or defecate in their crate.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

How to crate train?

Crate training is all about making that crate, their crate, their safe and comfortable den. One way to do this is to, like I mentioned earlier, is to use positive association and reinforcement. With this you want to let your dog check out their crate by leaving the door open and making it a neutral space, just like the rest of your apartment or house. You can step this up by putting treats in their crate for them to find, like a game, or by giving your dog a lot of positive verbal reinforcement whenever they go into their crate on their own.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Once you start crate training them and putting them in there then you use treats as well, so that every time your dog know it is time to go into their crate they also know they are going to get a treat. This makes it a positive experience. This doesn't always work but if you start making the crate a comfortable home for them early on then it will help a lot. Here are some tips and things to consider when you are crate training your dog:

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  • Do it in moderation and start slowly. The first time you lock your dog in the crate and leave you should do it for a small amount of time. You can try ten minutes, or longer if you are dog is handling it well, and then slowly ramp up the amount of time.
Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  • Remember that dogs can't hold it in forever, just like us, so even if your dog is okay with long-term crating for hours you don't want to push that too much or they may start having accidents out of necessity. That could ruin all of the training and if that happens too much they may start thinking that it is okay to do that in their crate.
  • Do not feed your dog inside the crate. Some people will recommend feeding your dog in their crate, but they are almost always talking about doing that when they are not locked in there and you are gone. If you leave your dog with food and leave them in the crate, then you are asking for accidents.
  • Make it comfortable. Add some blankets for comfort, or even a toy. Make it feel like their den. If your dog is alert all the time and is easily startled by sounds then you can turn on music or a TV so that they can relax.
  • You can cover it if needed. If your dog becomes excited when seeing movement around the house, like feet walking by a door, you can cover the crate in a blanket or sheet. Many larger crates often come with these and making it dark for them this way will also help them sleep while you are gone.
  • Try to make it distraction free. If you are crating your dog while you are away at work or just gone for a while, try to make sure that the crate is in somewhere that won't provide a lot of distractions. If your dog can see, or hear, people or other animals then it is going to much harder for them to relax and it could lead to them trying to get out of the crate.
  • Observe your dog. Some dogs just do not take to crate training. When you are first starting this you need to make sure that your dog isn't harming themselves by trying to get out while you are gone or that they aren't just barking non-stop. Either of these issues are hard to deal with if they persist in the long term and may cause a lot of problems.
  • Never use the crate for punishment. This one is pretty straight forward, but if you use the crate as somewhere that you put your dog when they are being bad, then you will be fighting an uphill battle to get them to feel like the crate it is a safe and comfortable den.
  • Lastly, how does this relate to house training? Well, if you take your dog out right before you put them in the crate and then immediately after you let them out, then you are creating a routine in which they go to bathroom outside consistently. Combine that with constant praise every time they go to bathroom outside, or wherever you want them go, and you are on your way to house training your dog.

Pee Pads

Another option for house training your dog is pee pads or what some call paper training. This method of house training has you using pee pads, or something similar, as the place your dog always uses to take care of business. This type of training is pretty difficult and isn't usually recommend by animal behaviorists, but people who live on the tenth floor of an apartment building may see this is a necessity. Here is how you train using pee pads:

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  1. 1
    Much like getting your dog to go to bathroom outside, you first bring your dog to the pee pads
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  2. 2
    Make your dog wait until they go to bathroom on the pee pads
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  3. 3
    Immediately praise them and give them treats
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  4. 4
    Repeat that exact same process until your dog understands that using the pee pads for urinating and defecating is the reason they are being rewarded
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  5. 5
    Once your dog associates the pee pads as their place to go to bathroom you just have to make sure they are always accessible and available to your dog
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No| I need help

There isn't much to training with pee pads, but they are a bit challenging. For instance, if your dog finds that you haven't replaced them quickly enough they may go somewhere else in your house, or if you change brands they may need training again. It can be tough, but it can work and may be necessary for your situation.

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help

Final Notes

Dedication and persistence are often the most important part of training a dog. So, whatever method or tactic you are trying you just need to make sure you keep it up and keep it consistent. Here are some final tips relating to house training in general:

Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  • If you ever catch your dog in the act of peeing or defecating then don't scold, hit or yell at them, instead stop them, pick them up and carry them outside to where they should be going to bathroom. It isn't easy to do, can make a mess, and you have to catch them in the act, but it does help them realize they aren't supposed to be doing that there. Also, immediately reward or praise them once they are going to bathroom outside in the right place.
Was this helpful? Yes | No| I need help
  • Many dogs may look guilty like image at the top of the article, but that doesn't mean they remember what they did. Punishing them after they have had an accident in your house or apartment will not help house train them and it might even make it harder for you to train them.
  • If your dog urinates in your house do not clean it with any ammonia-based cleaner, since urine also contains and ammonia, and that will just make your dog want to urinate there again.
  • Don't just do quick trips to just let your dog do their business outside. At the very least, do not immediately turn around and go back home right after your dog finishes defecating or peeing. Because, if your dog loves walks then they will learn that defecating or peeing means the walk is over and that will make them purposefully hold it in.

As always, if you have any questions feel free to ask and good luck with house training your dog!

Dog on Grey.jpg



  • Guilty Dog -[1]
  • Boston Terrier -[2]

General Information:

  • House Training an Adult Dog -[3]
  • House Training a Puppy -[4]
  • Crate Training - Best Friends Animal Society[5]


If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


VisiHow welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.

Article Info

Categories : Dogs

Recent edits by: Jen M, Eng, Sean

Share this Article:

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 733 times.


Thank Our Volunteer Authors.

Would you like to give back to the community by fixing a spelling mistake? Yes | No