How to Train Your Older Dog to Not Poop in the House

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

There is nothing quite as unpleasant as coming home, opening the door, and being hit in the face with the smell of dog poop. If you have just got a new puppy, you probably expected a few accidents, and knew you would need to spend some time and effort housetraining your new charge, but what if you have just acquired an adult dog that is pooping in your house, or if your previously housetrained dog has suddenly started having accidents?  

Before you start working on training your dog not to poop in the house, you should try to determine why it is happening. If you have just acquired an adult dog, especially if they are a rescue or shelter dog, they may never have been trained not to poop in the house and you will have to consider how to house train an adult dog who was never shown the ropes. Some small dogs are even trained to poop indoors, on puppy pads or newspapers. You will need to make a decision. Do you learn the ins and outs of paper training a dog? If you decide to change this, you will need to teach the dog a new bathroom habit and read up on how to train your dog to go outside.

Also, a new adult dog may be experiencing anxiety about the change in their surroundings or may be confused and may accidentally poop in the house. In these situations, you will need to make your expectations clear, take some precautions to minimize accidents, and invest some time training your dog not to poop in the house. There are reliable tips and rules on how to potty train a dog in a new home, including reducing their anxiety about the change and giving them plenty of opportunities to go outside.

It is also advisable to rule out a medical condition, especially if your previously housetrained dog starts having accidents. Medical reasons a dog may break housetraining and poop in the house include tummy troubles caused by parasites, food allergies or illness, cognitive impairment, and bowel disease. If your dog is experiencing a medical condition, treatment of that condition may eliminate pooping in the house.

Defining Tasks

The best way to teach a new dog, or revise the house pooping habits of an older dog, is to prevent the unwanted behavior and create a new habit. This will involve preventing your dog from accidentally pooping in the house, with careful supervision to intervene if your dog looks like they are going to relieve themselves on your carpet, using a crate, or tethering your dog, to reduce the likelihood they are going to poop in the house. 

Also, giving frequent bathroom breaks outside helps establish that outside is for pooping and prevents accidents. Having a designated spot in your yard, where you can direct your dog to poop, can eliminate some of the confusion about where they should relieve themselves and can make training easier.

You may be wondering are potty pads good for dogs? In some cases, when rain and wind are raging outside and you have a dog who doesn't cope well with tumultuous weather, then yes, training your little pup to use potty pads will come in handy. However, they should never be a replacement for going outdoors and having the chance to explore, mark territory and meet the neighbors, all things that our canine friends love to do.

Getting Started

If you are training your dog not to poop in the house, you should carefully observe their feeding and defecating habits and schedule so you have a good idea of when your dog needs to go poop and can appropriately direct them. Keeping your dog in an area of the house where they never have accidents, or using a crate to confine them in the house so that they do not have the opportunity to make a mistake and reinforce their house pooping habit, will be required. Some owners use a tether method, which will require a lead and somewhere to tie your dog, such as hooks on a baseboard. Use caution tying your dog to furniture – if it moves, your dog could become frightened or injured. 

Creating a designated bathroom space outside, to direct your dog to, can also help eliminate any confusion your dog is experiencing about where to go to the bathroom. Lots of treats to reward appropriate bathroom habits should be available. The best reward for a dog defecating in the appropriate spot is a walk or outside play time, so make sure you have the time to provide this reward to your dog. Be prepared for some accidents, and avoid punishing mistakes, as it is generally ineffective in preventing the behavior and can just confuse and frighten a dog that is already experiencing anxiety or confusion regarding appropriate bathroom habits. If you are unavailable for large stretches of time to let your dog outside, getting a dog walker, sitter, or neighbor to help you may be a good idea.

The Tether Training Method

ribbon-method-1
Most Recommended
4 Votes
Step
1
Introduce a tether
Put your dog on a short leash or tether no more than 6 feet long.
Step
2
Tether your dog
When you are in the room with your dog, you can tether the dog to your waist or belt, or you can put hooks on baseboards or door jambs and tether your dog to those. Most dogs will not poop when in a confined area, and if they are tethered to you, you will immediately notice if they look like they are going to poop.
Step
3
Provide bathroom opportunities
Regularly take your dog outside, or if you seem them sniffing around indicating they might need to go, head to a designated poop area outside.
Step
4
Reward with walk
If your dog does not defecate, go back inside. If they do, give them a treat, and take them for a walk on a long leash. Reward them in an enclosed area with off-lead time if possible.
Step
5
Continue
Repeat for several days, until your dog has established that pooping is rewarded outside and they have not had the opportunity to poop inside, eliminating that habit.
Recommend training method?

The Crate Training Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
2 Votes
Step
1
Provide crate
When you are not home or when you are not directly available to supervise your dog, confine your dog to a crate. The crate should be the right size for your dog to be comfortable, have soft bedding, and be stocked with a sturdy toy or chew toy to keep your dog happy.
Step
2
Take directly out
Let your dog out every few hours and take them directly outside to a designated bathroom spot in the yard. Give your dog a command to poop.
Step
3
Reward with walk
Wait for your dog to poop. If they do, reward them with a treat and take them for a walk.
Step
4
Confine to prevent accidents
If your dog does not relieve themselves, take them back into their crate but do not use a punishing tone as you direct them.
Step
5
Decrease crate confinement
Repeat for several days, gradually let your dog out of their crate for longer periods while still carefully supervising them. If they look like they are about to poop, take them immediately to the bathroom spot. After several days, your dog should have learned where the bathroom spot in the yard is.
Recommend training method?

The Reduce Anxiety Method

ribbon-method-2
Least Recommended
3 Votes
Step
1
Set up place and schedule
Make sure your dog has lots of bathroom breaks; call in a dog sitter or neighbor if necessary, if you are away from the house for more than a few hours. Create an outdoor bathroom space for consistency and to eliminate confusion.
Step
2
Reduce anxiety
Give your dog lots of exercise and play, to reduce anxiety, and increase socialization opportunities. Provide lots of new experiences.
Step
3
Reinforce appropriate behavior
Take your dog frequently to their bathroom spot outside. When they use it, give them a treat and take them for a walk.
Step
4
Don't create anxiety
If an anxious dog poops in the house, never punish them. Not only is it unlikely that your dog will associate punishment with pooping if there is any time lag, but it will only serve to make an anxious or confused dog more afraid and confused. If you catch your dog eliminating in the house calmly but firmly say, “outside” and take them to the bathroom spot.
Step
5
Be consistent
Be consistent and patient over several days. Direct your dog to one spot for eliminating. Calm, consistent, clear direction and interaction on your part will counteract anxiety and clear up confusion, so that your dog will learn not to poop in the house.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 11/06/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
haru
Husky
4 Months
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haru
Husky
4 Months

we have had haru for about 2 months now and whenever we take him out for a walk he doesn't pee or poop. No matter how long we take a walk, he always comes home and does his business.
Sometimes he poops and pees in the bathroom but most of the time in the hallway and the living.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Aishi, Check out the article I have linked below. I recommend the crate training method. That method will cover what to do when pup doesn't go potty outside - crate for 30-60 minutes to avoid those house accidents before taking pup back outside. It will also cover tips on how to get pup to go potty while outside using movement, smell, treats, and timing. Crate Training method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside For a harder case, I would follow all the tips and the crate training method exactly. Once pup is doing well, pup is a bit older, so you can add 30-60 minutes to the times listed in the article. I would follow the article as is first though, until you've got pup going potty outside consistently. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Tilly
x maltese shitzu
1 Year
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Question
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Tilly
x maltese shitzu
1 Year

Toileting inside

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1115 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Check out the Crate Training method from the article linked below. Make sure that the crate doesn't have anything absorbent in it - including a soft bed or towel. Check out www.primopads.com if you need a non-absorbent bed for him. Make sure the crate is only big enough for him to turn around, lie down and stand up, and not so big that he can potty in one end and stand in the opposite end to avoid it. Dogs have a natural desire to keep a confined space clean so it needs to be the right size to encourage that natural desire. Use a cleaner that contains enzymes to clean any previous or current accidents - only enzymes will remove the small and remaining smells encourage the dog to potty in the same location again later. The method I have linked below was written for younger puppies, since your dog is older you can adjust the times and take him potty less frequently. I suggest taking him potty every 3 hours when you are home. After 1.5 hours (or less if he has an accident sooner) or freedom out of the crate, return him to the crate while his bladder is filling back up again until it has been 3 hours since his last potty trip. When you have to go off he should be able to hold his bladder in the crate for 5-7 hours - less at first while he is getting used to it and longer once he is accustomed to the crate. Only have him wait that long when you are not home though, take him out about every 3 hours while home. You want him to get into the habit of holder his bladder between trips and not just eliminating whenever he feels the urge and you want to encourage that desire for cleanliness in your home - which the crate is helpful for. Less freedom now means more freedom later in life. Crate Training method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If he is not already used to a crate, expect crying at first. When he cries and you know he doesn't need to go potty yet, ignore the crying. Most dogs will adjust if you are consistent. You can give him a dog food stuffed hollow chew toy to help him adjust and sprinkle treats into the crate during times of quietness to further encourage quietness. If he continues protesting for long periods of time past 3-5 days, you can use a Pet Convincer. Work on teaching "Quiet" but using the Quiet method from the article linked below. Tell him "Quiet" when he barks and cries. If he gets quiet and stays quiet, you can sprinkle a few pieces of dog food into the crate through the wires calmly, then leave again. If he disobeys your command and keep crying or stops but starts again, spray a small puff of air from the Pet convincer at his side through the crate while saying "Ah Ah" calmly, then leave again. If he stays quiet after you leave you can periodically sprinkle treats into the crate to reward quietness. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Only use the unscented air from the Pet Convincers - don't use citronella, it's too harsh and lingers for too long so can be confusing. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Paco
toy poodle
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Paco
toy poodle
2 Years

My dog won’t use the bathroom outside. He is 2 years old and has only learned to go inside. We live in an apartment so it’s a bit of a walk to go to his bathroom spot. However, he gets too distracted by people walking by or other dogs and instead barks rather than sniffing around, even when we know he has to go. How can I train him to go in this situation?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lindsey, I would star by crate training pup and crating pup between potty trips after it has been at least three hours since pup last went potty. After the three hour mark, take pup potty. Walk pup around slowly on a leash, taking pup to as calm a location as you can nearby. Tell pup "Go Potty" calmly. You can also spray a potty encouraging spray on the area you want pup to go on to encourage pup to sniff and go potty. IF pup goes potty then, praise enthusiastically and give seven small treats or pieces or kibble, delivered one at a time to make it extra rewarding. Stay outside walking pup around for 15 minutes until they either go or the 15 minutes is up. If pup doesn't go potty then go back inside when the 15 minutes are up, crate pup for one hour to prevent inside pottying during this time, then take pup back outside at the end of the hour. Repeat this crating and potty trips outside until pup finally goes potty outside and you reward with the treats. I would start this when you have a couple or days off like the weekend. The first couple of days pup will probably hold it for 7-12 hours before going potty outside. Crate between trips so pup's only potty option is outside and the crate helps motivate pup to hold it while inside. After pup finally does go outside a few times and gets praised and rewarded for it, pup should gradually begin learning that "Go Potty" means go potty, and be more motivated by the treats and praise to go potty, and be encouraged not to go potty inside through the use of the crate when pup's bladder isn't empty during that first three hours. When pup finally does go potty, the clock resets and pup can be given three hours of freedom again before taking potty and crating again. This process should get easier and pup going potty more quickly after a few successes but getting initial successes will require some patience and a lot of consistency. If pup is still holding out and is currently used to a pee pad, you can also place a pee pad outside for pup to use. When you set up the crate, don't put anything absorbent in the crate to encourage pup not to go potty in there. You can use something like www.primopads.com as a non-absorbent bed if you wish. Also, the crate should only be big enough for pup to stand up, turn around, and lie down but not so big pup can go potty in one end and stand in the opposite end to avoid the accident. Too big or too absorbent and pup won't be as motivated to hold their pee while in the crate. As far as the barking outside, check out the article I have linked below and the Desensitize method and Quiet method. Also, check out the video series on desensitizing from the video link I have included. If pup is going potty on a pee pad fine inside and not having accidents, you might want to address the barking then start the outdoor potty training after. If pup is having accidents though, I would start the barking and potty training training right away. Barking - Desensitize and Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Barking video series: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAA4pob0Wl0W2agO7frSjia1hG85IyA6a Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Coco
Shitzu
13 Years
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Coco
Shitzu
13 Years

All of a sudden she starts pooping in the carpeted closet during the night. It’s winter and due to knee replacement afraid to fall on the ice sidewalks, I’m unable to take her outside for walks, however, let her in the back yard to do her business many times a day. She always lets me know when she has to go outside. Always let her out at 10 pm and never used to have to go out until next day at 10 am. Was amazing. Just the last three weeks. Tried spraying vinegar on carpet but doesn’t bother her. She’s such an adorable dog and don’t know what to do about her new pooping habit. Spring is coming and Hope walking again will take care of this issue. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Hilda, Because of pups age it might be that pup physically can't hold it 12 hours overnight anymore. Since taking pup outside too early isn't a safe option for you either, I would set up an exercise pen with a non-absorbent bed in one end and a disposable grass pad in the other end and have pup sleep in that pen at night, with access to the grass pad for early morning. Pup might physically have to go potty sooner than you can take them out in the morning because of their age. The grass pad can give pup a place to do so without the accidents. Disposable real grass pad brands. www.freshpatch.com www.doggielawn.com www.porchpotty.com Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Nikki
pitbull
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Nikki
pitbull
1 Year

My dog keeps pooping in the drive way even after I use a strong disinfectant to take away the smell

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1115 Dog owners recommended

Hello Awo, How is your yard set up? Is pup off-leash, in an invisible fence, your driveway a part of your fenced yard, left outside all day, or only outside occasionally to go potty or play with you? How you address this depends a lot on the above factors. If pup is just being let outside to go potty and not an outside dog, I would go with pup for a while, taking pup potty on leash to the area you want pup to go potty at, then tell pup to "Go Potty" and reward with four small treats, one at a time when pup goes there. You want to help pup develop a habit of going potty in the correct spot, associating that area with good things, and making that area smell like pup so the scent will encourage pup to go there again. When you clean the driveway, the area needs to be cleaned not just with a disinfectant but specifically with a cleaner that contains enzymes. A disinfectant can actually contain ammonia which smells like urine to a dog, or even though it kills bacteria may not break down the pee or poop at a molecular level - which is needed to remove the scent to the level pup needs to not still smell it there. Removing the scent is only part of the picture though, pup's access to that area and ability to go potty there needs to be blocked for a while, to break pup's habit of going to that location. You can either do this by taking pup potty on leash, or by blocking off access to the driveway with physical barriers like fencing or hedges, or by using a pet barrier device that corrects pup for walking onto the driveway via a corresponding collar pup wears. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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