Dog parents all around the world know that potty training a canine isn’t as easy as one might think. Multiple factors are at play when housebreaking a dog, including its previous life experiences. That’s why many are perplexed when they adopt a pooch and wonder how to potty train a dog again — and even if it’s possible at all.
So, are there any specific steps we need to take when it comes to re-housebreaking a dog? As it turns out, retraining a pooch isn’t that much different from potty training a puppy for the first time; you just have to think of the dog as a blank canvas.
Will it be challenging?
Although the process of retraining a dog to pee and poop outside is similar to first-time housebreaking, there are a few factors we ought to keep in mind. Unfortunately, most dogs who have to be retrained were held in shelters due to unfortunate circumstances. Thus, they might feel a certain level of aversion toward their new owners — and toward new rules too.
Additionally, when retraining a dog, we have to take into account that its housebreaking habits have weakened while it was in the shelter. As such, we’ll basically have to reassociate the outside as a good spot for elimination and our home as a bad spot. The dog might be a bit stubborn at first due to abandonment issues, anxiety, and stress, so we definitely ought to tread cautiously.
How to potty train a dog again: A definitive guide to re-housebreaking a dog
Step #1: Learn more about your dog
The difference between potty training a dog for the very first time and doing it all over again is in the dog’s behavior and previous life experiences. Because of that, we’ll present two situations in which you might need to retrain the dog:
How to potty train a dog again when you’ve moved
If you have recently moved houses, then you might have to re-housebreak your dog right away. Everything smells different, and its life has turned upside down. Thus, it’s nervous and doesn’t know how to act — not even how to tell you that it wants to “go.”
How to potty train a dog again when you’ve adopted a previously abandoned pooch
Many people aren’t fit to take care of a dog, and some even leave their dogs in shelters because of unforeseen circumstances. Whatever the reason may be, dogs in shelters aren’t really taught where to go potty.
Most of the time, they’re kept in tiny kennels or cages — those are their beds that somewhat resemble their own “dens.” Thus, they don’t want to spoil them unless they have to. Unfortunately, accidents do happen, which only stresses the dogs out and leads to anxiety.
Because of all these factors, re-housebreaking a shelter dog or a rescue will require much more effort on your part, not to mention time. You’re dealing with emotional trauma, too, not just the inability to “hold it in.”
Step #2 Figure out a routine that won’t overwhelm the dog
In general, pooches will have to go to the bathroom after they sleep, eat, drink, and play. Therefore, to avoid accidents, aim to get the dog to a nice elimination spot 15–30 minutes after each activity.
Now, you will have to dedicate enough time to retraining a dog, but at the same time, the schedule shouldn’t feel suffocating. Of course, dogs in general love going outside. Still, if you’ve adopted a traumatized one, that won’t be possible. It will avoid going out as if it’s the plague.
And, you really shouldn’t make the dog go out if it doesn’t want to. Instead, opt to housetrain the dog with training pads or even a dog litter box. If the dog is suffering from a certain level of agoraphobia, going for alternatives such as these would allow you to keep your floors pee-free and the dog happy.
However, if the dog is willing to go outside as much as possible, the answer is pretty simple. In the morning, get the leash and take the dog out to a good spot where it may do the deed. Then, as a reward, give it a treat and continue walking around the block/park. Repeat the same thing each time it has to “go.”
Step #3 Confine when needed and supervise
Crating a dog when you’re in the other room (and the dog still hasn’t been potty trained) is generally an excellent way to keep accidents at bay. However, you have to make sure the crate is large enough for the dog to be comfortable.
Additionally, never leave a dog in the crate for too long. If it’s an older dog, assume it cannot hold it in for longer than three to four hours — and that’s only if it has shown it can control its bladder for so long. Younger pups cannot hold it in for longer than an hour, so you will have to keep training pads within reach.
Still, if you want to avoid crates, you can also rely on your own abilities. Supervise the dog when you’re home, hire a dog sitter when you’re not, and always keep the most common signs the dog has to “go” in mind:
- Excessive barking or whining
- Door scratching
- Sniffing and circling around one spot on the floor
- Sudden disappearance (the dog just walks away into another room, almost certainly to soil it)
Step #4 Create a reward system that works
Finally, in order to bond with our dogs, we have to learn more about them. Therefore, if you want to reward your dog properly, try to figure out what it likes and dislikes.
For some dogs, a new chew toy won’t be of much use if they don’t like chewing on things. However, they might love a particular brand of treats that may be a bit expensive. To get on their good side (and make sure they never pee or poop in the house again), aim to give them those treats when retraining them.
In the end, incentives work. Dogs need to know they will get something nice in return if we want them to act a certain way. Luckily, they’re reasonable creatures — treats and praises are usually all they need!
Final thoughts on how to potty train a dog again
Do we think that potty training a dog again is going to be simple? Of course not. It’s usually a bit tricky, given that the dog has had some time to grow out of its housetraining habits. On top of that, it’s not as young as it was the first time — it won’t learn so fast.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t feel discouraged at all. The process is almost the same, though you will have to pay close attention to shelter dogs and rescues. Those poor fellows haven’t had the best of luck, so just try not to overwhelm them with all the rules. An accident or two won’t ruin everything, after all!