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. Some small dogs are even trained to poop indoors, on puppy pads or newspapers, and if you decide to change this, you will need to teach the dog a new bathroom habit. Also, a new adult dog may be experiencing anxiety about his change in 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. 

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 the dog from accidentally pooping in the house, with careful supervision to intervene if your dog looks like he is going to relieve himself on your carpet, using a crate, or tethering your dog, to reduce the likelihood he is 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 he should relieve himself and can make training easier.

Getting Started

If you are training your dog not to poop in the house, you should carefully observe his feeding and defecating habits and schedule so you have a good idea of when your dog needs to go poop and can appropriately direct him. Keeping your dog in an area of the house where he never has accidents, or using a crate to confine him in the house so that he does not have the opportunity to make a mistake and reinforce his 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 accidents, 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 Crate Training Method

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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 toy or chew toy to keep you dog happy.
Step
2
Take directly out
Let your dog out every few hours and take him 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 he does, reward him with a treat and take him for a walk.
Step
4
Confine to prevent accidents
If your dog does not relieve himself, take him back into his crate.
Step
5
Decrease crate confinement
Repeat for several days, gradually let your dog out of his crate for longer periods while still carefully supervising him. If he looks like he is about to poop, take him immediately to his bathroom spot. After several days, your dog should have learned where his bathroom spot in the yard is.
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The Reduce Anxiety Method

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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 his bathroom spot outside. When he uses it, give him a treat and take him for a walk.
Step
4
Don't create anxiety
If an anxious dog poops in the house, never punish him. 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 him to his 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.
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The Tether Training Method

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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 he is tethered to you, you will immediately notice if he looks like he is going to poop.
Step
3
Provide bathroom opportunities
Regularly take your dog outside, or if you seem him sniffing around indicating he might need to go, to a designated poop area outside.
Step
4
Reward with walk
If your dog does not relieve himself, go back inside. If he does, give him a treat, and take him for a walk on a long leash, reward him 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 he has not had the opportunity to poop inside, eliminating that habit.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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