poitty train dog

How to Potty Train an Adult Dog

If you’ve landed on this article, your adult dog is likely peeing in the house. You want to know how to potty train an adult dog. There are many reasons why dogs pee in the house as they age. Whether your dog is marking his spot in your bed, peeing or marking on rugs, randomly relieving himself inside, or you just adopted an adult dog and he needs re-training, this is the blog post for you. Also, foster dog parents, this post can help you in the interim and then you can pass it on to the permanent owner. It’s a win-win. Let’s get started!

This post may contain affiliate links for which I earn a small income if you click through and purchase something on the links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

How to potty train adult dog

Why Does My Adult Dog Pee Inside?

One of the first things to do when your adult dog starts urinating and/or defecating in the house, is rule out a medical issue. Something as simple as a urinary tract infection can cause a dog to relieve himself inside. Rule out medical issues. Kidney or bladder stones can cause indoor urine, but so can:

  • Being Overly Excited: If you share life with a Cocker Spaniel, you are all too familiar with excitement piddle. They get so excited to see you that the urine just runs out of them. Most often, the dog doesn’t even know they are doing it; hence the phrase, ‘excitement piddle.’
  • Fear/Being Scared: Many shelter dogs landed there with a history of some sort of abuse, abandonment, or hurt. If a dog pees in reaction to your voice or being scolded, this is certainly not the way to bond with a dog. Sometimes, a dog may even exhibit submissive urination at one gender or another. If a male harmed the dog in any way, then the dog may pee when he or she sees a man. Did you hover or the dog and yell at him when he peed inside? This can create a fear environment where he actually pees more out of fear.
  • Human Housetraining Errors: If your dog is 1 or 2 years old and you still notice accidents, something likely went awry with your training. As long as medical issues are ruled out, take a few steps back, and follow the advice in this post.
  • X Marks the Spot: Many dogs mark their spot; whether that spot is your bed, their bed, a chair, or a rug. Dog may urinate small amounts in different places around the house or even in one big puddle on furniture. We have advice to help tackle this problem. Hint: Your dog does not pee nor poop inside out of spite.
  • Making the Dog Hold It Too Long: If your dog is not going outside regularly, it is likely that the lack of a regular schedule and free access to eliminate waste outside is on you, not the dog.
  • Life Changes: Stress affects dogs in the same way it affects humans: They feel it and internalize. A move, changes in routine, a death, another pet, combining families: All these things can affect a dog, which can lead to urinary behaviors in the house.
  • Urinary Incontinence: Time can wreak havoc on body systems. My first Cocker Spaniel developed a weak bladder as she aged. Fortunately, we had doggy diapers with changeable liners to use on her, which were changed once or twice a day.

X Marks the Spot: Get In Tune with Patterns

It may sound simple, but even the savviest of pet parents may overlook this step: Keep a piddle journal. When your dog has an accident, write down the time and what happened before that. When was he last outside? Did he drink a lot of water? Is the marking in the same spot?  You can begin to spot (pun intended) patterns and even seek the guidance of a positive reinforcement dog behaviorist. If you want to potty train an adult dog, it takes patience.

Here are a few cute journals and notepads to have handy:

How to Potty Train an Adult Dog: Step One

Whether your dog is older, you are fostering, you just adopted a dog, perhaps a second dog (or third, fourth, etc) dog was brought into the household— if an adult dog starts urinating in the house, something is wrong. That something can be physical, behavioral, or both. First, seek veterinary care. While Googling for an answer may seem like a good idea, nothing replaces a visit to the veterinarian to rule out a physical problem.

Without getting overly clinical, the dog’s urinary system includes the kidneys, the ureters (which are tubes connecting kidneys to bladder), the bladder itself, and the urethra (which is the tube that carries urine out of the body). The urinary system is very important to dogs in the same way it is important to people. Not only does it get rid of waste the body does not need, it also maintains a balance of water and electrolytes. Certain hormones are produced in the urinary system, which helps your dog keep his blood pressure normalized, make blood cells, and absorb salt. Vitamin D is processed in a dog’s urinary system. With all of those processes occurring, it makes sense to keep the urinary system healthy. A dog peeing in the house for any extended or sudden period of time needs to see a veterinarian to rule out medical causes.

how to potty train dog

The Dog Product No Household Should Be Without: Step Two

Urine test strips are the one product that no dog household should be without. If you are trying to potty train an adult dog, you need to regularly check his urine at home. I do this two to three times a month on my healthy adult dog. Why?

At home Urinalysis Test Strips test for many different levels of things in the dog’s urine. If your dog battles urinary tract infections (UTI’s), these strips can be a lifesaver for detecting levels such as pH and blood in the urine in between vet visits. Collect the dog’s urine with a free catch in the morning when it is most concentrated, dip the stick in, wait the time recommendations (2 minutes for most) and then compare against the colors on the bottle. (strips expire and are about $35 for 100 but so worth it – about the same cost as one urinalysis at the vet, so very cost effective).

What is a free catch? You do not want the dog’s urine stream to come into contact with the ground or any debris or dirt. I use a clean, never washed disposable plastic container with lid and place the urine in the fridge until I see the vet…the sooner the better that day so an accurate sample is given to the vet. Never get your fingers near it.

In healthy pets, the urine pH is typically in the 6.5 to 7.0 range. Medicines, age, co-existing health conditions, and even stress can change the level of pH. In addition, the most concentrated form of urine is the “free catch” first thing in the morning. Vets can also do a cystocentesis on a dog in order to pass a needle through the bladder and to obtain a more sterile sample (this is not a painful test, by the way).

Here are some disposable containers to collect a free catch of urine.

Potty Training an Adult Dog: Step Three

Now to the meat and bones: With medical issues ruled out, decide that you will not hit, spank, nor scream at your dog in any capacity. Not only can you worsen the problem, as your dog will learn to fear you and start peeing or defecating from the stress of your presence, but you also diminish the bond you want to share with your dog. Let’s face it: Dogs do not live as long as we do. Let’s love them and teach them through positive reinforcement instead of pain and fear.

As smart as most dogs are, they aren’t manipulative enough to ponder the art of revenge: That’s a human quality. Do you know how to stop a dog who pees for revenge? You don’t! Dogs do NOT pee for revenge. And do not under any circumstances “rub their nose in it:” This is antiquated, disgusting, and old wives’ tale and proves only what a bully you are in doing so.

More Here: Dogs Do Not Pee Out of Spite 

Potty train an adult dog

Make Magic Happen: Potty Train an Adult Dog: Step Four

While training an adult dog to pee outside, your dog needs to remain with you at all times. This is not an easy feat, as many people work and they cannot have their dog with them at all times. If you are unable to have your dog with you for two weeks at all times, then you need to keep the dog in an area of the house gated off just for him while you are out.

The dog needs to be in your sight at all times. Many people will tie the leash around their waste, leave slack, or they will hold the leash onto their wrist by grasping it.

Throughout 25 years of pet parenting, I’ve trained my dogs this way: They get access to one room, then two, and so on. If you can’t be home at all times with your dog and having him by your side, then gate them off. I am not a person who believes in keeping a dog in a kennel or crate for inordinate amounts of time. It isn’t fair to the dog (boredom), it isn’t fair to his bladder, and you can’t expect the dog to know exactly what you want from them by tossing them in a crate all day. I am not anti crate, as I know many folks love them and use them with success. I am anti overuse of the crate, which by the way can lead to early arthritis from all that crunched up lack of movement stuff.

Every hour on the hour, the dog goes out, whether he or she needs to or not. Always leave your abode from the same exit. When you go outside with the dog, and associate the peeing with a command. For us, we say, ‘Go, go, go.” When the dog does go outside, you have a mega happy party. You can watch how to praise a dog in the video below. You can use food rewards as well. Whatever works. Praise big time.

Don’t wait for the dog to tell you he has to go out. Every hour on the hour, take the dog out (not including sleeping time). Even if they don’t urinate every time, they start to know that outside is what you expect of them. A bonus tip is to always have your dog use the same area to pee. I often hear people say their dogs mark up the lawn. If he has free access to a big lawn, this will happen. So only allow certain access. Easy peasy.

Tools You Can Use to Make Training Easier

As time goes on and you allow your dog more room to roam, blocking off rooms or areas of the house that are restricted, you can work into using PoochieBells. PoochieBells gives your dog and you the ability to clearly communicate when its potty time.  No more guessing or wasted trips outside for you and your dog. A simple, clear message means one thing…your dog is talking and needs to go out. All breeds, all ages, all dogs may benefit from these. Here’s how they work and always praise when they pee outside.

Piddle Pads: I don’t use them the way most folks do. Here’s how I use piddle pads: Put down a few piddle pads in the room of choice (for me, it was the bathroom). Your dog needs to be in your line of sight. Block off one room, put the piddle pads down. . When they learn to pee on that piddle pad, pick it up as the dog heads towards it, then take it outside. Set it down in the spot you want him to pee. Don’t start taking the piddle pad away until you are sure the dog is peeing on in the house where you set it down.  In my video below, I expand on this.

Bonus: Urine Clean Up Trick

You’ve made it this far and I am here to reward YOU! Here’s a clean up urine from rugs trick I learned by accident! Go me! Your dog is bound to have accidents during this process. If an accident occurs and it is on a rug, you need to blot the urine up with paper towels, clean with a pet safe cleaner, and for this we absolutely adore the Rocco & Roxie Stain and Odor spray.

Then, place 3 to 4 paper towels and an aluminum can on top of the spot. The can needs to be weighty, like a soup can, and let it there for a few hours. The aluminum pulls the urine up out of the rug and into the paper towel, which you can later throw away.

You’re welcome!

Snag a home delivery of Bounty paper towels here.

Help For Peeing Issues in General

Please please please, if you take anything away from this article, keep in mind that dogs are not peeing inside to upset you. If you come home and yell at a dog for peeing in the house, that dog has no clue what is happening other than you just turned his day upside down. A dog needs to be in the act or getting ready to pee inside for you to redirect and take him outside.

I had a reader ask me for advice recently about her dog who started peeing on her bed. Here’s the conversation, with names edited out for discretion:

Dog Mom: “I’m in desperate need of a Cocker Spaniel dog whisperer. Our Cocker, Minnie, who is a year and a half has started peeing in our beds. We don’t know why she is doing this or how to stop it?! We are getting ready to move into a brand new house with brand new beds. We crate trained her for when we leave the house, but’s she’s always slept in our room at night with out other two Cockers. I’m truly devastated by what she is doing and am at a loss. We can’t have this continue and if you have any ideas, I would love them!!”

Me: “Okay a few things: When did this start? Did she have anything new happen in her life or any changes to schedules, travel, etc? Has she had her urine checked recently? Is it only on the bed?”

Dog Mom: “About a month ago this started. I just made her a vet appointment today for next week. Every once in a blue moon she will do it in the house when it’s a monsoon here in Florida. But, it would be on the floor by the door.”

Me: “Any life changes happening recently or at the present time?”

Dog Mom: “We’ve been living with my parents for 3 months while our house is being built. Ours sold in 6 days and we had no place to go.”


Over at Ask a Dog Trainer, they say that “The number one reason dogs pee on your bed is the exact same reason they chew your dirty underwear and socks…it smells like you.  In the wild dogs, and young dogs especially, encounter numerous different predators.  When they encounter a predator, they have two choices.  They can fight or they can run, and neither of these is extremely beneficial for the dog.  So, to avoid running into one of their foes they try to cover their scent.  In the wild (and often on farms or in the country), dogs will roll in the nastiest things, like poop or dead animals.  In your house, they roll in your dirty underwear andyou guessed it, your bed.  Young dogs especially have to be careful, so they try to cover the smell of their urine as well.  What better spot to hide their scent than in the scent of their protector and guardian.  Your bed smells like you…a lot…so your dog is hiding his scent in your bed.  By peeing in your bed, and hiding the smell of his urine, your dog is making himself feel less vulnerable and less exposed. “

It’s not out of spite, anger, or upset. And off this dog mom went to help her dog by not allowing her access to the bed.

Extra Help for the Win: Potty Training an Adult Dog

Here is a recent Facebook Live broadcast walking you through these steps:

Final Thoughts and Products

Whenever your dog starts exhibiting a new behavior, a medical check is in order if the problem is sudden and the reason is indeterminate. You always want to put health at the forefront. Take the time to return to puppy training 101. If your dog is deaf, you can get tips from our friend Bernard Lima Chavez over at The Graffiti Dog blog. He is a whiz when it comes to deaf dogs.

Here’s a list of all the products we shared along with a urine blacklight to find those hidden spots:

Note:  This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, meaning if you click on a link above and then make a purchase, Fidose of Reality will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you. You help us keep the site up and running and in exchange, you get to shop for items you love. Wags!

Don’t Stop Now

If you loved this post, here are some related posts to help your dog live a healthy life:

Secrets to Preventing a Dog Urinary Tract Infection

How to Stop a Dog Who Pees for Revenge

Have you dealt with this issue? Is your dog reliable when it comes to relieving himself outside? Do tell and respond in the comment box below.

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  1. Thanks for posting this! We just adopted a 1.5 year old beagle. We’ve had him for a week, and overall he seems very well adjusted. However the last 2 days he has peed in the house. Tonight he peed on our couch after he had just come in from outside. He has never gone in his crate. We’re kind of at a loss. He doesn’t seem to know how to communicate to us that he needs to go, and it’s especially confusing when he’s just been out. Any ideas or recommendations? Thank you!

  2. We have a 4 yo Cairn female who does well with bathroom for a while and then starts pee pee and defecate on the floor. My husband is retired and spends most of the day with the dog.
    How do we break this habit. There are times that she will tell us that she has to go outside and then will do nothing and later come in the house and not tell us that she had to go outside and will poop out of site. I have removed most of the rugs and quickly shampoo any spots to remove the smell. I also suspect that she will pee pee in the home office while my husband is on the computer and I am at work.
    I have a suspicion that consistency is an issue and my nightly reinforcement is not always followed .
    Thank you

  3. My one’s name is Pup. This evening he peed on our sofa after he had recently rolled in from outside. He has never gone in his box. We’re somewhat at a misfortune. He doesn’t appear to realize how to convey to us that he needs to go, and it’s particularly confounding when he’s simply been out. Any thoughts or suggestions?

  4. This article is very helpful! I have a 1.5 year old dachshund, chihuahua, pitbull mix. I rescued him when he was about 8 weeks old. We had an enclosed little area for him at first because he would poop and pee everywhere, until he got to the age where he could control himself, then we let him free roam the house but we would crate him at night. He’s been free roaming the house now for about 1 year, and he still poops in my bathroom every day sometimes more than once, he will not poop outside he only pees outside. If you have any extra tips please let me know! Thanks!!

  5. My dog is piddle pad trained and doesn’t go outside. He is 2 years old. There are rooms he is not allowed in and he knows that. But if I leave the door open he will sneak in there and go piddle or poop. How do I train him not to go in those rooms to pee and poop. If the doors are closed he never makes a mistake. How do I get it so he can go in those rooms but not pee or poop. My place is small and leaving the doors closed makes it less desirable.

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