Housetraining the older dog constitutes a behavior problem, and the aspects of the behavioral analysis need to be examined. In many cases, diet is a contributing factor. Some dog foods contain large amounts of filler, non-digestible additives, which do nothing for the dog but increase the amount of bulk that must be eliminated. Semi-moist foods, which contain large amounts of salt, cause the dog to drink a great deal of water, undermining a housetraining effort. In general, if the dog is eliminating as much as he is eating, he is not digesting enough of his dog food. You can change his food over (do this gradually, incorporating the new diet into the old one until he is completely eating the new diet—about3-4 weeks) or you can discuss the question of digestion problems with your veterinarian.

THE DOG’S REWARD is that he is doing what comes naturally. In some instances, the dog is making a social statement. For example, a dog who regularly uses his owner’s shoes as his bathroom is indicating that the relationship is not that of the human as the pack leader and the dog as the pack member. In such a case, the relationship needs addressing, not just the housetraining problem.
The male dog who lifts his leg in the house is marking territory. In many cases neutering is the solution.

BREEDING IS NOT THE SOLUTION TO MARKING TERRITORY, it will only make it worse. If you tell people that your dog is “MOSTLY HOUSETRAINED”, your dog is not housetrained at all. Being mostly housetrained is like being a little pregnant- you either are or you’re not. A dog either goes to the bathroom in the house on occasion, in which case he is not housetrained, or, barring illness, he never goes in the house, in which case he is housetrained.

THE DOG’S PERCEPTION of the discipline meted out for a housetraining problem has nothing to do with what the owner thinks it does. At the moment the dog is going to the bathroom, he is unaware of the consequences of his physical action. As soon as he is finished, he may turn around, see the puddle and remember that he gets yelled at when that’s there, but that is after the fact. It is too late for your dog to do anything about it, even if he knew what to do.

THE CURE is similar to the rules for training a puppy (See “Puppy Housetraining” handout). With a grown dog or older puppy (five months or more), you must keep the dog confined in a crate when not under supervision (see “CRATE TRAINING” handout). Everything else is the same as for the puppy: He is taken out, praised for going, accidents are ignored, he is fed on a regular schedule, etc.

Many people confine a dog in a garage or basement in an attempt to housetrain. Because the dog goes to the bathroom there, they believe he is not housetrained. To the dog, the smell of the basement and the garage are similar to outdoors. They both smell damp and musty. Dogs confined in basements are difficult to housetrain.

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