How Do I Potty Train a Rescue Dog?
Establish and stick to a routine for your dog. Feed them and take them out at regular intervals depending on their existing level of bladder control. Reward generously with treats, play time, and walks. Never punish an accident in the house.
If you’ve ever had a new puppy, you know all about the perils of house training- but what about when it comes to potty training a rescue dog, who’s no longer in the puppy phase? Read on for a step by step guide on how to efficiently house train your new furry friend.
Step 1: Understanding the Problem
As a rule of thumb, dogs can hold their bladder for 1 hour per every month of age. So a 2 months old puppy can hold it for two hours, a 6 month old for 6 hours etc… As a result, unless you’ve adopted a puppy, it’s likely that bladder control isn’t the issue causing your new best friend to wet the bed.
It’s important to make observations to understand why your new rescue dog is having accidents. It’s likely that your dog is simply still on the learning curve in his new surroundings, but it’s important to rule out problems like separation anxiety, or medical issues before starting to address the problem.
Step 2- The Process: Setting a Routine
Setting a routine for your dog is essential for all aspects of his training, but especially when it comes to his bathroom habits. Make sure to feed your dog at the same time every day to regulate his bowel movements and make them more predictable for you. Take your dog out regularly- first thing in the morning, then every two hours at first, including after meal times, and again before bed.
As he gets better at holding it, you can increase the time between trips, but make sure to keep him on a regular schedule so he is able to predict that he’ll be let out again soon to do his business outside. It’s also important to set boundaries for your dog within the house, especially when you’re not home. The good thing about dogs is that they’re very reluctant to go to the bathroom in the place where they sleep, so confining your dog to a crate while you’re out of the house or for bedtime is your best bet. Puppies respond very well to crate training, but if you’re working with an adult dog, larger playpen enclosures or baby gates can help you confine your dog to one area while you’re not able to attend to him. And don’t worry- studies have shown that keeping dogs in a small space for periods of time is not detrimental to dogs, in fact, crate training is beneficial to helping them achieve a calm mental state.
Step 3- Installing a Command
After you’ve established your routine, one of the most useful things you can do for your dog is to install a command word for going potty. Start by choosing an area in which you want your dog to regularly do his business in. Bring him to the area and wait 15 minutes- if he goes potty, enthusiastically tell him “go potty” and shower him with praise and positive reinforcement such as treats, a walk, or a play session. If he doesn’t, bring him back inside, wait a bit, and then try again. With time, your dog will learn to associate the words “go potty” with the action, and will know that it's time to release upon hearing the command. Bring your dog to his spot regularly, according to the schedule you’ve set for him.
If you’re struggling to get your dog to release in his area, commercially available sprays exist that give off a smell that encourages your dog to go potty where they are sprayed. Go over your area with one of these sprays and you’ll be sure to have Rover going in his place in no time.
Step 4: Sticking to it and Practicing Patience
Probably the most important step of all is understanding that you have to be patient with your new rescue dog- coming from a shelter, he’s probably been through a lot, and will take some time to adjust to his new surroundings and routine. Giving up, or getting angry and punishing your dog for accidents will only serve to make the problem worse, and to fracture the bond of trust that you’re building with your new friend. Setbacks are common in potty training, and it’s important to observe what’s going wrong and adjust his routine if it doesn’t seem to be working.
While potty training can be one of the most frustrating phases of owning a dog, a little observation, routine, and the willingness to wait will have your shelter dog abiding to your house rules in no time. And if you have any further questions on the steps outlined above, feel free to leave us a message in the comments section- we’ll be sure to address your specific concerns as best we can.