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11 Tips for House Training an Adult Dog

Poodle on a potty tray

Many people cherish their relationship with their dogs and who can blame them?
They are called ‘man’s best friend for a reason. Dogs bring something special into
our lives and make it a brighter one. While many opt for adopting a younger dog,
those who give a chance to an older one are the true heroes. A popular myth,
training adult dogs are not more difficult than training a puppy. In fact, training an
adult dog, in most cases, is often easier! Here are 11 tips for house training an adult
dog.

Positive/Negative Reinforcement

Positive and negative reinforcement are both incredibly useful tools when training a
dog of any age. They can be especially helpful when training an adult dog. Both are
forms of cause and effect. Positive reinforcement relates positive behavior with
positive stimuli. For example, if your dog obeys a command quickly (positive
behavior), then you reward that behavior with a treat (positive stimuli). Negative
reinforcement is the complete opposite. If your dog continually pulls on his leash or
has accidents in the house, and as such, gets reprimanded for doing so, this is
reinforcing that doing something bad will result in disciplinary actions.

Get to Know Your Dog

dog laying on owners legs with head resting in a book

No two dogs are completely alike and this is even more true when it comes to older
dogs. Training needs to be tailored to your dog’s specific needs. Some dogs react
better to positive reinforcement than others and some will need a more in-depth
approach. Get to know your dog – his personality, his needs, and formulate your
training plans around those.

Past Experiences Play a Huge Role

When house training an adult or senior dogs, you must keep in mind that previous
life experiences are likely shaping the way that he responds to certain training
methods. Knowing any major issues in your dog’s past (neglect, abuse, etc.) can
help you formulate a training plan that will actually work for your dog.

Make It Fun

Dog outside in grass with owner

Training an adult dog requires special skill, of course, however, it also requires the
dog’s undivided attention. Dull and boring training methods will likely result in you
losing his interest. Make training time fun, something that he can look forward to.
Whether it is the setting, possibly a park, or even the simple inflections of your voice,
you want your dog to enjoy being trained.

Let Him Know When He Has Done Well

Dogs are people pleasers. They want nothing more in life than to make their human
friends happy. This should be used to your advantage, especially when training adult
dogs. If he does something right, listens to a command, or even simply pays better
attention during a particular session – be sure that he knows that you approve. A
‘good boy’ is seriously worth its weight in gold in a dog’s world. Don’t forget to praise
his efforts – if he pees outside, it deserves some recognition!

Keep Your Cool

Jack Russell Terrier sitting on hard wood floor next to pee puddle

House training a pet of any species or age range can be super frustrating – we get it.
But, losing your cool, getting upset, or even yelling at your dog will not do anyone
any good. As eager to please as your dog surely is, knowing that he has caused an
angry reaction will only end up inhibiting the training process and even possibly
causing him to fear you. And, that is not productive in any situation.

Be Persistent

Dogs, not unlike many people, thrive where there is a set routine. Being persistent
not only helps your dog know when it’s time to get down to business but will also
likely help him absorb the information better. Keep the training consistent – the time,
place, and length of the session. If he is anticipating a training session, he will be
more apt to pay attention to the said lesson.

Designate a Training Family Member

Brown dog with pay in humans hand outdoors

Adding onto the tip about keeping things consistent, appointing one specific family member to handle the house training activities would be incredibly helpful. While all
members of the family should learn the correct commands, designating one person
as the ‘dog trainer’ will help him focus on the task at hand.

Don’t Be Afraid to Call in the Professionals

Some dogs are more stubborn, and more difficult to teach, than others – especially
regarding grown, adult dogs who might very well be set in their ways. Never be
ashamed to seek outside help with the training process. A professional dog trainer
can aid in dogs learning, and can also teach you how to interact, as far as training
goes, when the professional is not there.

Make Use of Props

dog toys on hard wood floor

Making use of props while training an adult dog is one of the oldest tricks in the
book. A whistle to get his attention, a leash attached to you to limit his movement,
even a favorite toy for when he is doing a good job. In time, he will likely learn to
associate the props with training time which can be helpful in and of itself.

Take Breaks

Puppies, like human toddlers, tend to have endless energy. With adult dogs? That
energy could be somewhat diminished. Taking small breaks during the training
lessons will give both of you time to refocus and regroup. For every 20 minutes of
training time, try to schedule a short 5-minute break.

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