17 answers

Housebreaking Tips for a 3 Year Old Dog

ok so hears the story. We have adopted a 3 year old german shepard. I dont think she was abused, but I believe she was very much neglected. She was in a kennel pretty much her whole life and is very skiddish and scared of everything. We've had her for 2 weeks (the previous owners only had her for 2 months and they couldn't keep her because they had a dog themselves and the 2 did not get along)
she is a very sweet dog and so gentle but 1 problem....she needs some work on the housebreaking. For the most part she goes outside. We havn't had an accident witht he peeing but with pooping it has been a issue. She knows she has to go outside, but because she is so shy (and she preferes to stay in her crate most of the day even if the crate door is open) she doesnt quite tell us yet when she has to go. She'll pace around for a while and all seems fine considering that she was just outside, and then she craps on the carpet. She knows she's done something wrong because her ears go back and sometimes she whines when we scold her for this, but it seems as if she doesn't know how to let us know when she has to go. any tips on how to get her to know that this is unacceptable and to only go exclusivly outside?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

We also have a dog that won't let us know when he needs to go outside, so what I did was hang a string of bells by the door and everytime I took him out I would touch his nose to the bells until they made noise. It didn't take him to long to get it and now he just rings the bells when he needs to go out. Also, this dog is VERY shy and submissive, and this trick was actually told to me by a woman that foster for the Dachshund Rescue. She says it's the trick she teaches all her foster dogs...

Just wanted to let you know of a great book out there that may help with a lot of problems that you may experience. Its by Cesar Millan and its called "A Member of the Family" This guy goes by the "Dog Whisperer" and he is truly amazing. Also, I agree with the other responses about just watching him constantly for awhile so you get to know his cues and rewarding, rewarding, rewarding. I think its worth it to put in the time now so that you do not have problems later. I think its great that you gave a dog in need a loving home. Hang in there.

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I know someone already mentioned this but hanging jingle bells on your door really does work! We have a two year old St. Bernard and we trained him to use the bell when he wants to go out. He still does it today. Before you let her out EVERY time, ring the bell yourself. Eventually she'll associate the sound of the bells with going outside and ring it herself. Plus, the bells are pretty loud so you'll be able to hear them from anywhere in the house. My sister used this trick with her dog too. Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I hung bells from my back door, and then every time I took my dog outside I took her paw or nose and hit the bells so that she knew bells mean outside. now she does that every time she needs to go out. I also made sure to take her out about every 2 hours so she had fewer accidents. good luck

1 mom found this helpful

Hi N.,
Training a dog is much like training a child. You learn to recognize their cues, and then teach them how to communicate to you. You know that when she starts to pace it is usually followed by poo. Take the opportunity to acknowledge this using whatever words, then take her outside and wait for it to happen. Then praise, praise, praise! Just like kids, this works better than scolding. I'm sure that she will want to learn to please you since it sounds like she has found a very loving home!

Good luck!

You have to catch her in the act to effectively scold her. You can stick her nose right close to the 'offense' and tell her "NO!"
Basically you have to do the thinking here. It may require having a specified area where she should poop. So take the poop from the carpet, lead her to the door, take her to the designated pooping area. And toss the offense.

Shepherds are smart. But you have to be one step ahead of her. When she goes out, you go out with her and when she pees and poops outside you praise her for being a good girl. She'll get the picture. And if it doesn't work, then you call a professional trainer for help.

I have a half shepherd, and she's sweet as can be. She'd rather be not in the house, but either in her kennel or outside. Problem is that she should be out longer or more often. She's also an escape artist. But the general consensus is that if you get involved in her life, playing with her, going for walks, going out when she needs to go to the bathroom, etc, she'll get the drift. like with a kid, consistency is essential.

I sat in the kitchen with my dog and let him out the minute he looked like he had to go. You will have to watch him, it sounds like the paceing is a cue to go. Even if you let him out and he doesn't go, it will be good practice for him to know you are there and willing to let him out. Glad you got a
dog that needed a good home.
L.

There is some great advise here. My mom is a big fan of Cesar Milan so that book may help with an older dog.
She also trains her dogs to ring a bell on the door handles. I thought it was strange at first but her German Shepard does ring the bells when he wants out. What she did was every time she would put him out she would ring the bells with him standing there. He now will ring them with his nose when he wants out wether to go to the bathroom or just to go out side sometimes its annoying :) but it works great for her. She has them both on the front door and back. It also works great for her to know when the grand kids come in and out of the house. or to let her know someone opened the door while she is there alone.
I would see if you can find a set that she isn't afraid of and just start letting her out every hour and ringing the bells before you open the door, Shepards are very intelligent dogs and it shouldn't take long for her to realize that is her key and the fact that she is safe in your house no other animals for her contend with love and praise should work it just may take a few weeks for her to become comfortable in your home, along with some an obiance train class that may help her come out of her shell.

Hi N.,

My name is J. and I have been working for Veterinarians for 28 years. We find that sometimes dogs know they need to go to the door, but don't know what to do after that. Then they wait as long as they can & when know one comes, accidents occur. Start back at basics. She should be brought outside after play, after she wakes & 20 minutes after she eats each meal. Then hang some jingle bells on the door handle and every time you take her through the door ring the jingle the bells. She will then associate jingling the bells w/ outside to go potty, then when she needs to go outside to go, she will learn to jingle the bells herself rather than waiting at the door hoping someone notices she is there. It's alot easier to teach a dog to jingle the bells than it is to teach them to bark at the door & much more pleasant to listen to!! Good luck!! J.

Hello N., The problem is that your new dog never learned to go outside, so she has no idea what you want from her. Pick up any poo from the house and place it outside where you want her to go. Dogs are scent motivated. Keep her on a leash when she is in the house so that there is no oppertunities for accedents. You can tie the lease to her crate or keep her with you where ever you go. Take her outside on a set time frame, every couple of hours at first. Set a timer if it helps. Take her to her spot outside and give her time to sniff around and go. If she does go then allow her to have an hour of freedom in the house with lots of praise and attention. If she doesn't go then put her back on the leash indoors and ignore her completely until her next vernture outside, which should be sooner than the 2 hour time frame. Give her food as soon as she gets up in the morning, and a couple of hours before bedtime. Allow her to have water after each trip outside. The rest of the time keep her food and water bowls up. This will train her body to go at regular times throughout the day. Don't scold her when she has accidents, it will only make her fearful of you, and more confused. By training yourself to her routine the dog will follow suit. Much like children wouldn't you say? LOL. Good luck.

Congratulations on your new dog. First off you are asking something of her that has never been asked, to care when she has to go. If she is use to a Kennel Run she could always go when she wanted. You need to treat her in respect like a new puppy. Take her out just after she gets up, after she eats and after she plays. Then keep an eye on her. As someone else said it does seem the pacing is a cue. Watch her like a hawk and when she starts pacing let her out, go out with her. Watch to see what she does right before she goes. It sounds like she may have a clue, but it is going to take time and a lot of positive reinforcement. Pay attention then Reward Reward Reward....for when she does it right.

Good luck
C. E

I have never dealt with potty training an older dog but it seems that you should watch her for signs that she has to go outlike someone said sniffing around. Even if she just went out. Go out with her every time and when you see her doing her business out there praise her alot, lots of petting and excited talking. Then when she is ready to come in give her a treat. You could also try letting her out every 1/2 hour until she gets the hang of it. Try also keeping her out there longer until she does go. If she was neglected then she needs the extra attention and love from you to know that people are fun to be around.

Hang a bell from the door handle. Teach her to ring the bell and then let her out...over and over and over. Then she'll get the relationship between the two. We were at our wits end with our dogs until somebody finally gave us this idea and it worked perfectly.

L.

I know of a couple books that are helpful with puppies and have been helpful for an older dog. I don't know about one that was neglected. But these may help ... my daughter is a dog trainer in another state and highly recommends these books. Many dog owners have raved about them.

Ian Dunbar: After You Get Your Puppy

Joel Walton: Positive Puppy Training Works

The library may have them if you want to look at them first and then decide if you want them for your personal reference.

~M.

Just wanted to let you know of a great book out there that may help with a lot of problems that you may experience. Its by Cesar Millan and its called "A Member of the Family" This guy goes by the "Dog Whisperer" and he is truly amazing. Also, I agree with the other responses about just watching him constantly for awhile so you get to know his cues and rewarding, rewarding, rewarding. I think its worth it to put in the time now so that you do not have problems later. I think its great that you gave a dog in need a loving home. Hang in there.

We also have a dog that won't let us know when he needs to go outside, so what I did was hang a string of bells by the door and everytime I took him out I would touch his nose to the bells until they made noise. It didn't take him to long to get it and now he just rings the bells when he needs to go out. Also, this dog is VERY shy and submissive, and this trick was actually told to me by a woman that foster for the Dachshund Rescue. She says it's the trick she teaches all her foster dogs...

Congratulations on your adoption! I also adopted a dog, he was 1 1/2 at the time, but had never lived in a house. Housebreaking was a real challenge, and we failed for about a month. Heres the thing: You need to know when a dog is about to go. It is their instinct to walk in a circle, sometimes sniffing, and then they will squat. You have to catch them before they squat. Which means you have to have your eyes on them 24/7. So after several failures on my part, the way that I did it, was to put him on a leash with me all the time in the house, and when he looked like he was going to go, I took him outside. Do all of the praising that you have already done. 2-3 days and he was totally trained. Once he starts doing it in the house, he has found a spot, and it is very hard to break him of that. so you MUST be diligent. I actually closed off the room to him that he was using to poop. Your dog thinks that she is suppossed to do it there because her scent is there. You have to show her that she needs to go outside when she paces, and she will get it. And to do that, you have to get her before she does it, hence the leash. I know it sounds goofy, but I'm telling you, it worked. My dog still doesn't bark or go to the door when he has to go out, he gives me a 'look,' and you have to figure out what your dogs method of communication is to you. Once you get this down, and he is secure in that, you can try to train him to go to the door, ring a bell, whatever. Once a dog is in their forever home, it can take them 2 years to feel secure and have their entire personality emerge because for many of them their life before you was so hard. This too will pass, quickly if you are diligent, and you will enjoy your sweetheart.
Dog behavior is actually quite predictable, you should look up your dog's breed (s) and see the personality traits for those, it may make your life easier to do that. If you still run into problems, a session/consultation with a dog trainer might be in order. Congratulations to both of you!

N.,

When you take her to the door, stop and whine a bit yourself and then let her out. It's the same way you'd teach a child a word.. you repeat it over and over. Do this with the dog and she'll get it.

Also, make sure you take her outside on a leash and not just let her out until the habit of going outside is completely learned. Even to pee. I know it will be a pain in the butt at first, but you will benefit greatly in the years to come. As soon as she's gone, bring her immediately back into the house. No playing, no running. She has to learn that going outside is just for potty and thats outsides only purpose right now. After she's gone, praise her and/or give her a treat.

I would also suggest that even if she's going, to say the sentence "go potty, go on go potty" or something similar. Believe it or not, she'll pretty much go on command after awhile when you say that. Very useful on cold nights, rainy, snowy, vacations, or when she's just plain distracted.

My girlfriend decided because I had mentioned liking Great Danes, that I just had to have one. Mind you I had not ever owned a dog before. Luckily, a friend from high school is a certified dog trainer and owns her own do-it-yourself dog bathing and grooming shop in Livonia. Although he was too big and too dog macho to be calm through the classes, I took the sheets home and found it very easy to train him as long as I was consistent.

Lastly, watch the circling or if she's staring at you. She's probably giving you "I really have to go" signals that are easy to miss right now since she's new to you.

I would love to talk with you, so if you'd like to email me we can exchange numbers. Good luck with everything and if you need me, I'm here.

L.
____@____.com

PS
although I spoke about whining at the door.. I didn't know about bells at the time. The choice is yours, the method is the same.. you have to do it every single time to show her and she'll pick it up :o))

I also recommend any of Cesar Milan's books. If its not happening, maybe consult a dog expert that uses his techniques. It's not impossible, you just have to figure out how to help this particular dog. Good luck.

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