Potty Training An Adult Dog

The need for potty training an adult dog often arises following time spent in an adoption or rescue centre, but there are other reasons why an older dog may regress and break his toilet habits.

Explore other reasons for a dog's lapse in toilet habits, about housebreaking an older dog, and look forward to a dry house again!

Potty Training An Adult Dog: Reasons for Lapses

The need to potty train an adult dog often arises following time spent in an adoption or rescue centre. Their toilet habits often regress when they reach their new home.

Over-Confinement In Kennels

Potty training an adult dog like this black and tan English cocker spaniel will mean going back to basics.Potty training an adult dog - back to basics!

When the dog was confined in its kennel for too long and simply couldn't wait any longer, it just had to pee (or poop!) in the kennel.

Where this happens often, it's no wonder the dog gets used to peeing in its own den. He gets out of the habit of waiting to be let out, and his toilet habits simply fly out of the window!

Stress And Anxiety

Any change in environment or routine can cause stress, which can impact housetraining. 

The stress and anxiety associated with moving to a new home can be quite considerable for an adult dog.

Your adopted dog will need time to settle into his new home, and you'll both need time to get to know each other. In particular, you will need to understand the signs that your dog shows to let you know that he wants to go out.

He will need time to get to know you, his new environment, and your routines.

Other Reasons Your Cocker May Soil Your Home

If your dog isn't a rescue, there may be other reasons for an interruption in your dog's toilet habits. For example:

Golden cocker spaniel in the garden with lush vegetation.Come on Mum, I've peed already, now throw the ball!

Changes Within The Family While Potty Training An Adult Dog

A recent addition to the family, for example, another pet, a new baby, or the loss of a family member, can cause an interruption in your dog's toilet habits.

Your Dog May Have Health Issues or Behavioural Problems

You must establish that the need for potty training an adult dog hasn't arisen because of an underlying health problem or isn't simply a behavioural issue.

That's why it's essential to get the green light from your vet that your dog is healthy.

Your vet may refer you to a dog behaviourist if it's a behavioural problem.

Potty Training An Adult Dog - Is He Marking His Territory?

If your dog believes another animal is encroaching on his territory, it will pee (or even poop), marking its territory to warn off other dogs.

Not all dogs are territorial, but those that are will cover their area with their scent whenever they get the opportunity!

Do You Have A Submissive Cocker Spaniel?

If your Cocker Spaniel's temperament is submissive in nature, he may pee with excitement when meeting someone for the first time or meeting a favourite member of your family.

The same may apply if your dog feels frightened or bewildered. For example, if your dog is afraid of noisy jets, sirens, etc., he may lose control of his bladder or bowels. This may be the result of your dog not having adequate socialization.

I know of a Cocker Spaniel that is frightened of storms, especially the sound of thunder. Whenever a storm is brewing, his owner closes all blinds and curtains, puts on all televisions, and plays music to dull the sound of the storm.

It works too!

Toilet Training Dogs!

When potty training an adult dog, it's best to adopt a structured and consistent approach, especially if you're going to be successful sooner rather than later!

You may be housetraining your Cocker for a second time. You may have rescued an adult Cocker Spaniel, and its toilet habits could be better! Or any of the reasons mentioned above. Either way, a structured approach is necessary.

However, if you're puppy housetraining, you'll probably need to approach the task in a much more structured and detailed way.

The principal reason is that a young puppy cannot hold his bladder or bowels for long at this tender age. It will need many more opportunities to take toilet breaks.

Golden cocker spaniel standing against a white backgroundMum, I need to go out to pee!

Nor will he understand your commands, as he won't yet have had puppy obedience training, and he most certainly won't understand what 'NO' means!

Whether you're toilet-training puppies or house-training dogs, I recommend reading this potty-training a puppy article before you read this page to better understand the process.

Your cocker spaniel needs to understand that doing his 'toilet' in your home is a definite 'no-no'. He needs to learn that the correct place to relieve himself is outside the house, in the garden and/or during his daily walk(s).

Dogs and puppies will try their best not to soil their own dens, which is why crate training your dog can be a great help when housebreaking an adult dog or puppy.

Of course, I can't guarantee there won't be any little 'accidents' if you crate your cocker spaniel, although touch wood, our Cocker hasn't yet had an 'accident' whilst in his crate.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If an adult dog suddenly begins to pee and poop indoors, where he was previously fully house-trained, and there hasn't been any upset or change to family circumstances (for example - an additional pack member (human or canine) or moving house), it's essential to understand that your Cocker's new behaviour may be the result of an underlying health problem.

In these circumstances, you should take your pet to see his vet to ensure there's nothing medical that needs attending to.

Toilet Training Dogs? Try To Catch Him Before He Acts!

You need to be constantly alert when potty training an adult dog. This will help you to see a pattern emerge which may indicate that your dog wants to do his toilet:

  • He may begin to sniff the floor with some urgency;
  • He may turn round and round in small, tight circles, almost as if he's going to sit;
  • If he begins to squat, it's your signal to move quickly!
Golden Cocker Spaniel standing in the snow.I love this snow, even the yellow patches!
  • Holding his tail high could be a sign that your dog is about to poop;
  • If he's crying or whimpering at the door, he's asking to be let out.

The second you see your dog displaying any of the above signs in your home, take him outside immediately.

If you've chosen a particular part of the garden for him to use as his toilet, quickly take him to that spot.

Heap loads of praise on him when he gets it right.

If he gets it wrong and pees or poops in your home and you fail to catch him in the act, don't chastise him; he won't understand what he's done wrong.

Simply clean it up and get on with your day.

If you catch him in the act or just as he's about to poop or pee, say 'No' in a firm voice.

Your Cocker will link your disapproval with this act or his intentions, and he'll soon begin to understand what you want from him.

Leave it for more than a few seconds, and he won't make that link.

If you're too harsh with him, there's the possibility that you'll frighten him so much that the next time he tries to hide it, he'll poop behind the sofa or behind the curtains!

Thoroughly Disinfect Soiled Areas

While potty training an adult dog, your dog will inevitably have at least one little 'accident' inside your home and probably on your best rug!

Although the spot may look and smell clean to us, unless you've used a special urine cleaner, your dog will still be able to smell the ammonia in his urine.

This will often encourage your dog to pee again in the same spot.

I recommend using a specially formulated pet urine deodorizer which can be bought relatively cheaply from any good pet store.

Alternatively, your vet may sell it over the counter.

Another option would be to try a biological household cleaner and white vinegar to eliminate residual odour.

Potty Training An Adult Dog: Summary

When potty training an adult dog, it's essential to ensure your pet is allowed outside regularly to his toilet to help minimise any little 'accidents' in the home.

Establishing a strict routine such as this will help to get your adult Cocker back into his regular toilet routine.

Praise your dog when he gets it right and only scold him when he gets it wrong - so long as you catch him doing it or within seconds of pooing or peeing in the house.

Never punish your dog for little accidents - all you really need to do is let him know it's unacceptable.

As mentioned earlier, housetraining an older a dog will need a comprehensive strategy, but whether you're potty training an adult dog or a puppy, you need a plan!

Follow the advice given in our article on potty training a puppy, together with the advice on this page. Your dog should be fully house-trained in the blink of an eye!

I hope you've found this article on toilet training an adult dog helpful.

If you still need to be convinced of the benefits of crate training a Cocker Spaniel, why not take a look at this article. I'm confident it will convince you that dog crates aren't cruel and offer many benefits for you and your dog.

Photo Credits for Toilet Training Dogs:
1. Isselee at Dreamstime.com - https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-close-up-english-cocker-spaniel-2-years-old-image22516437
2. Copyright About Cocker Spaniels
3. BiancaVanDijk at https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-animal-mammal-cocker-spaniel-6538093/
4. Copyright About Cocker Spaniels