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How to House Train an Adult Dog

Simple tips to help your Staffordshire bull terrier master the basics of toilet training

If you’ve rescued or adopted an adult Staffy, you may find that some of your new pet’s manners aren’t as impeccable as they could be. Unfortunately, one of the areas where some older dogs slip up is in the house training department.

If they have been in a shelter for a long time, or if were never properly house trained in the first place, your dog may need to brush up on the toilet training basics.

The good news is that old dogs can in fact learn some new tricks. In fact, toilet training an adult Staffordshire Bull Terrier could even be easier than toilet training a puppy, so keep reading to find out how to make those little “accidents” a thing of the past.

How to House train an adult staffy

Why an Older Dog Might Not be House Trained

There are several reasons why an older dog may not seem be perfectly house trained, such as:

  • He/she was never house trained in the first place
  • Their previous owners may have kept them outdoors
  • The dog may have come from a shelter where it wasn’t taken outside to go to the toilet
  • The stress or anxiety of a new home
  • The dog could be marking its territory

There’s also the chance that your Staffy’s toileting troubles could be caused by an underlying health issue. If you’re worried that this may be the case, get it checked out by your vet before you start house training.

Does Every Dog Need House Training?

Even if your new Staffy was house trained in their previous home, that doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be any accidents as he or she adjusts to life with you.

For example, your dog still needs to learn exactly where you want them to take care of business in their new home. You also need to learn to recognise when your pet is signalling that they want to go to the toilet.

With this in mind, it’s best to start house training an adult dog as soon as you bring them home. The good news is that adult dogs are much better at controlling their bladders for long periods than puppies so there should be fewer accidents.

The following simple tips will help you on your journey to toilet training success.

Before you Start: Odour Removal

It’s a good idea to buy a good-quality odour-eliminating spray before you even bring your dog home. If your dog does have any accidents in their new home, you’ll then be able to clean them up thoroughly. Just make sure you use a product specifically designed to remove pet odours.

This is important for a couple of reasons:

Looking after your home. You obviously don’t want your home to smell like dog urine, but simply wiping away the liquid isn’t enough to eliminate odours.

Stopping repeat offenders. Remember, your Staffy’s sense of smell is a whole lot stronger than yours, so removing any trace of the odour is essential to stop them going in the same spot in future.

Here's one that is popular and designed to eliminate repeat-marking:

Dog odour removal spray

House Training Tips for Adult Dogs

Establish a Routine

A consistent routine is key to successfully house training your dog. That’s why you should put your Staffy on a consistent daily feeding schedule, and remove their food between meals. This will help set your dog's body clock so it can synchronise with your daily schedule.

You’ll also need to take your dog outside on a frequent basis so he/she has a chance to urinate and defecate. This includes a toilet break when they first wake up in the morning, before going to bed for the night and prior to being confined or left home alone. At least four toilet trips a day is the recommended minimum for a house trained adult dog.

In the early days, however, you’ll want to give your plenty dog more opportunities to go to the toilet — the more chances they have to empty their bladder, the sooner they'll get the hang of it. In an ideal world, you'd able to take a few days off work after bringing your dog home so you can take them out as often as possible and employ the training techniques consistently in the early days.

Make Use of a Crate

A crate can be an extremely useful tool when house training an adult Staffy. Crate training not only gives your dog a safe and quiet place to retreat to when they need some time alone, but it also makes them much less likely to go to the toilet inside.

Dogs don’t like to soil the areas where they sleep or eat, so your pup will be very reluctant to go to the toilet in their crate. Just ensure you:

Choose a crate that has enough room for your dog to stand up, lie down and turn around, but is not so big that they feel like they can just go to the toilet in the corner.

Give your Staffy plenty of outdoor bathroom breaks.

Never use a crate for punishment — remember, a crate is meant to be a safe space for your dog.

If you start crate training your dog as soon as you bring it home, house training should be a whole lot easier.

Go Outside With Your Dog

Don’t just let your dog into the garden and assume they’ll answer nature’s call straight away. Some dogs in this situation will simply turn all their attention to how they can get back inside with you or exploring, rather than focusing on toileting.

Instead, put your staffy on a lead and take them out yourself. This way you’ll be able to encourage them to do their business in a suitable spot, and to praise your dog for doing the right thing. However, make sure not to distract him/her with any games or play time before the job is finished.

It’s also important that you don’t try to rush things. Unless they’re “busting” to go, many dogs will need to spend a couple of minutes sniffing around and stretching their legs first. If you take these as signs that your pooch doesn’t need to go, there’s a very real risk that they'll have an accident when you get back inside so be patient.

Reward a Job Well-Done

If you want your dog to go to the toilet in a particular spot, you’ll need to let it know when it has done the right thing. This is where treats and praise come in handy, but you’ll need to remember a few simple tips:

Give treats immediately. If you wait until you’ve gone back inside to give your dog a treat, they won’t associate the tasty snack with going to the toilet outside. Have a treat ready to go and give plenty of praise immediately after they go to the toilet.

Use high-value treats. Reward your Staffy with their favourite treat as soon as they have finished. Remember, you want to teach them that toileting in the right spot can lead to great things, so give them a treat that will be highly valued.

Shower your dog with with praise. Don’t be afraid to go a little over the top with your praise while your dog is learning the house training basics. Show them how impressed you are with their toileting skills and they will be much more likely to go to the toilet in the same place in the future.

Learn Your Dog's Signals

Different dogs have different ways of letting you know that they need to go to the toilet. These can include:

Sniffing the floor

Walking around in circles

Whining

Pacing

Leaving the room or even walking to the door

This is your Staffy’s way of telling you they need to go outside ASAP. When you notice any of these signs, take your pet outside to the usual toileting spot immediately.

More Toilet Training Tips for Older Dogs

Here are a few more quick tips you can use to make house training your Staffordshire bull terrier (or most other dogs, for that matter) a little bit easier.

Learn from prior house training mistakes

Some dogs who haven’t been properly house trained in the past might have some incorrect ideas about where they should go to the toilet. For example, let’s say your dog got in trouble every time their previous owner saw them urinating in the house but the behaviour wasn't actually corrected. This may have taught the dog to think that there’s nothing wrong with urinating inside, provided that no-one catches them in the act. You’ll need to start house training from scratch to correct this problem and show them where they need to go.

Patience is a virtue

Never punish your dog or get angry at them for having an accident — this will only confuse and frighten it. It might even prompt them to sneak away and urinate somewhere out of sight in the house. Instead, keep a cool head and focus on rewarding your dog when they do the right thing.

Catching your dog in the act

If you see your dog toileting inside, make a noise to interrupt (but not frighten) him/her. Take them to the designated bathroom spot straight away and reward them with a treat and praise if they go to the toilet there.

Use the same spot

Dogs like to go to the toilet in the same spot, so choose your pet’s "toilet area" carefully. It’ll need to be easy to access quickly in an emergency, but obviously not in an area you regularly need to walk through.

Use soiled towels

If your dog does have an accident inside, place the towel you use to clean it up in the place where you want it to have its' bathroom breaks. This will help your dog understand that this is the correct spot to go to the toilet.


House training an adult dog really is a lot easier than you might think. While it won’t happen immediately, with a clear plan and a patient approach, your Staffy will be going to the toilet in the right place before you know it.

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