Dog Training: House Training Dogs

In my dog training business, I often get called out for house training dogs that are old enough to be house trained.

Usually the dog has been house trained as a puppy and did well. Then about the 18 to 24 month age, he begins soiling the house.

Why? A change occurred in the dog’s environment such as a second dog coming in or something is wrong in the relationship between the dog and the owner

If the dog is just under 12 months of age, a poor house training program may be the cause.

Or, the owner failed to provide the dog with enough structure to feel very secure in what his role was. Then the dog may take to soiling in the house or marking territory to feel more secure.

Dogs can become insecure about their role

But what creates these insecurities?

Let’s look at the case of William, an older gentleman who adopted a dog named Skippy at 12 months of age. William wanted companionship and Skippy fit the bill to a “T”. It was love at first sight!

House Soiling

William doted on Skippy day and night. Skippy slept with William and was with him practically 24/7 except when William went to his part time job and out to dinner occasionally.

A number of things created insecurities in Skippy. Too much unearned love and affection (the constant doting) reinforced Skippy’s expectation of running the show and getting attention and love constantly. When Skippy got into things that weren’t his and William corrected him that was a mixed message to Skippy.

A lack of structure was the icing on the cake. Skippy was not required to earn anything. This began to create his free-floating anxiety about who was doing what for whom. With no clear leadership from William in sight, Skippy felt compelled to take charge.

This inconsistency in structure and leadership caused anxiety and tension in Skippy who began to mark territory inside the home which made him feel more secure and relieved his tension in the process.

A change in family dynamics also created complications

About a year after William adopted Skippy from the rescue group, he was asked if he (and Skippy) would be interested in fostering a rescue dog. William thought Skippy would enjoy the company so he agreed to foster a small dog.

Not knowing anything about dogs, William brought the Foster dog directly into the house and introduced him to Skippy. Needless to say, Skippy was fit to be tied! Half of William’s attention now went to the foster dog and this didn’t set too well with Skippy.

Skippy did not like another dog in his territory. His house soiling got worse as he increased his peeing and pooping.

A diet change was also in order

Skippy was all of 15 pounds and with the amount of food William was serving, one cup twice daily plus all the table scraps and treats was way too much food for Skippy, thereby adding to the house soiling dilemma.


Here’s what ultimately resolved the house soiling issues:

The foster dog was adopted to another family – Skippy was so happy!
Skippy’s food intake was reduced to match his ideal weight.
Skippy was put on a dog training program of 3 times daily for 2 minutes each to give him a sense of working for William rather than William following Skippy’s lead of “nudge/pet.”

A new house training program was instituted which included:

• Breaking the cycle of inside elimination by supervising Skippy on a leash or containing him in a gated area small enough that he would not eliminate in the house.
• Rewarding him every time he went outside
• Catching mistakes before they happened.
• Skippy now slept on his own bed next to William until everything was well under control. Later on the plan was to reinstitute sleeping on the bed but with rules of sit to earn the right to get up on the bed.

A good six weeks have gone by with no house soiling issues. There were no opportunities given to soil other than outside in the appropriate designated areas.

Dogs can be very sensitive to changes in family dynamics as well as emotional influences in relationships with their owners. This combination can have a devastating affect on both owner and dog as witnessed by William and Skippy.

So, what did you think?  I truly hope you found answers and hope for helping your dog.

“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog. 

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.