House Training The Dog – Again

Have you ever had a house training problem —  with a 3-year-old dog?

As you know, a 3-year-old dog is old enough to be house trained – in fact you probably went through house training earlier as a puppy (i.e., 3 months of age). Well now that puppy is a 3-year-old dog, and you find yourself dealing with house soiling all over again. Maybe your dog is house soiling when the you are gone from the house or even when you are home but are preoccupied — like in the shower or somehow not giving the dog your full attention. The first thing you should ask yourself is, “What’s changed?”

This can happen with dogs — not all dogs but some dogs — that don’t have structure in their lives or have lost that structure. They lack or have lost a clear leader to which they can turn for guidance. And some dogs are more fragile than others, which means that in a very unstructured environment, arbitrary changes that come about in their life can often times have adverse affects on them resulting in house soiling issues. It may be something imperceptible to you.

Here’s just a few of the things that can cause problems in house soiling:

  • new puppy or dog
  • new baby
  • moving
  • divorce
  • new house mate
  • company that comes and stays for an extended period of time (i.e., a week or more)

The one thing that all of these changes have in common is that it challenges the dog’s “pack status” or routine because in most every instance, the owner is forced to divert their attention to other matters. This causes the already unstable house dog to “worry” about its place in the pack. House soiling often follows.

A once-trained dog just needs reassurance of your leadership and their place. Sometimes it can be an easy fix by simply revisiting some basic house training rules. You can use temporary crating or gating when you can’t watch your dog.

But it goes without saying that dogs place extreme high value on solid leadership and a strong foundation of routines on which they can count. The more fragile the dog, the more they are affected by change.

As always, be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2011

2 replies
  1. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    If your previously 6 y/o house trained dog has taken up marking his territory in your home, something is stressing him out and causing him to possibly feel insecure. It would be very difficult to evaluate and recommend a course of action with this little information. I would suggest getting with a positive reinforcement trainer qualified to work in your area of need. Check the website for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers,, and do a trainer search for your area. That I would do first thing. I would be happy to do a phone consult if you would want to call the office and set it up 713-728-0610. Sorry for no solution but I would need to dig for more information. Nothing may have changed in your or his routine but something is in his relationship with you is causing him to be stressed. With some digging, it will surface.

  2. Sharon Reynolds
    Sharon Reynolds says:

    I have a 6 year old Rat Terrier – he has used a dog door to go outside for about 2 years. I got 2 new chairs for my living room and within 1 week he was urinating on the chairs. This has progressed to the couch (not new). He no long uses the dog door to go outside except to do “Number 2”. Nothing else has changed in his or my routine – how do I stop that behavior?

    Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.