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We are considering adopting a 13 month old shih tzo.  she is wee wee pad trained.  she is also in her third home, we would be the fourth!  will it be difficult to train her to go outdoors?  She is being given away because her owners are moving and cannot take her.  We don't know why her other owners gave her up.


Hi Barbara,

People give dogs up for all sorts of reasons (that I don't personally understand!) It could be true that they are really moving and can't take her. If you have snowy winters, you might find it convenient to have a dog that will happily eliminate on a pad, and I can see it being a good option if you need to leave your dog at home for a longer than usual time and can't get get home for a walk. But you can indeed train a dog to go to the bathroom outside. If she is truly house trained, she would sooner explode than soil in the house or on an area other than the pad.

The day you adopt her start a schedule of leashed walks about 4 or 5 hours apart so she will "go" outside and not feel the need to eliminate inside your home. Don't expect her to "ask" to go outside, keep to the schedule. Scroll down to where I discuss "verbal cues for eliminating and rewarding her for it" and give that a try from day one. It will help enforce what the walks are for. After a week or two, if she's not having accidents in your home, you can see how she does on just 3 or 4 walks a day, if that works better for you. If she's not house trained (there is no such thing as "partly trained"!) here's what to do:

It's not difficult to house train an adult dog, it requires supervision, containment, persistence and it takes patience, because it takes time. It means diligence on your part, because accidents that occur are the fault of the owner, not the dog. The dog is not trained, and doesn't know any better, so it can't be blamed. Don't give your dog the free run of your home. Accidents can happen in a second! Giving your dog the run of your home at this point is setting her up for a house training accident. Keep you dog in the same room with you so you become aware that she has to go to the bathroom. You might find it helpful to keep your dog's leash attach to her collar inside, to keep her beside you. Either hold the leash or attaching it your belt loop or to a nearby sofa or table leg.

If your dog is crate trained, put her in her crate anytime you're home and can't be keeping an eye on her, such as during your mealtimes or if you'd just like to relax, etc. Also put her in the crate whenever you leave your home, and for overnight. Just be sure you're using the correct sized dog crate, so she hasn't got room to both lay comfortably and soil in the crate.
If she's not crate trained, you could use a couple of child-gates to close off part of room, or use an indoor dog pen as the containment area. This is an example of an indoor dog pen:

If you choose to use part of a room or a dog pen as the containment area, lay a thick layer of newspaper over the floor of the entire containment area. This will make clean-ups easier. Unlike a dog crate, accidents are expected in these larger containment areas. Though preventing accidents from occurring in these containment areas will speed up the house training process. Be sure to take your dog for a walk just before putting her in her crate or containment area.

Have your dog sleep in your bedroom, in a crate or dog pen. This way, you'll know if she gets restless at night, a sign that she has to empty his bladder or bowels. If so, take her out. It's worth the effort because it will speed up house-training. Each accident in your home is a small setback and means the house training process will take longer.

Give your dog frequent opportunities to go to the bathroom outside, since you want her to learn that it's not okay to "go" in the house. On the walks, take her to quiet areas, if there is a place you can walk to with ground cover, such as shrubs that can help her to not feel exposed, or vulnerable (some dogs prefer this). It could help if you took your dog to an area where other dogs have been known to go to the bathroom. Using a longer leash, or one of those leashes that automatically extend in length can help, it gives her some space from you.  

Teach your dog verbal cues for eliminating and rewarding her for it. As she begins to potty outside, cheerily say "Go potty" (or any short phrase that you'd  like to use). This will help establish the verbal cue or command word. Always use the same cue phrase. When your dog finishes going potty, say "Good Dog!" in a happy, confident tone. Make it clear that you are very happy with her for what she just did. At least in the beginning it helps to reinforce the verbal praise with a small memorable treat, such as a tiny bit of hot dog, or cheese. Continue using the same cue word or phrase during the walk, if she hasn't done "everything" she needs to do.

If after several minutes of circling around your selected outdoor potty area your dog doesn't eliminate, take her back inside and put her in her crate or containment area, and try again in about twenty minutes. If you know she needs to "go", letting her have the run of your home at this point is inviting an accident.

Take her outside often, especially 20 minutes after eating a meal or drinking a lot of water. Controlling when your dog eats helps you regulate when she needs to pee or poop. What goes in on schedule, comes out on schedule! The moment she looks like she's thinking about going to the bathroom whisk her outside. Signs that she needs to go to the bathroom include: pacing, whining, sniffing the floor, circling, squatting, or suddenly leaving the room you're in (or going off to a corner). When you see that she's getting the hang of what you expect of her (less accidents occurring in your home), then you can cut back to three or four daily leashed walks a day. Notice I say "walks", your dog needs you to praise her when she goes to the bathroom outside. If you just left her outside in a yard by herself, she would not get the training and reinforcement for the appropriate behavior you're trying to teach her.

Scolding for accidents in the home is counter productive. You can only reprimand if you catch her in "the act". A dog doesn't usually make the connection that going in the house is bad, rather it learns that going to the bathroom in front of a person is bad. So a common result is that the dog will seek out-of-view places to do her business, such as a back room, dark hallway or behind a couch. If you see your dog in the process if having an accident indoors firmly tell her "NO!" but resist the urge to shout. It's better to quickly shuttle her outside instead of scolding, and then praise her if she goes to the bathroom outside. Dogs learn by praise, not by yelling.

Be sure to clean areas in your home where accidents have occurred. Use an enzymatic cleaner, such as Nature's Miracle or Simple Solution. If the areas aren't cleaned correctly, your dog will be able to smell where she's gone before, and be tempted to remark those areas.

Read more about house training here:

I hope I've been a help.
Best of luck!



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To date, I've owned 7 dogs, all of which have lived into old age. Having cared for them in all stages of life, I feel I can offer sound advice to other pet owners, and people considering getting a dog. I am knowledgeable about the AKC (American Kennel Club) dog breeds, training and exercise, caring for sick and elderly pets, feeding, as well as many holistic treatments pets can benefit from. My only request is that you write me using standard English and punctuation.


My life experience in this field is more like "on the job training" rather than an actual degree in animal welfare. You may benefit from my experiences over the past 30 years. Aside from the dogs I've owned, I'm also involved in "breed rescue" and have fostered several dogs, all of which have been adopted to wonderful "forever homes". I find helping people who want a dog very rewarding.

Real life experience, based on over 30 years of dog ownership.

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