When housetraining a stray dog, assume that he has no experience with proper elimination and start from the beginning, just as you would with a puppy. Stray dogs likely have never been housetrained and may even need a bit of time to acclimate to living indoors. With regular bathroom breaks, positive reinforcement and constant monitoring, your new dog should soon understand how to properly eliminate where you designate.
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Establish a Regular Schedule
Feed your dog on a schedule so he'll eliminate at the same times each day. Regular meals also will reassure him that he'll routinely have food because he's been living on the streets.
Take your pup out for at least four bathroom breaks per day, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Always bring your pup out to eliminate first thing in the morning, just before bedtime at night, after meals and before he's left alone or crated.
Arrange to have a dog walker or friend take your pup out for an afternoon bathroom break if you're not around. This is especially important if he's left alone for more than four hours at a time.
Choose a Spot
Pick your pup's potty spot, which is where he can regularly go to eliminate, recommends the Cesar's Way website. Choose a quiet spot that is sheltered from the elements so your pooch won't be scared by inclement weather.
If you want your pup to eliminate indoors, pick a substrate such as newspaper or puppy pads for him to use. Keep in mind that a stray dog is likely more used to eliminating outdoors and may respond better to being taken outside to eliminate.
If your pup won't eliminate in his potty spot, have a friend's dog eliminate there. The scent will help draw your pooch to the spot to urinate or defecate.
Reward Proper Elimination
When you bring your pup to the spot where you want him to eliminate, give him a command like "potty" and wait for him to urinate or defecate. Reward your dog with a treat and praise when he eliminates, recommends the Dumb Friends League.
After eliminating, your pup can have 15 to 20 minutes of freedom indoors. Tether your pooch to you with a 6-foot leash for the rest of the time to prevent him from sneaking off and eliminating in the house, recommends the Humane Society of the United States. You also can crate him between bathroom breaks during his training.
Watch your pup for signs that he needs to eliminate, including whining, circling or pacing so you can take him to his potty spot without delay.
Deal With Accidents
If you catch your dog eliminating indoors, interrupt him by clapping your hands or shaking a can filled with a few coins. Immediately carry or guide him outside and bring him to his potty spot. Reward him with praise when he eliminates outside.
Clean any accidents with an enzymatic cleaner, recommends WebMD. These types of cleaners completely eliminate the odor of the urine or feces, which can attract your pup back to the area to eliminate again.
Don't punish your dog for eliminating in your home. This will only serve to frighten him and could lead to more accidents and behavioral problems.