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March 31, 2014
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Question: We adopted a dog about 5 months ago and she's about 95% house trained. How do we fix this last 5%?

Hi Cindy,

My husband and I have a spayed female mix, approx. 1 ½ - 2 years old, we adopted 5 months ago. We have a dog door that gives our pooches 24/7 access to our fenced backyard, so they are able to go out to do their business as needed. Our two older dogs never defecate or urinate in the house, and this younger one does not about 95% of the time…it’s that other 5% that I’m trying to figure out how to resolve. It would seem she knows she’s supposed to do her business outdoors, as that’s primarily where she goes. She tends to run in the wooded area of the yard, so we can’t always see if she’s "taking care of business" when she’s out there… not to mention it’s dark outside when we get up and nearly dark when we come home.

While sometimes we don’t know when she urinates in the house, other times we have caught her doing so in the early morning. She is crated overnight, and if she does not go immediately out the dog door we open the door and shoo her out with the others. She always runs out eagerly and returns in a minute or two, but apparently doesn’t always relieve herself while she is out there because we have caught her doing so on one of the rugs in the house. In these cases, we scold her loudly, pick her up, put her out, and tell her "go outside" (our verbal cue). We always clean up with something that deodorizes the scent so she is not drawn to the same spot in the future.

So to summarize, she has access to the outdoors, almost always uses it, and is healthy. What should we do to fix this last 5%?

Thanks for any help you can offer!

Cindy's Response:


I simply would not allow a dog that is not house trained reliably to have free run of my home.  Being 95% house trained is kind of like being a "little bit pregnant."  :)  You either are house trained or you aren't.

I would keep her on a leash in the house, crated when I wasn't home or couldn't supervise and I would go outside with her every single time and make sure I saw her do her business outside. Use a flashlight if it's dark out. There are no shortcuts to it. I would not allow her to be using a dog door at all right now.

What you are experiencing is why when I am potty training a dog I go outside with them on a regular schedule. I want to know they are using the bathroom outside so I can give them positive feedback to reinforce that choice. I take away their freedom inside to keep them from practicing the wrong thing.

You may benefit from the video Pack Structure for the Family Pet and we also have a number of eBooks that may be helpful. There is one specifically on house training issues. 

Cindy Rhodes


Hi Cindy,

Thanks for your help with this issue… I’ll definitely check out the eBooks/videos. I love your comment about "a little bit pregnant," haha!

For more questions on this topic, see our Q&A on House Training.

We get a number of Q&As every week, if you would like to read this week's Q&As, click here and check out the 'Recent Questions' section!

Have a question for Ed & Cindy? Try the Leerburg Search Engine. This search engine was written specifically for Leerburg by our in house IT manager. Our search engine is specific to Leerburg and only searches and the Leerburg web forum. If you can't find the answer to your question by using our search engine, you can email Cindy here at Leerburg at If you have your spam filter on, make sure you set it to receive our replies!!!

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