Friday, April 1, 2011

How to Transition an Outdoor Dog Indoors

By Suzanne Alicie

If you adopt a dog from an animal shelter, chances are they will have been housed in an outdoor kennel. You might also find yourself providing a new home for a dog whose previous owners kept him outside. But you want your dog to be an integral part of the family, which means keeping him indoors where he can interact with you on a daily basis.  So, how do you get a dog who is accustomed to being able to go potty wherever he wants and who is not used to furniture and house rules, transitioned into an indoor dog?

Hopefully your outdoor dog knows some basic commands such as sit, stay, no and down. These are basic training words that all dogs should know. Even if he hasn’t been trained, you can still work with him and turn him into an indoor dog. The key thing to remember is that your dog is not a human. No matter how smart he is, he can’t know what is and is not allowed until you teach him.

Begin by bringing the dog inside on a leash several times a day. This allows you to let him explore the place while you are in control. He can sniff and check things out while you walk him through the house. When he gets near things that you don’t want him to become overly friendly with, a quick tug on the leash and saying the word NO in a firm voice will help with the indoor training.  This can be used to train him away from furniture, wiring, the kids’ toys and other things he might love to chew on and is unfamiliar with.

Have a place set up just for your dog with a bed, food and water dishes. It’s also a good idea to place some newspapers near the door for those inevitable accidents as your dog adjusts to being indoors. Find a way to secure your dog in this area temporarily using child gates. After several days of bringing him in and walking him around, letting him grab a bite of food out of his own new dog dish and then taking him back outside to go potty, you can move to the next step.

Bring the dog indoors and secure him in the area you have set up for him. However, don’t just leave him there alone and with no interaction. Be visible as you move about the house, talk to him and pet him to keep him from becoming agitated in his new environment. A few chew toys and CANIDAE TidNips™ treats will help to keep him happy. Take him out on the leash to go potty every hour and return him to his area.

After several hours you can let your dog go back outside. Repeat this process, keeping him indoors for longer lengths of time each day until you notice that he whines at the door when he needs to go potty, and you feel he’s ready to try a night indoors.

Transitioning an outdoor dog indoors is not impossible. But it does take time and patience as well as a lot of praise, love and understanding as your dog learns a whole new set of rules and commands. Expand your dog’s area a little more as you notice he is becoming accustomed to the way things work inside until he has the ability to roam freely throughout the house. Use consistent training methods. If he is not allowed on the furniture, don’t give in once and let him cuddle with you on the sofa; this will just confuse him when you tell him “no” later.

Be prepared for potty accidents and the inevitable chewing mishap. However, you’ll find that most dogs are quick learners and before you know it, your outdoor dog will be a real part of the indoor family life. Dogs are eager to please, and will bask in your attention and praise when they do well.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie


  1. Those all sound like great things to do to help the dog get used to being inside. I have never had to do that before but I would imagine that it can't be too hard. I certainly would have a fenced in yard so the dog could be outside a lot and not totally inside at first.

  2. MayzieMom here. Both Ranger and Mayzie were outdoor dogs before we got them and to be honest, house breaking them was a breeze. (I do think Ranger had quite a bit of house experience, however.) Sometimes I think it's easier with a dog who was an mostly-outdoor dog because they're used to going in the grass and not on a rug. It seems more natural to them.

    Something we found very helpful with Ranger was tethering him to us in the house and wherever we went, he went. This served two purposes: 1. It didn't give him a chance to make a mistake and 2. it helped him bond with us and learn the rhythm of the house. (We didn't do this with Mayzie because she was SO fearful that all she wanted to do was stay in her crate, which was her safe place. We felt it would be cruel to make her follow us around when she was so scared of living in a house for the first time.)

  3. That's a great post and it's very informative! Thanks for sharing us the tips too.

  4. Our black lab used to be indoors all the time and only went out to use the potty. We got an alarm system installed last month and she doesn't like to be inside now. The beeps and lady talking on the keypad scare her. We are doing out best to get her used to the sounds.

  5. Hi,
    This is such a lovely post. I am quite happy to read this post. It is quite unique and I really appreciate your efforts.I feel the tips given by you are really very helpful and I shall give them a try soon.

  6. Some great tips!

    I love the photo you posted too... so funny!

  7. a question: I have 6 indoor cats and 2 outdoor dogs. would like to make them indoor dogs. 6yr old husky and 2yr german shepherd. how to teach them not to chase the cats? but the leash idea might work and have them walk with me. do you think I could teach my outdoor dogs - inside dogs and get along with the cats. but how to not have them not eat the cat food.??


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