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Buying an young dog not housetrained


New member
I'm new to the forum and planning to buy a cavalier as our first family pet. We were considering a puppy but I've come to realise that is more work than would could commit to right now as my youngest child is only 17 months. My other kids are 8 and 5. My 5 year old really wants a dog as do I so I made an enquiry about buying an older male cavalier from a breeder who no longer wants to put him in shows and he is about to turn 2. Everything sounds perfect - reputable local breeder, healthy dog, affectionate, likes kids, and breeder said if we couldn't keep him for whatever reason she would take him back & refund our money. Downside is that she mentioned he was not house trained as he spent a lot of time outdoors presumably with her other cavaliers. She didn't seem to think this would be too hard to work on as she said he is quite smart and would catch on quick.

I am concerned however that buying an older dog not house trained might make things tricky which is what we were hoping to avoid and one reason why we wanted to skip puppy stage. Hoping to get some advice on whether people think this would be quite a lot of work or if the training with a 2 year old could be ok. I am not naive enough to think buying a mature dog means we never have to train them because of course we would, but we want to keep the dog inside so house training is key and if I am going to need to invest a lot of time into that anyway then maybe that negates some of the advantages of buying a mature dog?
Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming here BEFORE you get this dog. There and owners on here who just bought the cute little doggie but had NO idea what they were getting into.

I would NOT get this dog in fact I would RUN AWAY from this breeder as fast as I could. There are a few "red flags" that go off for me. First NO good breeder especially a show breeder who would house/keep any dog mostly outside. NEVER- anyone who knows and cares a fig for this breed would NEVER do that. Cavaliers are NOT suited to be outdoor dogs only (well personally I don't think any dog is) I bet bottoms to donuts this dog will have many many behavior issues due to the manner he has been raised up to this point. I farther would guess he is not as healthy as the breeder states.

Not to sound like a brat, but you have a lot to learn about cavaliers BEFORE you decide to own one. You are in the right place, there is TONS of wonderful information on this site to help you figure out what a good breeder really is. Please take the time to learn.

Personally, I think cavaliers and kids make a perfect match HOWEVER it take a lot of work. You have to train the kids, the dog, the kids again, the kids some more and oh yeah husbands too. Any dog could become a fear biter if ears are pulled, the dog is pestered when eating or sleeping. You are taking on a huge undertaking by bring a dog into the house with 3 kids 8 and under. It is going to take a lot of your "free" time which I know as the mother of 3 is nonexistence to begin with. To me it does not matter about the age of the dog, sometimes I think it would be harder to retrain an older dog than train/mold a puppy to learn your way from day one. Again I am only trying to be helpful here but if you are concerned you will not want to have the extra work of housebreaking a puppy perhaps your family is not ready for a dog. Housebreaking a puppy is 70% easier that potty training a child (to me anyway).

I have 3 kids myself, mine are older 17, 13 and 5. When I got my first ever puppy Fletcher my cavalier my youngest was 4 and yes it was a LOT of work. Almost like bringing a new human baby home except he was mobile from day one. I knew it and was completely ready and happy to do the extra work. Housebreaking was easy, training my little one to be respectful then training Fletcher to proper manners was the hard part. And I did not do it without mistakes, I made them. Fletcher is 20 months old now and we still work on both kid and dog training. Its a ongoing thing.

If you still want to go ahead with a cavalier now you need to check out rescue groups. These dog have been foster with other cavalier owners and has learned each dogs personality and can better match the right dog to your family.
hmmmm....tough decision. Housebreaking an older dog that has been outside most of his life is easier than trying to housebreak a dog that has been allowed to pee in the house. Dogs are conditional animals which means they do what they do because it becomes a pattern. If he has always done his business on grass he will want to continue to do his bathroom business on the grass. For you this would be a plus because he will be so much easier to housebreak. However because he is a male he might have the urge to mark in the house. This is easy to train, just follow him around the house for a week and whenever he lifts or thinks of lifting his leg shout "no". I have done this with many foster dogs. Also provide him with plenty of potty breaks during the day. I also suggest crate training the dog so you can lock him in the crate when you cannot watch him. Basically you will be training him like a puppy but his bladder is bigger so able to hold it longer!
I meant tough decision because this is your first dog and you didn't want a puppy but an already trained dog. Housebreaking an older dog is the same as you housebreak a puppy. Although you have an advantage of the dog might already like to go on grass, and the dog's bladder is larger.
I think maybe the best way to consider this is: are you ready for the lifetime commitment of another permanent 17 month old? :)

A dog -- regardless of age -- is going to always need that amount of time, attention, and care if you want to provide an adequate home. The house needs to be permanently dog-proofed as it is toddler-proofed, and a dog will destroy things, get scik, have accidents just as a toddler will and when sick, housetraining is not going to be a factor. tHis will not be for a year or two but for life.

Also, you will need to have the dog and the children under constant supervision at all times -- most children younger the 9 really cannot be left alone with a dog and never ever younger than 5, especially not toddlers or babies. This is to protect both children and dog. Pinned at the top of the training section is a post and numerous links on this issue and training pointers. :)

For these reasons many breeders and most rescues will not home puppies or adult dogs to home with kids under the age of about 7 because people typically though well intentioned, very much underestimate the time and effort involved. Housetraining actually is likely the least of the responsibilities. Either way, an adult dog is going to be 100% easier than any puppy (no way I would suggest a puppy in your situation, with a 17 month old child). In your shoes I would also not take a dog that has never been housetrained at all, as though this will likely be an easier housetraining task it is still going to be time consuming and the dog has no clue. Personally, I would not go near a breeder who leaves all her dogs outside and in kennels either -- this is a people-loving companion breed and a breeder that keeps the dogs so much outside of family activity and household life as to have a dog totally unhousetrained just signals they are not raising or keeping their own dogs in line with what almost anyone who owns this breed will insist is a very basic -- indoor, home life.

Any dog, even a housetrained dog, is likely to have some initial accidents but you will face many weeks of intensive work to housetrain an outdoor dog and they are not always housetrainable despite what the breeder is saying. Some simply never fully get the idea, and if I were homing such a dog I would tell a family exactly that. I homed many like this. I have one such rescue dog myself and she is still not fully reliable at age 8, after over 4 years living an indoor life with me. However she will no longer go if I am around but could not be left on her own and expected not to have the occasional accident. This doesn't matter to me as dogs are inside on a tile floor but obviously is a potential health issue for kids especially toddlers.

All that said: I ran cavalier breed rescue for many years over here in Ireland and did home at times to young families, that on a personal home visit, indicate that they would indeed be able for the demands of a dog. This generally meant to a home where parents had owned dogs as either teens or adults -- not simply had one way back when young as parents then tended to do all the real work.

Whether you make this commitment is your choice of course and that of a breeder or rescue, but be aware of the potential health issues and costs, insure the dog, and read the links on the kids and cavaliers post recommended above -- and be very honest about what you want from having a dog )a small child wanting one is the worst reason -- a child will almost always quickly lose interest; at age 5 will need constant supervision and dog will need a safe pen away from the child much of the time, and the child will not be able to be responsible for feeding, daily walks, vet care etc. One regular reason I got cavaliers into rescue in the first place was from families who got a dog for the kids, who then lost all interest once the (brief) novelty wore off.

There are wonderful reasons for getting a dog into family life too!! But be aware of the time and effort and costs, especially unexpected costs related to health in many purebred dog and this breed in particular, and consider what happens to a dog if everyone goes back to work once kids are in school, etc. All these things can create a future issue.

If all those elements are on your radar and well-considered, then a dog could be a great addition :D -- but personally I would avoid that breeder and that dog.
Thank you all so much for the advice. I think we will put the dog plans all on hold for now. I had been doing loads of research - downloading e books, Ian Dunbar guides, researching cavalier health info, contacted a few breeders, reading threads here and I think from all that I have decided that we have found the right breed but the timing is not right.

I thought we might get away with getting a dog sooner rather than later if we avoided puppies but yes this particular dog/breeder doesn't sound right for us & thanks for helping confirm my gut feel. The outdoor comment did raise a red flag for me too but I guess I was giving the breeder the benefit of the doubt assuming that perhaps when owning multiple dogs maybe they end up outside a bit more than usual and thought I would reserve judgement until I went and visited and asked more questions. However from the responses here I've come to realise that if we are to get a dog with young kids we really need to find a young dog (but not a puppy) that is socialised already with kids, is raised in the house, is house trained, has the right temperament for us, is sourced from the right breeder & isn't on the opposite side of the country. No tall order there! :) It's fine though as we have time on our side, so we can wait for the right dog to become available at the right time.

The decision to look at buying a dog although initially came about because my Daughter loved the idea but in the end it was more me thinking that it could be a good addition to our family dynamic and open up a new dimension in our lives & encourage the kids to get outside more be more active with the dog etc but yeah there is the novelty factor I know. I wouldn't ever buy a dog and expect my kids to take on the responsibility of looking after it so I went it to the idea knowing full well the dog would be like another child really. With a 17 month old though I agree - can't take on all that work - so we will wait for now and maybe some years down the road we will have lots of cavalier fun to look forward to.

Thanks for all your help. I really appreciate it as this would have been such a massive decision for our family and we want to get it right.