How to Train a Stray Dog

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: April 15, 2022

Stray dogs may come to you in a variety of ways. You may find one on the side of the road, in the grocery store parking lot, from a random Facebook post made by a friend or a stranger, and even from the pound or animal shelter. Either way, most stray dogs need some sort of training. There are many different techniques and methods for doing so, and this article is a starting point for you if you find yourself the new owner or companion to a stray dog in need of a home, or even if you are just considering welcoming a stray dog into your family.


When a stray dog finds its way into your home or care, you usually do not know the majority of their backstory or what they have been through in their lifetimes. It is possible that they have had relatively good lives, but with stray dogs, that is not usually a common occurrence. You do not know the struggles and difficult times and moments that they have been through. Their past may make it difficult for them to be trusting of humans. It is extremely important for you to begin building a level of trust with them from the very beginning. This will go extremely far with most stray dogs.


If you begin to build that level of trust with them by being patient, never yelling, and attempting to be as understanding as possible with them, they will learn that they can both trust you and learn from you. Once they learn that they can trust you, they will begin to pay close attention to what you are trying to teach them in terms of skills and how they should act around the home and in most situations. This is a crucial first step in beginning to train a stray dog in any area.


As touched on a little already, patience is an absolute necessity when it comes to training a stray dog. They can come from many different backgrounds, some of which are absolutely horrible. They are entering into a new space with new people or pets that they have never been around before. They are usually probably terrified in these new spaces. Because of this, it is of vital importance to exercise patience in all that you do and in every kind of situation that might come up with your new stray dog. This might become difficult at times. If it does, take a step back and a deep breath, and try to center yourself in patience with your new dog. If they have an accident in the house or don’t warm up to you quickly, be patient and allow both of you the time to get used to one another and the new situation.

Daily Schedule

Stray dogs are usually used to lives that are tumultuous and full of uncertainty. They live each day just trying to survive and by finding food and water wherever they can and whenever they can.  Due to this, it is important to try to begin setting a daily schedule for them that they can begin to expect and follow. This schedule might include things such as taking them outside to use the restroom right when you wake up in the morning, feeding them at the same time each day, taking them on walks or exercising them near the same time each day, and taking them to their bed or sleeping spot around the same time each night. Once they learn and become accustomed to this schedule, they will begin to expect it. This schedule has the potential to make both their lives and your life less stressful.

Cleanliness and Organization

If your stray has come to you from the pound or the animal shelter, they are probably used to, at least a little bit, a clean and organized kennel. Try your best to keep your dog’s personal areas such as their bed space or food and water space, as clean and organized as possible. This is simply to give your dogs a little less stress and keep them as happy as possible. Think about your own space, I bet you are much more comfortable in a clean kitchen when you are eating or a clean bed to sleep in. This is the exact same when it comes to not only stray dogs, but to dogs overall.

Restroom Spot

Your stray may or may not be house trained when they come to you. Either way, the new home will be a learning experience for them overall. When you take them outside, try to find a designated spot for them that you would like for them to use as their main restroom spot. After a while, your dog will become accustomed to this spot as their “potty spot” and will be inclined to use it as such when they pass it or come upon it. Again, patience is key here in this process, especially if they are being house trained for the first time

Check on and Watch Your Dog

As with any new dog or pet, it is important to keep a close watch on your dog most of the time. This is not only to make sure that they are safe, it is also important to make sure they are acting in the ways that they have been trained to. Make sure that your dog is not freely roaming somewhere that it should not be. This could be within your home or, more dangerously, out in the yard or neighborhood. In this case, they could easily run off or become lost. It is also important to make sure that they are not using the bathroom in areas that they should not be. If you find that they do so, quickly move them to the area that you would like them to use for the restroom so that they know that this is where they should use it in the future for these purposes.


You can also keep an eye on them to make sure they are not engaging in any destructive behavior and make sure that they do not destroy any of your belongings. If there are other pets around or even children, it is also important to watch them to make sure no altercations of any sort occur. This is for their benefit as well as for the other animals and/or children. Overall, it is extremely important to keep an eye on your new dog at all times, especially at the beginning of their time with you.

Walking Your Dog

Regular walks are incredibly beneficial for dogs, especially strays. Once they get used to being walked on a leash, this is an excellent opportunity for them to get some great exercise and work some of their energy and restlessness out. This will also get them used to the routine of walking with you as well as allows them to be able to spend some quality time with you. As mentioned earlier, try as much as possible to walk your dog according to a loose schedule. This can benefit your dog in many, different ways.


Rewards are an excellent incentive for your dog to both retain the information that you are trying to instill in them as well as entice them to continue the good or desired behavior in future situations. These rewards can be treats, toys, or other ways that you can find to show praise to your dog if they are doing well or showing that they have learned or retained some sort of training. It is a great idea to reward your dog with treats when they use their potty spots correctly when they are being taught. This teaches them to continue using that spot or spots that they should use, in the future. Continue to use rewards and treats for your dog even when the initial lessons are over, it is important to give love and praise to your dogs at all times, not just when you are trying to train them.


Overall, there are many different steps that go into training a stray dog. You never know what their background has been or what their life with its trials and tribulations has been before the stray has found its way to you. At first, it may be frustrating at times as your dog becomes more comfortable around you and learns how to act in its new environment and new home. This is a brand-new world to them and it takes a bit of time to adjust accordingly. With time, love, and patience, it is usually very much possible to earn the trust of most stray dogs. After you earn that trust, they should allow you to train them and they will learn from you. This is an incredible endeavor to take on and can be incredibly fulfilling to take a scared, lonely, stray dog and transform them into a happy, loving member of yours or another family.