Potty Training Older Dogs

Potty training techniques are similar whether you are training a puppy or an adult dog. The biggest difficulty in training an adult dog, however, is that you have to break old bad habits rather than just training new good ones.

Medical Causes

If your older dog suddenly starts relieving himself in the house, consult your veterinarian before beginning a training program. Certain illnesses can make it more difficult for your dog to hold it as long as he previously could, and your dog may have developed an illness of which you aren't aware. Older dogs may also be incontinent, which will cause a training program to be stressful and ineffective.

Clean, Clean, Clean

If your dog has always had stray accidents in the house, note where they are. Dogs are creatures of habit and often revisit the same bathroom places over and over. If these places are in your house, they need to be thoroughly cleaned.

Most people think they have removed the smell because they can no longer smell it, but dogs have much better noses than we do and can smell things we think have faded. Thus, you must soak the favorite places several times. Consider replacing carpets or having them steam cleaned by a professional. Wash all bedding several times in hot water.

Avoid cleaners that have ammonia in them. Urine has ammonia in it, so this will not help your cause. Consider blocking your dog's access to his favorite bathroom places during training to make it easier on you as you try to train new habits.

Keep a Journal

You must begin to understand your dog's schedule. If he eats and drinks at the same time each day, he will also relieve himself at similar times. Figure out how long he can hold it in between bathroom breaks. All of this can be done by observation.

If your dog is free-fed, now is the time to change that. Pick up the food after it has been on the floor 20 minutes. Put it back down during the next mealtime. It will take only a few days for your dog to adjust to this new schedule and eat when he's hungry.

This will make it easier for you to anticipate his schedule. When it is 10 to 15 minutes before you think he should need to go, lead him outside to the desired restroom area. If he goes, give him a treat. Wait a few more minutes. Some dogs need to relieve themselves more than once. You will learn what your dog's habits are as you observe him.

If he does not go, bring him back into the house and put him in a crate or X-pen where he can't relieve himself. Wait a half hour and try again. Repeat this until he has gone. Once he has gone, he can have house freedom until the next time he needs to go. If you have a small dog, this may be a couple of hours. For a large dog, it may be several.

Stick to a consistent schedule until you notice your dog going to the door to be let out. Reward this behavior. Otherwise, never leave your dog unsupervised. If you see him start to sniff around, you know it's time to rush him to the door. If you don't observe this behavior, he will never learn that it's wrong. Punishing after the fact simply isn't effective.