A lot of people tend to struggle with potty training their pets…particularly new puppies! But, over the last few months I’ve gotten many requests asking me to talk about potty training older dogs.
I can see where people might struggle here…especially if your new canine companion is an older dog who came from a rescue! So, in order to help out, I’m going to share my strategies for helping an older dog get the hang of using the bathroom outside.
Certainly there are training principles that likely need to be put in place to help your dog out. However, with older dogs it’s also important to look at physical health as a possible reason why your pup might be struggling.
Today we’ll look at both things! Keep reading to discover how you can help your adult dog with potty training!
3 Steps to Potty Training an Adult Dog
To be honest, potty training an adult dog is pretty much exactly the same as potty training a puppy.
There’s no magic secrets or scientific psychology that would enable you to train a fully mature dog any differently than you would a younger dog. The “magic” happens when you set up a solid, consistent routine for your dog.
Here’s what I recommend…
Steps #1: Set Your Dog Up for Potty Training Success
Before you even begin any sort of training, it’s important that you set your mature dog up for potty training success.
Personally I recommend that you set up a small area for your dog to hang out…especially when you’re unable to keep your eye on them 24/7 to ensure an accident doesn’t happen.
If your dog is known to purposely wander off and “hide” away from people so they can use the bathroom indoors, set up a small fenced-in area in your main living space (much like you would do with a puppy) to ensure they can’t sneak off.
If your dog has a preference for using the bathroom on your carpet, gate your dog off into an area like a tile kitchen where they won’t be able to access the carpet until they master potty training.
Taking preventative measures is a great way to help your dog while discouraging your pup from using inappropriate areas to use the restroom.
Step #2: Keep a Consistent Routine
Many people believe that you can be more flexible with an older dogs bathroom schedule. And, if you have an older, already potty trained dog, this might be true!
However, if your dog is struggling with potty training, you simply can’t let him/her go 6 hours without using the bathroom. You have to keep a constant, consistent routine to reinforce using the potty outdoors.
It might seem a little overkill, but treat your adult dog like you would treat a puppy and take them out every two hours. Once they are outside, watch them to ensure they do their business.
Taking your dog outside should be the first thing you do every morning…yes, even before you make a cup of coffee or take a shower. And please note that you can’t sleep in until 10am and expect your dog to not have an accident, even if they are older and have an adult bladder.
Taking your dog outside should also be the last thing you do every night before bed to ensure you set them up for overnight success.
Until your dog can prove that they have learned to use the bathroom outside, keep this consistent routine.
Step #3: Reward Your Dog for Appropriate Behavior
Finally, it’s important to reward your dog when they do what you ask of them.
When you take your dog outside and they use the bathroom like you’ve asked them to, reward them with a pat on the head or a small treat. Food (small training treats) can work wonders on reinforcing this good behavior.
Pretty soon they should catch on to the idea that they are supposed to use the bathroom outside, and not on your carpet!
When Potty Training Your Adult Dog Doesn’t Work…
It’s been months…you’ve followed all the recommended potty training advice…and your dog is STILL using the bathroom inside your home.
At this point, I would recommend that you take your pup for a visit to the vet. After all, most dogs don’t use the bathroom inside just for the fun of it or to make you frustrated.
If you’ve put the work into teaching your dog the proper place to eliminate and they are still having accidents, it’s possible that there is an underlying health issue at play.
Here are some possible reasons your pup might be having a hard time…
Just like humans, dogs get UTIs and bladder infections.
In fact, older dogs are more prone to such issues as they are expected to go longer amounts of time without using the bathroom. Hormonal factors as animals age might also be part of the problem.
A vet is easily able to diagnose such an issue with a urine sample, and treatment is easy and inexpensive! Go get your dog checked out!
Bladder Control Issues Due to Age
Once again, as dog’s age, some bodily systems can start to struggle. Sadly, incontinence is an issue amongst many older dogs.
If this ends up being your issue, potty training might not be an option. Instead, I encourage you to look into helpful tools like doggy diapers that can be found in your local pet store.
Keeping your pup gated off in an area with hard floors that are easy to clean up might be a good idea. You could also invest in some doggy pee pads for indoors that your pup can use if they aren’t able to hold their urine until you are able to let them outside.
It’s also possible your dog might need access to the outdoors 24/7. A doggy door might solve this problem, or it’s possible your dog might need to be set up to live outdoors. If that’s the case, be sure to do plenty of research to ensure you set your dog up with a safe and comfy space, a warm place to sleep, and plenty of fresh water.
Stress or Anxiety
If you’ve just adopted an older dog, there’s always the possibility that he/she came from a scary or abusive home. Mistreatment can often lead to potty training issues, especially if a dog was brutally punished for using the bathroom in the wrong place.
Aside from abuse, anxiety from being in a new home with new people might also be causing your dog to stress-eliminate in your home.
The only solution to fixing this problem is to get your dog to calm down and relax. It’s a mental game…you’ve got to get your new dog to understand that you’re going to be a kind and gentle provider/leader in your home so that they don’t have to be so worried and worked up all the time.
How do you do that? My Dog Calming Code™ program walks you through all the steps of how to get your dog to calm down, relax, and listen to you when it matters most.
If you’re struggling with adult dog potty training and you’ve ruled out any physical causes, I encourage you to check out the Dog Calming Code™….it’s a small investment that can make a large impact in the life of your dog!
Check out the Dog Calming Code™ here!
Best of luck!
~Doggy Dan 🙂
I have done all these things and my dog seems to know that she should be going outside. I take her out every two hours and reward and praise her when she goes but sometimes in between the two hours she decides she needs to go and she does not seem to know how to let me know that she needs to go out. She never barks, for anything, which is a blessing in a way but how do I train her to let me know when she needs to go outside? I have started ringing a small desk top bell on the floor each time I take her out hoping that she will learn to ring it to let me know it is time to take her outside. So far, no luck. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. She is 11 months old on August 27th, 2020.
Hi Donald…not all dogs do have a really obvious way of letting their humans know they need to go out. Some will bark or whine but others may just approach the door, see that it is closed and then look for an alternative solution. Installing a dog door can help, otherwise close supervision is key as is sticking to your toileting routine. It may help to restrict your dog to a smaller area of your home to make supervision easier. When toileting issues still persist in mature dogs it can be related to a behavioural issue, like scent marking or Separation Anxiety. We talk about this on my membership website…TheOnlineDogTrainer.com Best, Doggy Dan