How To Potty Train a Puppy with an Older Dog

How To Potty Train a Puppy with an Older Dog

As the director of training at The Sophisticated Dog, a Los Angeles-based pet training company, I’ve had many clients with older dogs who aren’t housetrained. Some have recently adopted an adult rescue, while others have had their dogs since they were puppies. One of the families who hired me had a puppy who had been pottying in the house for a couple of years! Thanks to a consistent housetraining plan, that puppy’s family were able to train an older dog to go to the bathroom outside in just a few weeks.

Don’t worry if your older dog isn’t housetrained—there’s still hope!

Potty Training Older Dogs Can Be Difficult.

Potty training an older dog can be both more and less difficult than potty training a puppy. Potty training older dogs is easier because they have larger bowels and bladders, as well as better bladder and bowel control. Puppies, on the other hand, do not always have the physical ability to hold their waste in for long periods of time.

Older dogs without a history of housetraining, on the other hand, have a strong habit of pottying wherever and whenever they want, making it difficult for them to understand why the rules are suddenly changing.

Even a well-trained older dog may be perplexed by how housetraining works outside the home. If you’ve recently moved or your dog has been pottying in other people’s houses, your dog may believe that the rule is not to potty in your house and that the bathroom is only outside.

Note: If your older dog was previously housetrained but is now having problems, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away to rule out medical and age-related issues.

Housetraining an Elderly Dog

Here are some potty training tips for older dogs. They work with dogs that have never been properly housetrained as well as dogs that need to be housetrained in a new home (or at the homes of friends).

Let’s start with some suggestions for potty training an older dog:

  • Create a confinement area for your dog to stay in between potty breaks. You can use a Frisco Fold & Carry Double Door Dog Crate or a Frisco Indoor & Outdoor Soft Dog Crate for up to four hours in a row if your dog is crate trained (though puppies need to be let out of the crate more often). You can use the Carlson Pet Products Extra Wide Walk-Thru Gate, the MidWest Steel Pet Gate, or the Frisco Dog Exercise Pen to block off a small room, such as the kitchen or bathroom (tile is easier to clean in case of accidents), or create a free-standing confinement area to housetrain an older dog without a crate. When you’re not watching your dog, keep them in this time.
  • Clean up accidents properly: Your dog interprets the odor of previous accidents as a “restroom” sign. Use a cleaner designed for pet stains, such as Nature’s Miracle Dog Stain and Odor Remover Spray, to thoroughly clean accidents. To make sure the smell is gone, get down on your hands and knees and sniff the area after you’ve cleaned it. (Yes, I do this, and yes, my clients find it strange—but you’d be surprised at how many “missed” pee spots I’ve discovered!)
  • Create a “legal bathroom” for your dog: If your dog must be left alone for an extended period of time, it is critical to provide them with a legal bathroom. Wee pads are a better option than the floor for times when your dog is crated or gated for an extended period of time, or if your dog has trouble holding it in general.

Once you’ve got everything set up, follow these housetraining instructions for an older dog:

1. Take your dog out at least once an hour to potty.

Stand next to your dog in a designated potty area. Wait five minutes to see if your dog has relieved themselves while acting bored (to avoid distracting them from pottying). As soon as they do, praise them and offer them a treat.

If the dog does not potty within five minutes, return them to the confinement area for 10 to 15 minutes before releasing them. Rep until the dog has gone outside to potty.

2. Stay outside after potty time for some playtime.

Stay outside after your dog has done his business! If you immediately return indoors, your dog will learn that pottying means the end of their fun outdoor time, and they may hold it longer to allow them to stay outside longer. Spend at least 10 minutes outside after your dog has relieved themselves so that your dog learns that pottying earns him extra time outside.

3. Allow for some supervised playtime after you’ve gone inside.

Give your dog up to 15 minutes of supervised time inside after they go potty before putting them back in their crate or gate. This way, they won’t associate going potty outside with being crated or gated right away.

4. Continue to follow these steps throughout the day.

When you’re at home, take your dog out once every hour, rewarding them with praise and treats and providing extra outdoor time for pottying, followed by supervised time indoors before returning to confinement.

Because of the frequent bathroom breaks, it’s best to begin training on the weekend or when you know you’ll be home for a few days. You can confine your dog for up to four hours during the training process when you’re not around, and hire a dog walker to let them out for a potty break if you’ll be gone for long. Ascertain that the dog walker is familiar with and understands your housetraining routine.

The more you stick to this routine and take your dog out, the faster your dog will learn. Some dogs pick up new skills in a single weekend, while others take weeks or months to master. Patience is essential.

5. Keep track of their bathroom habits.

Create a housetraining chart or keep a notebook to track when and where your dog goes potty so you can learn their habits. This information will assist you in determining when your dog most likely needs a potty break and when they do not.

Remember that accidents will happen when learning how to potty train an older dog. If your dog has an accident, calmly take them outside and praise and reward them for going to the right place. Refrain from yelling or scolding. Dogs learn to pee and poop where you can’t see them by yelling and scolding. To put it another way, they won’t stop coming into the house; instead, they’ll hide before doing their business.

It can be frustrating to have an older dog who isn’t housetrained, but most older dogs can be housetrained in a matter of weeks. If you keep track of your dog’s bathroom habits, you’ll be able to quickly reduce the number of potty breaks per day. Start with frequent potty breaks, take careful notes, and make sure your dog is rewarded with praise, treats, and fun every time he or she does their business outside.

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