potty training an older dog, dog sitting outside on grass

Key takeaway

 Potty training older dogs can be easier than potty training puppies. By establishing a house training routine, remaining consistent, and practicing patience, you can help your older dog learn new bathroom habits.

Potty training your dog is an important part of being a dog owner. Potty training is a way to create a routine with your dog so that they always go to the bathroom in the same place, at the same time. It also decreases the chance of them urinating or defecating inside your house. 

In general, dogs are potty trained at a young age, and this bathroom routine is carried throughout their lives. However, in some cases, older dogs may still need potty training.

There are many reasons why an older dog may not have been properly trained to go to the bathroom. Maybe they were at a shelter and didn’t get enough opportunities to go to the bathroom outside. Or, maybe they were just never properly trained by their previous owner. Regardless of the reason, if you adopt an older dog who hasn’t been potty trained, don’t fret - there are ways to help your pet learn bathroom habits.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to potty train an older dog, how long it takes to potty train older dogs, any challenges you may face, and more.

How Do You Potty Train an Older Dog?

So first and foremost, let’s discuss how to house train an adult dog. House training a dog will look different for everyone. What works for one dog might not for another. It’s very important to create a strict routine for your dog when you’re potty training them. Creating a routine for your dog will get them used to going to the bathroom at the same time every day.

You’ll also want to create a confinement space for your dog to go to when they’re not being watched. This space should be small enough so that they won’t want to go to the bathroom in it. Some dog owners prefer to crate train their dogs, which is essentially just keeping your dog in their crate whenever you can’t be there to supervise them. Crate training can be very beneficial for potty training because most dogs will not want to go to the bathroom in the same space that they’re sleeping in.

In addition to creating a confinement space for your dog to spend their time in, you’ll also want to create a space where your dog can go to the bathroom. This can be any area in your backyard, but just make sure it’s a big enough space for the size of your dog.

It’s also important to understand that accidents will inevitably happen. When your dog has an accident, don’t scold them. Just simply clean up the mess and move on with your house training.

Establishing a House Training Routine

When house training your dog, the most important thing you can do is establish a house training routine. Consistency is very important when it comes to house training, and the best way to ensure consistency is with a routine.

To help you establish a house training routine, we’ve compiled a list of potty training steps that you should follow:

1. Take them outside at the same time, every day

The first step in your house training routine is to take your dog outside at the same time every single day. Even if they don’t have to go, you should still bring them outside to get them accumulated to the act. You can make this work around your own schedule. For example, you can take them outside first thing in the morning, when you come home from work, and right before you go to bed.

old dog cocking head, outside on grass

2. Use a specific phrase when your dog is going to the bathroom

When your dog goes to the bathroom, pick a phrase to say and stick with it. This can be “go potty”,  “use the bathroom”, or anything that works for you. You can use this phrase before they go to the bathroom as a way to remind them of what they’re supposed to be doing.

3. Play with them after they go to the bathroom

Once your dog has successfully gone to the bathroom outside, it’s important to play with them for a little bit after. This is a way to reward them for their good behavior and create a positive reinforcement with going to the bathroom. They’ll begin to learn that going to the bathroom outside means they get some play time, and they’ll be more likely to go to the bathroom only when they’re outside. 

In addition to playing with your dog after they go to the bathroom, you should also praise them and give them a treat. Don’t wait until after you’ve gone inside to give them a treat. Give them the treat as soon as they finish going to the bathroom so that they can associate the act with a reward.

4. Create a consistent feeding schedule

It’s just as important to create a consistent feeding schedule as it is to create a bathroom schedule. Feeding your dog at the same time every day will help them get into a more consistent routine with having to go to the bathroom. Make sure to not leave food in their bowls throughout the day. Only give them food at the designated times. If they do not finish their entire food bowl, save the leftovers and give them it for their next meal. 

Can an Older Dog Still Be Potty Trained?

Yes, an older dog can absolutely be potty trained. In fact, house training an adult dog can actually be easier than house training a puppy. This is because adult dogs are more likely more used to holding in their pee, so getting accumulated to a bathroom schedule may be easier for them.

How Long Does it Take to Potty Train an Older Dog?

The amount of time it takes to potty train an adult dog will differ for every dog and their unique situation. If your dog has had some previous potty training in the past, then they’ll probably get it a lot quicker than a dog who has never been properly trained. Some dogs will also just naturally get the hang of it faster than others. 

But for the most part, in order for a dog to be fully potty trained, it can take anywhere from three to six months. This can be longer or shorter depending on the dog, so just make sure to be patient. They’ll get the hang of it eventually!

Challenges of Potty Training an Older Dog

There are a variety of challenges that you may face while potty training an older dog. Potty training is undeniably difficult, regardless of how old your dog is.

While older dogs are more likely to have better control of their bladders, they may also have more of a tendency to urinate wherever and whenever they want to. This might be because of their previous living situation. For example, if you adopted your older dog from a shelter where they weren’t properly cared for, they may have just gone to the bathroom whenever they wanted to, so getting used to a bathroom schedule can be difficult for them.

Older dogs may also be more prone to anxiety, and a symptom of anxiety in dogs can be urinating or defecating indoors. Anxiety can make potty training more difficult for dogs, so it’s important to be aware of the signs of dog anxiety so that you can get your dog the proper care they need.

House training an adult dog can also be more difficult if they have any health problems, such as a urinary tract infection or a parasite infection. If your dog is having an especially difficult time with potty training, it's a good idea to bring them to the vet so you can make sure there’s nothing medically wrong with them.

Final Notes

Whether you get a puppy who’s six months old, or an adult dog who’s six years old, potty training is an important part of being a dog owner. Learning how to potty train an older dog might seem intimidating, but it’s not actually all that complicated. You just have to create a consistent bathroom routine for your dog and stick to it. Soon enough, they’ll be going to the bathroom in the same place, at the same time, every single day. 

But if you encounter any difficulties with your dog potty training, it’s never a bad idea to bring your dog to the vet. There are a variety of factors that could be causing your dog to go to the bathroom inside the house, such as medical problems and anxiety,  which you would need the help of a vet to treat.

And if you need help getting in touch with a vet, you can use Dutch.com. Here at Dutch, we’ll connect you with expert veterinarians who can offer pet care tips, recommendations, and treatments for many pet health issues..

You can visit Dutch online to get started, and our vets will tell you if your dog is a good match for our online treatment. If so, we’ll work to create a treatment plan that works for your pup and get any necessary medication sent right to your doorstep in just 7 days’ time.

References

  1. House Training Your Dog, Brown University, https://www.brown.edu/Research/Colwill_Lab/CBP/Housetraining.htm

  2. Potty Training Pets, Texas A&M University, https://vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk/potty-training-pets/

  3. Housetraining, Ohio State University, https://indoorpet.osu.edu/dogs/puppy/housetraining-dogs