House Training Your Elderly Dog

A dog is never too old to house train

Have you recently welcomed an older dog to your home? What a wonderful addition to your family and home.  There are of course so many positives to adopting an older dog and the fantastic news is it is never too late to house train an older dog.  Indeed you can definitely teach an older dog new tricks!

Dogs naturally keep their living area clean, they don’t want to relieve themselves in the same space they live in.  However, if a dog hasn’t been trained, hasn’t ever lived in a home or has picked up bad habits, you will need to dedicate some time to  teach your dog  where they can go to be clean.

An adult dog’s ability to “hold it” for several hours is what can make the process easier than it is for a puppy.  With some basic, consistent and simple steps, in no time, your dog will understand and learn where they can go to be clean.

Your Dog’s History

If you have recently adopted your dog, it is always advisable to find out as much as possible about your dog’s past.  It is helpful to know if your dog has previously lived in a home, whether they were house trained, and whether they were well treated and cared for.   It may be that your dog is not used to be in a home and comes from a rescue shelter.  Knowing their background will help to help your dog’s settling in process to your home and to help you house train your dog.

Routine

When welcoming a dog to your home it is important to establish a routine for your dog.

Watch your Dog

Don’t give your dog an opportunity to soil in the house.  From the moment you welcome your new dog into your home you should watch them at all times whilst they are indoors.  Remember you need to get to know your dog and they need to get to know you.

Watch for signs that you dog need to be clean:

  • Sniffing around or circling.
  • Pacing
  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Scratching
  • Leaving the room

Take Your Dog Outside

It sounds obvious but this simple step is often overlooked.

Dogs sometimes need a little time to sniff around, exercise, and to just explore before relieving themselves.The more chances your dog has to do their business outside, the faster they will learn what’s expected of them.

Take your dog out at the same times every day. For example, first thing in the morning when they wake up, immediately after meal times, when you arrive home from work, and before you go to bed.

Do not distract your dog by trying to play with them or talk to them.  They may end up forgetting what they are supposed to be doing and this will prolong any training.

While your dog is relieving themselves, use a word or phrase like “be good boy/girl” or “do wee wee” for example, that you can eventually use before they ‘go’ to remind them of what they are supposed to be doing.

Remember to really praise your dog every time they are clean  outdoors. You can even give them a treat. You must praise them and give  a treat immediately after they have finished and not wait until after they comes back inside the house. This step is vital, because rewarding your dog for being clean outdoors is the only way they will know that’s what you want them to do.

Taking your dog to a park where other dogs go may help them be clean

To Consider

Your dog may not be used to a garden with grass or with a patio or concrete.  This may be because they have never ever relieved themselves on this kind of surface.  Explore different surface options with your dog until they do relieve themselves. It is a good idea to walk your dog where other dogs have been.  This may take time and patience but most dogs will usually go in a spot where other dogs have already gone.

Meal Times

Feeding your dog on a set schedule, once or twice a day, will help regulate their need for “toilet time”.  The more regularly your dog is fed, the more regularly they will poo. Feed your dog the amount and type of food recommended for their age and weight at regular intervals throughout the day. Most experts recommend feeding adult dogs twice per day.

Do not leave food around during the day for your dog to graze on.  You need to reduce the possibility of your dog needing to ‘do their business’ at varied times throughout the day.

Keep meal times to a consistent schedule

Accidents Happen

If you catch your dog midstream, simply say something to get their attention. Then quickly carry or escort your dog outside to where you do want them to go to the bathroom, and encourage them to complete their business. 

Do not scold your dog or punish them.  They may become afraid to relieve themselves in front of you and will sneak off to do it somewhere else. If you catch your dog having an accident do not yell or make such a loud noise that you scare them.

Clean any areas of your home that have been soiled. It is important to thoroughly remove any odours from previous accidents to break the association your dog may have between that area and using it to relieve themselves.

Potential Problems

Sometimes a dog may have other problems beyond a lack of training. If a week of consistent house training fails to help your dog, it may be time to consider other solutions and seeking advice from your veterinary.

After years in a municipal kennel, Kyra can now relieve herself on grass

Medical problems

Your dog may be suffering from a physical medical problem such as a urine infection or a parasite infection.   We would advise you to consult your veterinarian to rule out any possibility of illness.

Separation anxiety

Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety are normally anxious when left alone which can result in destructive behaviour as well as relieving themselves in the homes.  Our guide on separation anxiety has advice on how to help your dog overcome this behaviour.

Summary

Don’t forget, new habits are vulnerable, and your older dog may easily fall back into their old ways for some months.  Never leave your dog alone too long, and don’t expect them to last for the time you would like them to immediately.

Keep to your routine, remember to use the same words of encouragement and never ever scold your dog if they do relieve themselves indoors.