How to Potty Train an Older Dog

by Sundays

Planning on adopting an adult or senior dog? Here's tips and tricks for how to potty train an older dog.

Maybe you’ve adopted an adult dog from the shelter that was never fully potty-trained. There could be many reasons why they were never potty trained. The main thing is to realize that it’s up to you to meet them where they’re and be patient in teaching them. 

  • - The first step is to get as much info as you can from the shelter or previous pet parent about: Your dog’s potty habits and frequency
  • - How they are walking on a leash: Do they know how? Do they pull or lunge at certain things?
  • - Any fears of strangers or things like skateboards, strollers, joggers, etc.

This way you’ll know whether you need to get them used to the leash first or walk them away from strangers so they can focus only on the task. 

Step 1: Keep Your Dog in a Small Area

Just like with puppies, you’ll want to section off part of a room with a baby gate or dog gate. Set up their sleeping area and crate where they can hang out during the day. Keep an eye on your dog and watch for signs that they need to go out. This could be pacing, coming to you, going to the gate or door, whining, sniffing, circling, and so on. 

Step 2: Take Your Dog Out Often on a Leash

Adult dogs can hold it longer than puppies, so you won’t need to take them out every 30 minutes, at least. But you do want to take them for a walk on a fixed-length leash to go potty at these times:
  • First thing in the morning 
  • After each meal
  • Before bedtime
  • Whenever they give signals of needing to go
  • A few times during the day

Be sure to give your dog enough time to go. One big frustration a lot of pet parents have is that their dog will go inside the house just after they took their dog out to potty. Walks are also bonding times for you and your dog. Try 20-minute walks. 

If your dog poops or pees, say the potty word as they go (“do your poop,” etc.), and reward them with praise and a treat immediately after. You can have playtime afterward or let them explore in the yard. If not, keep your eye on them within their area in the house and watch for signs of needing to go out.

Step 3: Clean Up Accidents to Remove the Smell

Make sure to clean up any accidents quickly and thoroughly to remove the smell. You don’t want a certain spot to become the place that your dog likes to potty inside. Using an enzymatic cleaner made to neutralize dog pee and poop smells can help. 

Never scold your dog for going inside or having accidents. This will only make them associate going potty with something bad, and they will try to hide their poop or pee or could even start the habit of eating it to hide it. It will also hurt the chances of building a relationship of trust and security.

Step 4: Stay on a Schedule

If you serve meals at the same times each day, and take your dog out to potty at the same times, eventually, they will get on a steady potty schedule, too. If in the future, you can’t be home when you know your dog will need to go out, you can look into getting a dog walker or friend to come by and walk your dog.

Step 5: Watch for Signs of Issues

If your dog is struggling to pee or poop, as if they are constipated, or they have diarrhea, see the vet right away. If everything looks okay with their poop but you’ve been trying to potty train for a few weeks and are having a lot of trouble, call your vet for advice. 

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