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Effective Tips on How to Potty Train Your Old Dog

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If you have adopted a senior dog from an animal shelter, you may assume that it was potty trained in its previous home. However, if you find otherwise, don’t fret. Potty training adult dogs isn’t different from potty training puppies. Although you will follow similar steps, potty training an old dog may sometimes take longer than potty training a puppy. Keep in mind that the adult dog has learned habits and a previous history, which makes breaking their bad habits harder than learning new ones.

How to Potty Train Your Senior dog

Set up a dog zone or use a crate

Apart from potty training, a crate will provide your dog with a safe and calm place where they can relax. Just remember not to use the crate for punishment.

Naturally, dogs don’t go to the bathroom where they eat, rest, and play. Instead, they will choose an area in your home where they can go potty. When you confine them in a crate and block off their access to larger spaces, you can mold their instincts to keep their living area clean.

If your dog is already crate trained, then you can use the crate as their confinement area. But if your dog isn’t crate trained, create a dog zone where it will have enough room to roam in between potty breaks. To create a dog zone, you can use baby gates to block their access to hallways and doorways.

When you aren’t supervising your dog, it should stay inside the dog zone or crate to prevent them from wandering off. When it’s not confined, tether it close to you or watch it keenly for signs they need to relieve themselves.

Choose a quiet location for the crate

Place your dog zone or crate in a low-traffic location like a spare bedroom. The ideal location should be free of kids, other pets, and noise. Dogs are den animals, and they like to hide in places that are free of things that can trigger fear or anxiety.

Also, ensure that the crate is comfortable. If you live in a noisy neighborhood, you can block the outside noise by turning a white noise machine. Get a soft blanket or a comfortable mat to make the space cozy. You should also include chewing toys and a water bowl to make the space complete.

Introduce your pet to the new space

Don’t force or use a high-pitched voice to get your adult dog to enter the crate. Such actions will create fear and anxiety, which can cause stress and negative responses. Ensure that your dog is relaxed before you get it inside. Leave the front door open and allow your dog to roam freely. Once your dog enters the crate, reward them. Also, reward your dog if they remain calm in the crate and close the door for a few minutes. Reward your dog again for staying calm.

Establish a schedule

To successfully potty train your old dog, you need to create a schedule for their meals, crate time, and potty walks. The routine should be easy to follow during all days of the week. An ideal schedule should look something close to this:

  • Take short walks in the morning to allow your pet to go potty
  • Feed your dog
  • Walk your dog for about 10 minutes to exercise and let them potty.
  • Go back home and reward your dog with a special treat after they enter the crate
  • Embark on your daily activities. If you work far from home and you won’t go back home during the day to walk your dog, ask a family member, friend, or relative to do it for you. Remember to tell the person to follow the same protocols you follow when walking your dog.
  • Let your dog out of the crate when you get home and take a 30-minute walk
  • Feed your dog during dinner time and take your dog for a 5 to 10-minute walk
  • Walk your dog again before bedtime
  • If accidents are still happening, leave your dog in the crate at night

Expand the crate

When your adult dog goes for seven days without an accident in its crate, make it bigger. However, avoid adding too much space. Add an exercise pen if you have been crate training your dog. In case of an accident, clean it thoroughly and reduce the size of the space. Cleaning is essential since your dog may potty again on the same spot because of the smell.

Tips for Helping Your Dog to Hold it Longer

Gradually increase the time between each potty break. By doing this, you will be helping your dog to control its bladder and bowels and hold it in longer. For instance, if your dog can stay for five hours without an accident, wait for five and a half hours between the potty breaks during the first week. You can then extend the intervals to six hours, as long as there are no accidents.

WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]

Signs Your Adult Dog Needs to Go Potty

Observing your dog during potty training is essential. Note down the signals from your dog that they need to go out to prevent accidents. In case you are unable to watch your dog, leave it inside the dog zone or crate to encourage them to hold it. Some of the common signs that your dog may need to go to the bathroom include:

  • Pacing or circling
  • Sniffing the floor
  • Pawing at you or the door
  • Going to the door
  • Licking their rear end or groin
  • barking 

Final Thoughts

Having a senior dog that pees in the house can be frustrating. However, you can potty train your adult dog in just a few weeks. As your dog relearns the appropriate potty habits, remember to be consistent in their potty training. For fast results, ensure you start with frequent potty breaks for the first two weeks and reward your dog with praise and a treat after finishing their business outside. You may experience a few bumps as you potty train your pet, but your hard work will eventually pay off.  


  • Dr. Winnie earned a Master in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria's Veterinary School. She is a full-time Veterinarian specializing in internal medicine for companion animals.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action. Read More.

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