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[Paws & Awws] Potty Training an Older Dog

By — One of many Dog Breeds blogs on

Potty training your puppy is one of the most important parts of being a pet-parent. I receive calls from clients all the time asking for help with the potty training of an adult dog who is still having issues.

So, how to do teach your older dog to go potty outside only?

First and foremost - the 70's era of dog training is over!


Got that? Now that we've covered what DOESN'T work, let's talk about what DOES.

Setting a Potty Routine for Your Dog

Make sure they get their walk time. Adult dogs should get a a 30-45 minute walk at least once a day. Puppies should be walked 5 minutes X the number of months they are old. ( For example, a 3 Month old puppy should get a 15 minute walk every day, while a 5 month old puppy is ready for 25 minute walk each day.)

Feeding schedule is a must.A feeding schedule is a MUST - especially for puppies 1 year old or younger, and especially while potty training. You need to be able to predict WHEN they will need to go to make sure they get outside at that time. Dogs older than 1 year should be feed twice daily at the same times every day. Puppies should be fed three times daily at the same times each day. NO FREE FEEDING. Remove water dish in the evening and replace with a few ice chips until your dog is fully potty trained. Never put water or food in your dog's crate.

Tether and crate training. Crate training is the quickest way to teach a puppy to be potty trained It is not fair to expect your puppy to understand house-training if you give him free run of the whole house. Until a dog is potty trained, they should be within your sight or in their crate any time they are in the house. Attaching a leash from your dog's collar to your own belt loop is great way to make sure they are in you view so you pick up on signs they need to go. Dogs don't want to pee or poop where they sleep, so when you can't have your dog attached at the hip to you, crating prevents them from using the bathroom - so long as their crate is not too big for them.

Look for signs your dog needs to go potty.Some dogs never get the idea of going to the door to let you know they need to go potty. Instead, they may:

Consider bell training - teaching them to ring a bell when they need to go potty.

Remind them what they're out there to do. When it's time to go, don't just let your dog out the door. Pick a "potty location" and use the same spot every time you take him out. Once you are there say "Go Potty." Repeat this command when your dog is actually doing his business in a calm voice. It may take some time for them to learn, but eventually, when you say "Go Potty," your dog will know exactly what to do.

Reward them. After using the potty outside, be sure to offer lots of praise. Say "Good Potty!" and give your dog a little treat or favorite toy.

What to do if they have an accident. Again - Never discipline a dog for pottying in the house if a mess happens, simply put your dog outside and clean up the mess. Consider purchasing an enzymatic cleaner to remove any scent. To a dog - if it SMELLS like a potty, it's a good place to go. It can be frustrating, but continue on with the training and they'll get it.

Spay or neuter. Spaying and neutering a dog helps prevent the urge to mark indoors - and yes, both male and female dogs can mark. Ideally this should be done at or before 6 months old.

How to Bell Train Your Dog

Bell training is a great way to teach your puppy to signal you when they have to go outside. When they need to go, they simply ring a bell.

  1. Attach the bell to the door knob/handle of which you will be using to let your dog outside.
  2. Sit next to the door you will be letting them out of and put treat as close as you can to the bell.
  3. When your dog goes for the treat, he should bump the bell. (Never force your dog to touch the bell, we are teaching your dog to do this on his own)
  4. Once he rings the bell, release treat and offer lots of praise. "Good Job!!" or "YES!!"
  5. Once it seems like they've got ringing the bell down, begin letting them outside when they do it - but don't forget to continue to reward with treat when your dog touches the bell!
  6. Once outside, take them to their "potty location" and use the command "Go Potty" both to signal it's time and while your dog is actually eliminating.
  7. Offer lots of praise and treat when they go potty outside.

A word about bell training rewards.You should continue this bell training with the treats for 2 weeks. After this period of bell training, verbally praise your dog for ringing the bell to be let out and only reward your dog with a treat for going potty outside. Remember lots of verbal praise, make it like a party!

If they treat the bell like a game. If after the first time you bring your dog in your dog decides to turn around and ring the bell again, reward and bring your dog outside. After coming in from doing this, give the bell a "time out". Take the bell off of door and set a timer for 15 minutes. Put the bell back on the door when the time goes off. By then your puppy/dog will have moved on to something else.

How to Stop a Dog From Marking

Is it marking or an accident? Adult dogs that were previously house trained and are now eliminating inside the house more than once a week in a few favorite spots are probably marking rather than having an accident. (and yes, even female dogs do this)

If your dog is marking their territory inside your home, the problem is actually a lack of respect and understanding for who's in charge. It's time to regain control.

If your dog isn't already - SPAYING OR NEUTERING is a MUST!!!

Rules for Dogs the Mark

Rules and boundaries are also must for your dog. Dogs with control issues, should be:

  1. Earning their food with a Sit and Stay.
  2. Earning toys or treats with a Sit and Down.
  3. Sleeping in their crate. They should NOT be sleeping on your bed while control issues persist.

Prevent Your Dog From Marking

Do NOT yell, spank, or rub your dog's nose in it. Can't say that enough!

I hope these tips help you and your dog be successful in getting potty training under control and completed. You will be so thankful to not live with a dog that uses the inside of your home as the potty place for the next 15 years of their life.

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