How To Toilet Train An Older Dog

Many people choose to adopt adult dogs thinking they can bypass many of the ‘issues’ associated with puppies, and for many adult dogs this is true, but for some adult dogs basic skills like toilet training may be a lesson they still need to learn.

Older dogs can sometimes take a little longer to toilet train because they have already spent months, if not years learning to toilet inappropriately. This is particularly true for dogs who have spent their lives in cages or other small enclosed areas. You will need patience with an older dog to give him time to not only unlearn old habits but to learn new behaviours at the same time. Make toilet training a top priority in the first few months of living with your new dog, this may require a super effort but in a few months toilet training will be learned and you can move on to something else.

When you bring your older dog home go right back to toilet training 101. This means supervision at all times and regular supervised outside time. When you see your dog in the process of toileting put a word to it, I use “do your jobs”, this will help your dog make an association between the behaviour of going to the toilet and the words. Over time you can use these words to make your dog toilet when you need him to. Older dogs tend to be able to ‘hold on’ for longer than puppies so the good news is that you may only need to take your dog out after meals and sleeping.  While your dog is inside make sure that all of the doors to other rooms are closed and initially you may need to roll up any rugs you have, just in case.

What goes in must come out, if your dog has just had a big drink of water he will need to toilet soon, be prepared. Likewise, if you have not seen your dog empty himself for several hours, something is on its way, be prepared. Feed your dog his largest meal as far away from the hours he has most trouble holding on. For example, if your dog toilets inside overnight, feed his main meal in the morning, this way he will empty himself throughout the day. The problem many people face is they feed their dog dry food at 6 pm, the dog then needs a big brink at 8 pm (dry food does make dogs thirsty) so by the middle of the night, the dog is desperate for the toilet.

If you have made a serious effort and after a couple of weeks there is no improvement it may be time for a visit to the vet to eliminate any physical issues. If your dog is passing urine during sleep or seems to be unaware he is passing urine this is not a toilet training problem, rather an incontinence issue which can happen to even relatively young dogs and will require veterinary attention.

Some handy hints to help encourage good toilet habits.

  • Have another dog come into your yard and toilet, the smell will encourage your older dog to ‘go’.
  • If your older dog does not toilet on a walk take him to the backyard as soon as you get home, there is sure to be something on the way.
  • Attach a cat bell to your dog’s collar so you can hear him move around the house.
  • Stand outside with your older dog so you can monitor bowel and bladder movements.
  • Always take your dog out to toilet first thing in the morning and the last thing before you go to bed.
  • Install a dog door so your dog can let himself out when needed.
  • Dogs will show signs of impending eviction, smelling the ground and circling are dead giveaways your dog is about to toilet.

Be patient with your older dog and set him up for success, learn from accidents that happen by thinking about what lead up to the mistake and resolve to not allow the same mistake to occur again. Take it day by day and in no time you will make some good progress and be able to put toilet training behind you.

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