How to Potty Train an Older, Adult Dog

By Tracey Sandilands

A newly adopted, older adult dog may need potty training if it is not house broken. Dogs adopted from animal welfare societies may have lived in a puppy mill or a kennel for a long time. If the dog is older than seven years, it may need to go more frequently than a younger adult dog. An adult dog goes on average every six to eight hours, while a senior dog might need to go every four hours. Plan to spend a couple of weeks building the dog's routine to potty train it successfully.

Take note of the dog's usual potty frequency. For the first two days of the training period watch the dog to determine how often it goes, and make a note of actions that precede a potty trip. If it soils in the house, avoid punishing it and do not react in any way.

Eliminate the scent of former "accidents" before you start potty training. Use baking soda dissolved in soapy water to clean spots where it has soiled previously. Add bleach for use on areas that will not sustain damage.

Start a schedule that matches the dog's habit. Once you have taught the dog to go outdoors every time, you can adjust the schedule to fit your own timetable better.

Anticipate the dog's need. Dogs usually go directly on waking, so take it outdoors first thing in the morning even if you have to carry it to prevent an accident on the way. Make it a fun trip, with lots of encouragement and a treat or two.

Give the action a name. As the dog squats, say "hurry up" or "business" or whatever word you prefer to name the activity. Your timing should be exact so that the dog begins to associate the word with the action, and give it lots of praise and a treat immediately afterwards to help it understand that it has done well.

Deal with accidents by simply cleaning them up. During the training period, any negative reinforcement may confuse the dog, especially if it has had a troubled past. The confusion could result in the dog refusing to potty in front of you, or hiding the evidence in hard-to-get-at places.

Put the dog in a crate for periods between potty trips when you do not want it to soil in the house, as dogs seldom soil in the places where they sleep or eat. If you are going out, for example, you could leave the dog in the crate for up to four hours. This will not work for a dog that is unaccustomed to a crate or has lived in a cage in the past.

Stick to the schedule and continue using your name for the activity long after the training period is over. After a time the schedule will become routine and the dog will know when it can go potty, and hold it until the appropriate time.