As dogs age, their habits can go through some changes whether we’re prepared for it or not. Some dogs sleep more often and eat less, while others may see a change in their activity level or ability to leap up onto furniture. No matter what changes the years may bring to your dog, they depend on you to help them navigate your home and their lives as best as you can to ensure they remain happy and healthy.
One specific change that some aging pups may experience is a shift in bathroom habits or the length of time they’re able to hold it before having to relieve themselves. In some cases, their schedule changes but yours doesn’t or can’t! In this scenario, an ideal tool to have is a doggie door that can give your dog access to the yard whenever he may need to go. They’re easy to install and can sometimes make your life--and your dog’s--a lot easier and more convenient when it comes time to use the bathroom.
Of course, for an older dog who isn’t used to using a dog door to go outside, he may be hesitant and decide that he isn’t so sure about this strange opening with a flap. Sometimes the freedom to come and go as he pleases is strange and unfamiliar, but with a little bit of coaxing, your dog can use the door confidently without issue.
Try to take things slow and steady for a dog who is hesitant and try not to startle him with the swinging flap, as that can be an area of stress if he isn’t all that interested in getting hit in the face with it. Getting your dog used to the door may take a week or two of repeated use before he’s confident enough to venture out on his own.
To begin, find the appropriately sized doggie door for your dog. When in doubt, go larger rather than smaller. A stuck dog will be an unhappy dog. Make sure that it’s installed in your door or wall properly to prevent it from breaking or coming off and hurting your dog.
Once that’s done, grab some treats to entice your dog or a favorite toy that can be used as a reward for using the door appropriately. You may also choose to set your dog’s food or water bowl outside for a little while to encourage him to go through the door himself. However, make sure you still take him outdoors several times during the day.
My dogs have always been escorted outside to go potty since we did not have a doggie door. We recently installed one and they have no problem going in and out of the door but they won’t do it without instruction. For example they will bark at us to take them out; which is what they used to do to let us know it was time to go; instead of just going to the door and outside. When I go to the door and say go outside/go potty they will run out the door and wait on the other side for me to come out and either point to the dog run entrance or walk down to where we used to supervise them and wait for them to do their business. Essentially the same thing happens for getting them to go back inside... please tell me there is a way to fix this! It’s completely defeating the point of the doggie door!
Hello Kim, There are a few things that you can do to get the dogs to go potty on their own. First, when they ask to go outside have them go out through the doggie door rather than the opened door, then once they are outside, at first, you can follow them out by going through the open door yourself. If they will not go through the doggie door when you point to it, then try removing the flap while you are at home temporarily, so that they can see outside. You can also practice tossing treats through the doggie door to get them used to going through it to receive the treats on the other side. Once the dogs have gone through the doggie door to go outside, then take them to their usual spot but stay five feet further back from them than you usually do. Tell them to "Go Potty" every time you take them. Every two days stand another five feet back from the dogs, toward the house, and instruct them to "Go Potty" from there. Repeat this until you can eventually stand in the open door frame of your door while you send the dogs out to go potty on their own by telling them to "Go Potty". Do not let them back inside until they go if you are confident that they need to go potty. Once you are standing in the door frame, then two days later take two steps back into the house, and practice there for five days. When they will go through the doggie door and go potty with you standing inside the house with the door open, then gradually begin to close the door, one inch at a time, every day. Do this until you can tell them go potty from inside the house and they will go outside and go potty on their own, while the door remains closed. Watch them out the window for the first several times that they do this, to make sure that they are actually going potty. Do not let them back inside unless they have gone. Once they are used to going through the door and going outside to go potty on their own out of habit, then they should begin to go outside on their own when they need to go, especially if you remove the flap on the door while you are at home for a few days, so that they can see the yard outside while looking at the door. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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