How to Train Your Older Dog to Use a Pee Pad

How to Train Your Older Dog to Use a Pee Pad
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-4 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

Your dog has been in your life for as long as some of your kids. You’ve seen him grow up from the energetic ball of fur he was when he was a puppy to the older and more subdued dog he is today. He’s an integral part of the family. With age though has come health problems. He’s no longer able to make it for long walks or great distances to go for a pee. He either ends up giving up before you’ve managed to get him to a suitable toilet spot, or he relieves himself on your floors. You’re not the biggest fan of cleaning up pee and it doesn’t give the house quite the smell you’d like either.

Training him to use a pee pad only comes with benefits. It will save you considerable time taking him out to go to the toilet. It will also save him from pain and discomfort if he can no longer make the trek to the bathroom.

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Defining Tasks

The good news is, training your pooch to use a pee pad is pretty easy. He may be aging, but don’t let it be said that an old dog can’t learn new tricks! You simply need to incorporate the pee pad into his toilet routine. That means consistent use and as few slip-ups as possible. You’ll also need to take steps to make the pee pad as inviting as possible. Treats or toys will go a long way to motivate him to embrace his new toilet patch as well. If he’s still pretty receptive you could see results in just a week. If he’s really old and stuck in his ways then you may need a few weeks to fully affect change.

However long it takes, it will be worth it when you have a straightforward clean-up, instead of a soaked carpet. You’ll also help keep him comfortable if he’s got health conditions.

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Getting Started

Before you get to work, you’ll need a few things. A pee pad will, of course, be the first essential. You’ll also need a generous supply of mouth-watering treats or his favorite food. Simply break the food into small, easily digestible pieces.

The hardest component is time. You need to set aside time in the morning, midday, afternoon and evening, to ensure a consistent routine. With such a time sacrifice also comes with the requirement of patience and an optimistic attitude.

Once you have all of that, you’re ready to make a start!

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The Set Up Method

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Enclosure

Place the pee pad in a location he’ll be comfortable in. Placing it against a wall with some degree of privacy is a good idea. If he has three walls around him he’ll feel even more at ease. It’s best to get the position right from the beginning, you’ll get much quicker results.

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Easy to clean

Make sure it’s easy to clean. You may want to keep it close to a sink, drain or trash can. All of this will stop you carrying a wet pad throughout the entire house every day. This will save you time and ensure consistency for him.

3

Size

Pick a pad that is the right size for him. If he’s a bigger dog he’ll need a bigger than average size. If it’s cramped he won’t feel relaxed and comfortable and you’ll find it much harder to convince him to use it regularly.

4

Privacy

Make sure it’s in a place where he’ll got some privacy. If there is constantly people walking past it, he won’t be able to relax. You wouldn’t want people staring at you when you go to the toilet, and neither does he.

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Easy access

Also make sure he can get to the pee pad easily. If he has to trek half a mile to get to it, he may opt for the lazy option and use the floor instead. Also, try and keep it away from where he eats and plays. Nobody likes going to the toilet where they eat, not even dogs. The corner of a utility room if often a sensible choice.

The Familiarization Method

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Introductions

Put him on a leash and walk him around his new toilet. Encourage him to sniff and take an interest. Do this at least a couple of times a day for a few minutes. The more he’s used to it, the more likely he’ll be to use it.

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Get animated

When you’re around it, talk in an animated voice to get him excited. If he sees it as somewhere he can feel happy and relaxed he’ll be more inclined to use it. Dogs mirror their owners' behavior so he’ll look to you for approval of the pee pad.

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Routine

When you think he’s likely to need the toilet, put him on a leash and walk him to the pad. Encourage him to go, but also make sure you give him some privacy by facing the other way. If he’s always at the pee pad when he needs to go he’ll soon get into the habit of using it.

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Reward

When he does go, make sure you give him a tasty reward. A treat or his favorite food will help cement it as his new favorite toilet location. The better the reward the quicker you’ll see results. Also give him plenty of verbal praise.

5

Don’t punish him

If he does pee outside or somewhere else, don’t punish him. His bladder will already be getting weaker because he’s older, you don’t want him to start peeing out of fear. This will make it even harder for him to control it and go where you want him to.

The Verbal Cue Method

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Routine

Make sure you take him to the pee pad regularly, whenever you think he’s likely to need the toilet. 20 minutes or so after meals, the morning and the evening are all likely times. If he’s always at the pee pad, he’ll be much more likely to use it.

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‘Go pee’

As he starts to pee on the pad, give a ‘go pee’ command. You can use any word or phrase you like. Just make sure you give the command in an upbeat, high pitched voice. You want him to associate this command with good things and relaxing.

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Reward

As soon as he’s finished his pee, give him a tasty treat and some praise. He’ll soon start associating the verbal cue with going for a pee on the pad and a delicious reward. Soon the command alone will make him charge for the pee pad to relieve himself in the hope of food. Practice this every day for a few days.

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Bring forward the cue

After several consistent days of using the verbal cue, start giving the cue before he goes for a pee. By this point he’ll associate the trigger with the pee pad and his bladder will probably automatically start to relax. Continue to reward him after he goes.

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Practice

You now simply need to practice this every day. If he has any slip-ups, clean them up calmly and make sure you get him to the pad next time. He’ll soon start naturally using the pee pad to go to the toilet, at which point you can top using the verbal cue and you can cut out the treats.

By James Barra

Published: 11/21/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Odin and Octavia

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Labrador Retriever

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Eight Years

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Question

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I bought a porch potty for my balcony. My dogs have always had a yard till now. They will lay on it and sit on the porch potty but won’t use it. I have got the neighbours dogs to pee on it while they are also on the balcony to show positive praise and told the neighbours dog good boy lots while peeing on it. I have took both of my dogs pee in the snow and put it on the porch potty in hopes their own scent would help I also did this with their poop. I also sprayed it with a product designed to make dogs pee on pee pads and that also didn’t work. My dogs are very smart but won’t use the potty :(

Nov. 11, 2022

Odin and Octavia's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello, First, the area might be too small. You may need to start by creating a larger area using multiple grass pads laid out together on the balcony until the dogs get used to using that area...Generally a dog needs a potty area to be four times their own width and length at least, in order for their desire to keep a confined space clean not to be discouraging them to go potty there. If there is another dog they get along with well enough to be left on the balcony with, then when weather is good, you may need to spend two days per dog, hanging out on the balcony all day with the dog who will use the grass pad whenever they need to go, so that the area smells like a potty, they are seeing another dog go, but also, so that they are out there long enough that your dog can't just hold it to go elsewhere and due to watching the other dog and smelling it, is more encouraged to go there also. You may need to go inside and spy from on them from inside if your dog believes they aren't supposed to go potty there, and is less likely to go with you present. If you do that, make sure the area is safe for them to be left on the balcony without you though, and with each other. The first time you do this, your dog will probably hold it for 8-12 hours until they finally give in and go. Be ready to praise and reward and let them inside again as soon as they go, to help your dog see that you want them to go potty instead of them expecting a punishment. You will need to repeat this waiting out process for a couple of days until your dog gives in after holding it all day, and starts to go potty there more easily as they see it's acceptable. Again, make the grass area larger for about a month, until the dogs are comfortable easily going potty out there, then very gradually decrease it back to the current size slowly. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 14, 2022

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Chloe

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Shih Tzu

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Three Years

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Hi, so my dog Chloe uses the large or xlarge pee pads at night , morning and midday, the only thing is that she pees right on the edge of the pads and therefor the floors get all wet with her pee. she is not using the center of the pad but the edges. Please give me advice on how to correct this problem, thank you. Miriam-

Oct. 19, 2022

Chloe's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello, There are a few things you can try. You can either take her potty to the pads on leash for a couple of weeks, using the leash to guide her to the center of the pad, praising as soon as she is in the middle, then rewarding with a treat after she pees in the middle of the pad. If she pees on the edge, don't scold but also don't praise or give the treat. Another option is to use something like a doggie litter box, and instead of doggie litter place the pee pad inside and reward when she goes potty there, so she has a clearly defined boundary to help get her used to peeing in the middle of the box. You will need to pay extra attention and reward when you see her going in there at first to make sure she will use it since it will be a little different than she is used to. You could try placing something less pleasant to walk on around some of the edges, leaving certain sides as is so she can get onto the pad still. The idea being that something like rocks is not as pleasant to step on if she is standing partially off the pad when she pees right now, so the rocks could encourage her to be fully on the pad to avoid them. This option is great for many dogs but it can cause some dogs not to want to visit the pad at all, leading to accidents. If that happens, you will need to immediately switch the pad back to how it was before. I would also look for opportunities to reward her for pottying on pad in the right spot, to help her learn to target that area for peeing but also to make peeing on the pee pad something she enjoys still to avoid her not going to the pad anymore because the rocks annoyed her. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Oct. 20, 2022


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