How to Train Your Older Dog to Use a Pee Pad

Medium
1-4 Weeks
General

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.

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.

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!

The Set Up Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
2
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
5
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.
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The Familiarization Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
2
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.
Step
3
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.
Step
4
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Verbal Cue Method

ribbon-method-3
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Step
1
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.
Step
2
‘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.
Step
3
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.
Step
4
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.
Step
5
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Mr.Chubbs
Mixed
14 Years
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Question
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Mr.Chubbs
Mixed
14 Years

He has started to drink lots of water so of course he has to pee more.he pees in living room at night even though I take him around now at 10and 6 in morning so want to train him on pee pad so he won’t have an accident.how do I get him to use it.I put the pad down where he peed but he just pee on other side of it.help please

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Violet, First, as you probably already know I wouldn't limit his water intake without speaking with your vet first. Many older dogs with issues like kidney issues need the additional water to function okay. I am not a vet though, so always refer to your vet. With that said, I would confine pup (with water access too), in an exercise pen with a pee pad or a disposable real grass pad. For an older dog who has gone potty outside their entire life, I highly recommend a disposable grass pad. It tends to be a more natural transition, less stressful for the dog, and easier for you to teach, while still giving you an indoor option. You can use the method I will go over below with any inside potty though, including a pee pad. Exercise pen method: https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Follow the Exercise Pen method from the article I have linked above, setting it up so that the grass pad or pee pad is in the pen, as well as a non-absorbent bed like www.primopads.com or k9ballistics or your normal dog bed with a non-absorbent cover, and a water source for pup. The method will mention a litter box, but you can use other indoor potties for it instead too, like pee pads or grass pads. The method will go over how to train pup using the exercise pen to use the pad, then gradually increase freedom from the pen as pup learns and improves. Some dogs have a good enough memory and mobility that phasing out the exercise pen can be done in time once pup learns (which the method will detail how to do), but some older dogs may need to sleep in a smaller area like the exercise pen or small section of your kitchen long term, at least at night, if they don't have the mobility, memory, or there is too much urgency to pee when they wake up, to be able to get to a pad in time from a location anywhere other than sleeping right by the pad. Some dogs also pee in their sleep if their is an incontinence issue. In that case a doggie diaper would be needed. Disposable real grass pad brands if you go that route. www.freshpatch.com www.porchpotty.com www.doggielawn.com Also found on amazon Most dogs will choose to go on the pee or grass pad, especially if you use the grass ones, rather than next to them, but if pup does end up going next to them instead of on them, you may have to use additional pads to line the entire floor of the pen at first, until pup becomes familiar with going on the pads and starts to prefer to go on those over the nearby floor. Clean any new or old accidents you know of with a cleaner that contains enzymes to fully remove the pee and poop smell so pup won't be encouraged to go potty in that spot again by the smell. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Tia
Shih Tzu
13 Years
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Question
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Tia
Shih Tzu
13 Years

My mom recently passed away and I took her beloved companion into my home. She was previously trained on puppy pads and rarely had an accident. At my house, she has yet to use the pad. I have shown it to her numerous times and have even utitlized some throughout the house at night time but wake up to messes in the floor and unsused puppy pads. I am worried that I may not be able to keep her if this continues. What am I doing wrong?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
239 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Any time there is a transition of any sort, dogs tend to regress. Behaviors they have known for years, they suddenly forget. So you may need to spend a week or so, re-training her to use the potty pads. I am going to give you some training information on how to work with your dog to use potty pads. Choose Your Spot Pick a space in your house where you want your dog to go. Obviously, you’ll want this spot to be a low-traffic area. Make sure this spot is easily accessible to your dog, and make sure the floor surface is linoleum or tile, as opposed to carpet. If your dog “misses,” it will be easier to clean up. If the only spot you can put the pee pad is a carpet, you might consider getting a small tarp to put underneath the puppy pee pad to guard against spillage. Choose a spot that is outside of your “smell zone.” An important tip to remember is to make sure not to let your dog decide the spot he likes. Not only might he pick an area you won’t like, but he’ll learn that he is in charge – not you – which can cause a host of problems down the line. Monitor Your Dog When you are potty training your dog, full-time monitoring is an absolute necessity. It’s impossible to correct bad behaviors if you don’t see them happen. Dogs have very short memories. It is important to catch your dog in the act. If your dog goes on the floor, and you try to correct him hours after the fact, he will be confused and upset, not knowing what he did wrong. This can hinder training and your relationship with your dog. Puppies, in particular, must be watched constantly. They have less control over their bowels and will go when they have to go. If you miss these moments, you lose precious training opportunities. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to be with your dog 24 hours a day, but try to spend more time at home during the weeks you are potty training – it will pay off in the long run. Learn Your Dog’s Schedule Dogs, for the most part, are predictable. They will go to the bathroom at predictable times. You should be able to learn when your dog has to go based on timing as much as on his signals. Take some time to study your dog’s bathroom habits. You’ll learn the amount of time after he eats or drinks that he has to go, and you’ll get in rhythm with his daily bathroom schedule. This will help you reduce accidents and speed up the potty training process. Studying your dog’s habits can also help you identify his bathroom “triggers” – like having to go after a certain amount of playtime. Once you learn your dog’s schedule, use it to your advantage in potty training. Bring him to the pee pad a few minutes before he normally goes, and encourage him. This will help him get used to going in the right spot, and help you establish repetition in your training. Choose a Command Word Dogs have keen senses – they respond to sight, smell, and sound. When you begin pee pad training, choose a command word and use it every time you take your dog to the pad. Just about any word will work. The tone of your voice is more important than the actual word. Try phrases like “go on” or “go potty” in a slightly elevated, encouraging tone. Make sure to repeat this same command, in the same tone, every time you take your dog to the pee pad. Avoid Punishment When your dog has an accident, it’s just that – an accident. When you punish your dog during potty training, he will become confused and scared. He doesn’t know what he’s done wrong, and can’t understand why the person he loves most is mad at him. Most importantly, it will not help his potty training. Positive Reinforcement Both human and dog behavior is largely based on incentives. Dogs’ incentives are very simple – they want to eat when they are hungry, play when they are excited, and sleep when they are tired. But the most important thing your dog wants in life is to please you. Use this to your advantage. Whenever your dog goes on his potty training pad, shower him with lots of praise. If he sees that he gets praise for doing his business on the pad, he will be incentivized to keep going on the pad – and he’ll be excited to do it! Potty training – whether it’s a pee pad or going outside – will take time, but if you do it right, can take less time. Many dogs are potty trained in less than two weeks. Just remember that you and your dog are partners. Do everything you can to help him learn the proper etiquette, and you will enjoy a long, quality relationship together. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in.

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Tank
English Bulldog
7 Years
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Tank
English Bulldog
7 Years

He has lost all the muscle in his back half!of his body. He has arthritis in his knees. He also has has some intestinal issues which the vets aren’t sure what it is. They say it can be inflammatory disease. He is on a hydrolosized protein food now. He did eat raw for years before all his troubles. The trouble began around February when I noticed he was shaking when he was lying down. I had also noticed his back was looking bony. By Late April and May his eating habits changed drastically. By mid May he wasn’t eating and losing weight. He was put on different medicine for arthritis but it made him sick. He was prescribed Prilosec and steroids. With the help of the steroids he finally started eating again and gaining weight back. He is now off the steroids and Prilosec and he is still eating (not the same as he used to but he is eating enough). We live in an apartment building and I just had a baby in may. He no longer will go outside to go to the bathroom. We don’t punish him because we know it’s hard for him to get outside now. How can I train him to go inside on pads when he is no longer motivated by treats (vet also told me it’s better not to give him any food other than the prescription kibble he is on).

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kimberly, I would start by using a disposable real grass pad instead of pee pad, since pup will naturally be more comfortable going on a grass surface than fabric type surface. Disposable real grass pad brands - Also found on Amazon: www.porchpotty.com www.freshpatch.com www.doggielawn.com I would have pup wear a doggie diaper. I would do this for two reasons. One, pup may not have control of his bladder and bowels any more due to the muscle and nerve damage it sounds like he has. If that's the case, you honestly won't be able to train pup to go potty anywhere specific because pup won't be able to hold it to get there and control when they are going. Your vet might be able to tell you whether they believe pup can physically hold it or not. I am not a vet. Two, if pup is able to physically hold it and can be trained, some dogs will try to avoid going potty in a diaper until they get used to it. If that is the case with pup, you can keep the diaper on pup, keep pup close to you so you can supervise them when they may need to go potty while also taking pup potty very often on schedule too. Take pup to the grass pad and remove the diaper so pup will relax enough to go and happen to be on the grass pad where you have brought them too when they do go. Give lots of genuine praise, and if pup likes affection, affection once pup is done. I would set up an exercise pen with the grass pad, to take pup to for potty breaks, with the door open between potty breaks in case pup chooses to also go in there to go potty on his own. The exercise pen acts like a bathroom with the grass pad as the toilet inside - so it's much clearer visually to pup than just the grass pad. The exercise pen is also where pup should be sleeping at night and when you aren't home to help pup go to the bathroom, to prevent accidents elsewhere. Give pup a padded non-absorbent bed in there too, like k9ballistics beds or www.primopads.com. The k9ballistics ones will probably be more padded for pup's sore joints. You might also be able to find a waterproof vinyl type cover to fit on another favorite bed of pups. Whatever you use, it needs to be non-absorbent and easy to clean. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Linda
Yorkie
10 Years
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Linda
Yorkie
10 Years

Hello,
Linda is a very nervous old dog, shes been using peepads her whole life. But she will often pee outside of the pad in a completely random spot for seemingly no reason. Often when i am not looking or behind my back. I do not know how to train her to pee only on the pad especially when i cant even see her.
Advice would be appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello, For dogs, pee pad training is partially about learning to go on the pee pad surface but it's also about learning to go in a designated location in the home. Keeping the pee pads in the same location all the time is super important, especially for older dogs who have a harder time finding the correct spot as eye sight and memory decline. Pup may need a more visible reminder of where to go, like an area that's enclosed a bit more. like a short exercise pen area with the pee pad inside and door open, or something like a disposable real grass pad instead of pee pad, that's more absorbent and smells more encouraging, if pup is confusing the fabric of the pee pads with things like rugs and carpet. Check out the Exercise pen method from the article I have linked below. I would practice that method for a little while to refresh potty training, then keep an exercise pen set up indefinitely (or something similar but nicer looking if you prefer), to give pup not only a toilet but also a bathroom to find more easily. If pup is going on rugs and carpet, I would switch to disposable real grass pads and do the exercise pen method with those. If pup is still pottying next to the pad instead of on it, you may need to cover then entire floor of the exercise pen with them at first, then gradually remove the extra ones and you reward pup for going on the right spot. Exercise pen method: https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Disposable real grass pad brands - also on amazon: www.freshpatch.com www.doggielawn.com www.porchpotty.com If pup used to do well with the pee pads and the accidents off the pads have only been happening in the last couple of years or less, I would speak with your vet. At this age pup may have the beginnings of incontinence due to their age. Pup may need a potty to be kept closer at all times, or to be desensitized to wearing a doggie diaper when they are in parts of the house not close to a potty, since they won't be able to hold it well enough to make it all the way to the pads. I am not a vet, so speak to your vet about anything that may be medically related for pup. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Bauer
mix (cocker, lhasa apso)
16 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Bauer
mix (cocker, lhasa apso)
16 Years

Mr. Bauer is doing great but can't see or hear very well. He's still happy and lives for his daily walk even though he is getting slower.

But we're moving next week. And we'll have an upstairs. I have baby gates and I'm ok with carrying him up and down the rest of his life.

But I'd like to teach him to use a pee pee pad upstairs if he needs to. Is it realistic to teach him to find that as an option? I think when we're not home I will just leave him upstairs with his bed.

Any advice for teaching him that this is an option when he really can't see and he'll be in a new place? I feel bad making these changes on him at this point but I'll just keep him close and love him extra...

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Cynthia, I highly recommend setting up an exercise pen and a couple of disposable real grass pads together in the pen and teaching pup to use those. Because pup has been used to going potty outside, he will likely associate the pee pads with carpet and feel bad about having to go potty on them and may be resistant to going on them or confused and have accidents elsewhere inside. The grass pads will be more familiar to him and easier for him to adapt to in most cases, and they are still disposable for you, you just replace them less often, picking up poop with a baggie before it needs replacing. Disposable real grass pad brands - also on Amazon: www.freshpatch.com www.porchpotty.com www.doggielawn.com I generally recommend going with the cheaper grass options when starting out, to make sure pup takes to it before dropping more money, then if you like it, the porchpotty is a great long-term option that's easier to clean, if you prefer that for more money upfront. Check out the article I have linked below. I would set up an exercise pen and cover half of it with the grass pads, giving pup a non-absorbent bed on the other side, like k9ballistics or primopads.com, then follow that method to help pup grasp the concept of going potty in the home. I would probably always keep the exercise pen up with the grass pad inside, and just leave the door open for pup all the time once trained, so they can go in there. The physical barrier of the pen will probably help pup locate the grass pad more easily at their age and not get as confused about whether they are in the correct spot to go vs. carpet (kind of like having a toilet inside a bathroom inside of sitting in your den for us). Exercise Pen method - mentions litter boxes but a grass pad can be used instead of the litter box and the steps should be the same for that: https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Once pup is aiming onto the grass pad well, you can gradually remove the extra pads from the pen until 1 or 2 are left in the pen with pup. Some older dogs have a hard time locating the correct spot to go potty due to poor eye sight, limited mobility, and mental decline. For those dogs you may find pup does better being kept inside the exercise pen with the door closed when you are not home, so pup can easily find the grass pads next to them instead of having to wander around the house. This may not be an issue yet, but it's good to keep it in mind if pup starts having accidents throughout the house later after being trained. For older dogs who are struggling to hold it while you are away, I do find that teaching a grass pad in an exercise pen is helpful for you and pup. If pup can hold it just find right now, you may not need to change anything about your current routine if you don't want to, but its not a bad idea most of the time since pup may need that skill at they get older. Just be prepared to give extra supervision and confinement while training for a while to ensure pup doesn't just think they can go potty anywhere in the home, but learns to clearly differentiate the grass from the rest of the home, especially carpet and rugs. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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