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How to Train Your Older Dog to Use an Indoor Potty

How to Train Your Older Dog to Use an Indoor Potty
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-6 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

You and your dog have been together for many years. She is getting older now, and slowing down a little. She has her good days and her bad days, but she still enjoys all the things she’s always enjoyed. She just does those things a little bit slower these days. You may have noticed that it is harder and harder for your older dog to get down the steps at the front door, or she may not be able to hold it while you are at work or overnight. Perhaps your older dog has mobility issues, and getting her in and out to go potty is becoming difficult for you. It may be that your older dog’s arthritis acts up in the cold, and you hate making her go out into the cold to go potty.

There are many reasons why you may want to teach your older dog to use an indoor potty. If your dog has always been very well house-trained, it may be challenging for her to learn to go inside. If your dog is the 'do or die' type who will wait three days to go potty if it’s raining or snowing, you may have a challenge on your hands. All dogs can re-adjust their understanding of “outside” to include a potty area that you designate inside, it may just take some creativity and a good deal of perseverance on your part.

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Defining Tasks

Training your older dog to use an indoor potty has two distinct training components. First, you must teach your dog what designated area you intend for her to think of as outside. Second, you must help your dog overcome her anxiety of peeing under a roof, which has always been discouraged previously.

You can rely on the trust you’ve built with your older dog to teach her a new way of perceiving her environment. While dogs have an intuitive understanding of a den, a place where they sleep and should not poop or pee, the concept of extending this to an entire house and even onto porches is entirely human. Just as it is a human concept to go potty outside, you can teach your older dog the intuitive concept of going potty in a designated place inside.

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Getting Started

You may have to try a variety of potty surfaces before you arrive at one that works for you and your dog. Be willing to be creative, and try to think about things as your dog would. Does your dog always pee on the same potted plant? Maybe bringing that pot in could help your dog understand the principle of bringing outside behavior inside. It is a good idea to designate an area that you can expect to have some accidents with. Line floors and lower walls with plastic until your dog gets a feel for exactly where she should be going potty.

Make sure your designated potty place is sufficiently far from where your dog sleeps to make sure she does not see this area as part of her den. Another room is best, but if this is not possible the other side of the room should be sufficient

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The Bring the Outside In Method

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1

Bring in the outside

Bring in a plot of sod, some potted plants, and anything else your dog likes to pee on. Put them in an area well covered with plastic.

2

Go potty

When your dog asks to go out, lead her to the inside space and tell her to go potty. If she asks to go to the door again, reaffirm that she should go on the grass inside.

3

Reward and clean

When your dog goes potty on the inside grass, reward her enthusiastically and clean it up quickly.

4

Transition to pee pad

Lay a pee pad on top of the grass inside and encourage your dog to use it. Reward when she does.

5

Pee pad alone

Replace the outside area with a pee pad. If your dog is resistant to the pee pad, try artificial turf over a pee pad.

The Potty Pad Method

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Bring the pad outside

Start by bringing the pee pad outside with your dog. When she goes to pee or poo, put the pad under her and reward her for going.

2

Pad first

Lay the pad down somewhere your dog likes to go and encourage her to use it. If she refuses, bring it to where she wants to go and reward her for going on it. Keep practicing until she is willing to go to the pad to go potty.

3

Pad right outside

Lay the pad just outside, not in a desirable pee area, and encourage your dog to use it. Reward her enthusiastically when she does.

4

Pad inside

Put the pad inside and encourage your dog to use it exactly as you would if it were outside. If you usually leash your dog to go potty, leash her now.

5

Establish routine

Transition to only using the pad inside. Make sure to change the pad as soon as it is dirtied.

The Just the Pad Method

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Lay a pee pad in front of the door

Make sure you don’t have any guests coming over, and lay the pad in front of the door where you dog asks to go out.

2

Go potty there

When your dog goes to the door to ask to go out, tell her to go potty right there. She may whine and paw at the door, but be encouraging for her to go there.

3

Reward enthusiastically

Reward your dog enthusiastically when she goes and promptly clean it up.

4

Practice

Practice laying down the pad when your dog asks to go out and rewarding her for going.

5

Move the pad

When your dog is comfortably going on the pad, move it to your desired location and encourage your dog to use it there. Reward enthusiastically.

By Coral Drake

Published: 01/11/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Simba

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Pomeranian

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7 Months

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Question

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My Dog keeps peeing randomly in my living room and not on the pee pad/board. How do I train my dog to use the pee pad/board?

June 28, 2022

Simba's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Check out the Exercise Pen method from the article I have linked below. Since pup is older, you can add an hour to the times listed in the article. The article mentions a doggie litter box but this method can also be used with other indoor potties like pee pads and grass pads. If pup is specifically confusing carpet and rugs with pee pads and the issue continues, you may also need to switch your indoor potty type from pee pads (that are made of fabric and resemble carpet and rugs to some dogs) to something more distinct like disposable real grass pads or a dog litter box (uses paper based dog litter not cat litter). Exercise Pen method: https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 28, 2022

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Lucky

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Maltese Shih Tzu

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19 Months

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I recently adopted my dog almost two months ago, I know little to nothing about his past, but they did say his potty trained indoors and outside. Under my care his never go inside and always holds it till were outside but even then he doesn’t have one specify place to go when were outside. I live in a city that normally gets a lot of snow and colder days in the winter and extremely hot days in the summer, so I want to get a jump on training him inside as soon as possible so his not suffering in the winter or during the summer. I think at this point he exclusively associates the potty to the outside but I don't want to see him suffer while the weather changes.

April 26, 2022

Lucky's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, With dogs who are used to going potty outside, I recommend using a disposable real grass pad instead of something like a plastic tray or pee pad, to help pup make the connection more easily and experience less stress. I would create a larger area in a designated area that can be closed off when you don't want pup going potty in there, like a guest bathroom. I would set up an exercise pen and cover the floor of it with several grass pads, until the area is at least six times larger than the space pup takes up while standing, enough for pup to circle and sniff around a bit. I would spray it with potty encouraging spray, then have pup spend time in that pen on the grass after it's been at least four hours since pup last went potty. You can give pup a dog food stuffed chew toy in there for boredom and water to encourage the need to pee. Watch pup from across the room without giving a lot of attention (since pup probably thinks they will get in trouble if they go potty while inside. When pup finally goes potty on the grass pad out of desperation the first time, be ready to praise and reward with several small yummy treats, one at a time, then let pup out of the pen - peeing in there equals freedom and treats. I would start this when you have a couple of days off in a row, and expect pup will hold it 9 hours the first few times, until they figure out that you like it when they go potty there and it gets them out of the pen. You can also tell pup to Go Potty whenever you take them potty outside ahead of time, giving one treat after pup goes potty outside when told that - to teach pup that Go Potty command, then use that command when pup is in the pen also, to help pup understand that it's okay to go potty inside there. Expect pup to be really hesitant to go potty on the grass for the first week, especially the first two days, then somewhat hesitant for about a month. As long as pup isn't holding it for longer than 12 hours, having to wait pup out is fairly normal. If pup goes past 12 hours, you will need to give a potty trip outside then try again later, encouraging more drinking the next time. If you have an medical concerns during this time or pup has a medical condition that would make this process concerning I would first consult your vet before beginning. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 2, 2022


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