How to Train Your Older Dog to Use an Indoor Potty

Medium
1-6 Weeks
General

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.

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.

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

The Bring the Outside In Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
3
Reward and clean
When your dog goes potty on the inside grass, reward her enthusiastically and clean it up quickly.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Potty Pad Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
5
Establish routine
Transition to only using the pad inside. Make sure to change the pad as soon as it is dirtied.
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The Just the Pad Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
3
Reward enthusiastically
Reward your dog enthusiastically when she goes and promptly clean it up.
Step
4
Practice
Practice laying down the pad when your dog asks to go out and rewarding her for going.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Pilot
Australian Shepherd
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Pilot
Australian Shepherd
2 Years

I moved from a small town to a big city and my dog pees when I take him down the stairs to go outside almost eveytime. Sometimes it’s only 4 hours after the last time he has gone outside. I can’t take him down the elevator because he pees in it too. He is fine going up the elevator. I just don’t know what to do. Before we moved he was completely potty trained. He sat by the door when he wanted to go out and wouldn’t come inside until his did both of his businesses. He pees almost every time but it seems like he also pees every time a man passes us in our building. I thought he would just get use to all the new and he was doing better but has regressed this week. He has a grass pad but doesn’t seem interested in peeing on it.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
394 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tateum, It sounds like he might be submissive peeing due to anxiety or excitement from the new environment. He might also be marking from smelling other dogs in the area, or simply confused about being outside and thinking he should pee right away. First, purchase a belly band, which is a sling type piece of fabric that you can put an adsorbent pad in to catch urine. This will stop him from distributing his scent on the elevator and stairs (and also mean less to clean up). Have him wear this on the trip outside until he get to where he should pee. Pay careful attention to his body language and look up videos of canine body language if you're unsure. Does he seem confident or submissive, nervous, or excited when on the stairs? If confident, he is probably marking due to other dogs' scent. If so the belly band will make his marking unsuccessful (being successful at marking rewards the marking and encourages it further) and when he does go to lift his leg, clap loudly two times and then encourage him to quickly keep following you outside. Do not sound angry, simply surprise him before he can mark, then give him a treat after he pees outside where he should when you tell him to "Go Potty". If he seems nervous, fearful, or excited on the stairs, the peeing is probably submissive, especially if he squats instead of leg lifts if he normally leg lifts to pee. In that case don't clap when he does it but instead the belly band should catch the urine while you work on the following. Spend time with him simply hanging out in that area, training, playing, relaxing and having a fun but also peaceful time. Reward him while he is calm and happy when new people pass by before he has a chance to pee or act scared. The goal in this case is to build his confidence in that area and help him get used to being there so that he is not worried about it during trips outside. Once you get outside paste the building, take off the belly band and tell him "Go Potty" to encourage him to pee there. If he goes potty there, give him three small treats im a row to reinforce that he should pee in that spot. If he is simply confused about where to pee then the belly band, clapping and rewards for peeing in the correct location can be followed. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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