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Your older dog might be past the point of taking long walks outside or heading down flights of stairs to get to the backyard to go potty. Or maybe you have an older dog who can no longer hold his bladder while you are at work and away from him all day. If you and your older dog are dealing with any of these things, it might be a good idea to protect his dignity in his old age and train him to go potty on indoor grass inside your home. This gives him a safe place to go inside without punishment or humiliation. Indoor grass also gives him the same look and feel of the grass that he has been using outdoors for years. Training your older dog to use indoor grass to go potty will alleviate a lot of stress for you both.
Training your older dog to use indoor grass is giving him permission to go potty inside without consequence. If he's at an age where he can't hold it as long as you are away, giving him this permission to go indoors will be a huge confidence booster for him. Be sure to keep the indoor grass in one area, so he only has the idea of going inside without consequence to get used to. Training your older dog to use indoor grass doesn't take very long. Be patient and offer lots of rewards and verbal praise, so he knows he's making the right choice. Indoor grass works really well for small dogs. Larger breed dogs can also learn to use indoor grass, but even in their older age, they may require some outdoor exercise every now and then.
Depending on the size of your dog, you can get boxes of grass pre-made, or you can purchase strips of indoor grass and set them in areas you are permitting your dog to go. You may want to walk your older dog on a leash to this new potty area within your home until he gets used to the permission to use it on his own. Be sure to schedule some time showing him this rather than put it in place and expecting him to know what to do with it. Also, have lots of treats on hand to reward your older dog and ensure what he's doing is okay.
The Best Places Method
Choose a spot
Walk around your house and pick the best spot to place indoor grass. You want this to be separate from your common living areas. For instance, you might not want your dog going potty on indoor grass directly in front of your TV in the living room. Give him some privacy and a place to go away from the public spaces of your home. Be sure the place you pick is the place where the grass will stay so you don't confuse your older dog.
Show your dog
Walk your dog on a leash to the area and let him sniff around. Do not expect your older dog, who was probably used to going outside, to automatically go potty on your indoor grass. Just show him around and offer him a treat for walking, exploring, and sniffing the area. Once you've introduced him to it, walk away for a bit.
Just as you did when you house trained your dog, take your older dog to his new indoor grass at times when you know he typically needs to go potty. If he's been your dog for quite some time, you probably know these times. If he's an older rescue dog, you may need to get to know his habits a bit better. Typically upon waking from a nap or for the day and about 10 minutes after meals, your dog will need to go potty.
During those potty times, take your dog to the grass on his leash. Let him sniff around and give him commands he may already know such as 'go potty.' With a soft and calm voice, encourage him to go letting him know this is okay to do in the house in this spot.
It may take a few times for your dog to get used to going to the indoor grass but each time he goes to the grass, whether he goes potty or not, give him a treat. If he's exploring the indoor grass on his own, he's questioning whether or not he can use it. Reward him for acknowledging it's there and recognizing it as his new space.
Your older dog may revert to older habits like going to the door when he needs to go potty. If he does this, very calmly take him to his new indoor grass and use those commands to tell him to go potty. Stand nearby encouraging him with a calm voice but give him a bit of privacy to do his business. Once he's done, always give him a treat.
If your old guy has accidents in the house don't give him consequences, just remind him every time you think he needs to go potty to use the grass. If he's having accidents you may need to show him the grass more often than you're currently doing. Give him some time to get used to this new routine.
Anytime your dog uses the indoor grass be sure to clean it up. You don't want it to stink up your house but you also want to encourage your dog to keep using it and he's likely to not use it if it remains dirty with feces or urine.
The Grass Carpet Method
Place grass carpet
Pick a room where you plan to have a section of grass carpet big enough for your older dog to use to go potty every day. The should be a place your dog can access with indoor grass carpet every time he needs to go potty. If possible, choose a room you can potentially cover with grass carpet temporarily while your older dog trains.
After your dog finishes a meal and when he wakes from naps or for the day, use the potty command and take him to the room you have reserved with the grass carpet.
Stand with your dog in that room, allowing him to sniff all of the grass carpet. Encourage him with command words such as 'go potty' to use the grass carpet to go potty.
Once your older dog uses the potty on the grass carpet, give him lots of calm verbal praise and a reward in the form of a tasty treat.
Just as with house training puppies, you will want to visit your dog's grass carpet room often for him to go potty. Always be sure to leave the door open so he can access it on his own. While he is training to use this room rather than old habits like going outside, be sure you take him in there often enough so he doesn't have any accidents.
As your older dogs gets used to his new indoor potty spot, you can begin to remove some of the indoor grass carpet. Be sure you keep enough for your dog to use comfortably. He should be able to stand on it, turn around, and go potty. But once he knows which room is his and what the grass carpet is for, you no longer need to have as much as possible in the room.
Be sure you are constantly practicing taking your older dog to his new potty room with the indoor carpet anytime you think he needs to go potty. Watch for signs such as going to the door to be let outside, sniffing, or circling around, and certainly after meals and upon waking, take him into his room to go potty on his new grass carpet.
The Scheduled Times Method
Your older dog
If your dog has aged within your family and you know his habits well, pay attention to when he most often goes potty. First thing in the morning, after meals, upon waking from an afternoon nap, and before bedtime are typical times for an older dog, although yours may be different. If you are rescuing an older dog, watch for signs of needing to go potty like circling and sniffing around or visiting one area of your house only to go potty and not other times.
Take your older dog to the new indoor grass section within your home and introduce it to him with enthusiasm and keywords he may know such as 'go potty'. Even if he doesn't use it to go potty right away, give him a reward for exploring it.
Once your older dog does use the indoor grass to go potty, celebrate with lots of enthusiasm and a treat.
Take your older dog to his special indoor grass potty area often and certainly during those key times you have noted he typically needs to go potty.
Over time, your older dog should get used to this indoor grass being his special place to use the potty. Pay attention to him and eventually stop taking him yourself every time you think he needs to go. If you catch him going to the area on his own, stand back quietly, giving him some privacy, and when he is done reward him with a tasty treat. Catching him in the act and rewarding for positive behavior will help him to remember that this is okay to do.
Be patient with your older dog. This may take him some time to get used to, especially if he's a rescue dog or if he has spent much of his life going outside and you are now changing his habits and behaviors.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 01/18/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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