Have you ever been around a friend's dog and found out that her dog was completely trustworthy in the house? Your friend never has to worry about things being chewed up, about potty training accidents, or food theft. When you ask your friend how she accomplished that, she touts the many benefits of crate training. You leave the conversation feeling discouraged because your dog is older and is absolutely terrified of the crate due to past experiences or simply lack of exposure. Because you cannot use the crate to train your dog, you feel like you will forever be dealing with poor house manners. You may especially feel this way if your older dog is a recent rescue that has never lived inside a house before.
What if there were other ways to teach your older dog the many things that you would normally use a crate to train? What if your dog could learn to be trustworthy inside your home like your friend's dog? Perhaps your older dog could even get to the point where he could be trusted while alone. Wouldn't that be nice?
In dog training, there is often more than one way to train something. Not every method works for every dog, so knowing some of the alternatives can really be useful. By using a different method, you can teach your dog to be trustworthy in your home, even when using a crate is not an option.
Having a dog that is mannerly in your home is truly enjoyable. Although it can take time and a lot of work to accomplish, the rewards for your effort are great. When your dog will calmly occupy himself with toys, rest quietly throughout the day, and alert you when he needs to go to the bathroom outside, it makes it easier to enjoy his presence in your home and to include him in family fun. Not only is a well-mannered dog more relaxing, he is also more fun because you can take him with you when you travel or go to friends' houses, and he is much safer because you do not have to worry about him chewing on your electric plugs or eating something sharp.
While training your older dog, keep in mind that he may have old habits that will take time to break. If this is the case, you will need to be even more consistent with the training. The more times that you can prevent poor habits and reward good habits, the quicker the training will go. Also, keep in mind that an older dog may need to be taken outside to go to the bathroom much more frequently than a young adult dog would need. As your dog ages, he can lose his ability to hold his bladder for long periods of time, so potty training will only be successful if he is given plenty of opportunities to succeed and not forced to fail by having to hold it for longer than he can.
It is important to choose the method that your dog is capable of succeeding at. If your dog is constantly getting into things that he should not or has lots of energy, then you may need to use a method that involves more confinement at first. The 'Leash' method or the 'Exercise Pen' method can provide him with the clear boundaries that he needs. If your dog is relatively calm and likes to be with you, then the training process might go quicker if you use the 'Treat' method. Perhaps your dog would be fine with any of the methods, but you are not always at home, then you may want to utilize multiple methods, so that he is confined in his room when no one is at home with him, and he is attached to you or rewarded for staying by your side when you are at home.
Be patient with your dog, because you are training multiple behaviors at once this could take up to six months or longer to train. If your dog is calmer and responds well to potty training, then this could also take as little as one month. It will vary widely depending on your specific dog.
To get started, for all of the methods you will need your dog's kibble for the day, measured out into Zip-lock bags small enough to fit into your pocket or another convenient location. If your dog needs the extra motivation, then you will also need a food topper, such as freeze-dried liver powder or chicken bits, mixed into the kibble bags for scent and flavor. This kibble can be used for training and stuffing chew toys. You will need several interesting toys for your dog to chew on and play with, such as kibble-stuffed Kongs and other hollow chew toys, and kibble filled dog puzzle toys. You may also want to provide your dog with a bed. If you are using the 'Leash' method or the 'Treat' method then you can place the bed at the location where you tend to stop and sit the most. If you are using the 'Exercise Pen' method then you will want to place the bed inside of his enclosed room. If your dog chews on the bed, then you will need to purchase a more chew-proof bed, such as a nylon or vinyl covered foam mat or cot type bed.
If you are using the 'Leash' method, you will also need a leash approximately six to eight feet long that can be attached to your person, with enough slack left in the leash for your dog to lay down while you are standing. If you are using the 'Exercise Pen' method, you will also need either an exercise pen or an area that can be closed off with a baby gate, such as a hallway or small room like a bathroom. You will also need either a toilet area, composed of puppy pee pads or a litter box, if you wish to train for those, or a way for your dog to alert you that he needs to go outside if you wish to train him to eliminate outside. A hanging bell works well for this when combined with training.
With all of the methods, you will also need time, consistency, patience, and alertness. You will need to pay careful attention for the training to work most effectively. Watch for opportunities to take him to the bathroom when he needs to go. Watch for opportunities to reward good behavior, including lying down calmly. Watch for opportunities to teach him what to do and not to do. Lastly, do not forget to simply enjoy your dog and his company during this process.