How To Housetrain An Older Dog

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Question:

I have a question about toilet training an older dog. How should I house break my two year old Miniature Dachshund?

Answer:

Training an older dog is not much different than training a puppy, and in several ways, you may have a leg up (that’s a pun) in a few key places. Think about that the overall goal is….pee and poo go outside. That’s it. Try not to get muddled in anything else until you start to see some progress.

Make a Plan

In your plan you will keep track of

  • Feeding Schedule: What times you feed your dog now and any feeding changes you are going to make
  • Potty Times: What times you think he has to go potty now
  • Outdoor Times: What times you are taking him out
  • Accidents: What times you think he has accidents
  • Locations: Where he has accident

Start with the time you wake up until the time you sleep. It will look like this …

6:00 am: Wake up

6:15 am: Find poop in living room

6:25 am: Fed the dog but he didn’t eat much

6:45 am: Take dog outside for pee

7:30 am: Find a poop at the door

and so on.

This information is important to help you see when you are taking him out, when he goes and where you may be falling short when you find stray poops in the house–indicators that you want to add an outdoor going-out time to your schedule. Your goal is to tighten up this schedule to three or so poops a day at consistent times, pees at predictable times, and fewer “discoveries” around your house.

Feeding

If your dog eats freely from a bowl left on the floor you may need to reconsider that practice. Our bodies operate with beautiful regularity. When you put food in, it comes out after a certain “transit time”–the time it takes to travel through the body. If you are allowing a dog to “self feed” or eat whenever she wants to, rather than putting food down at certain times, the dog’s body is processing that food, and eliminating it at different times throughout the day. When you allow a dog to nibble here and there or graze throughout the day, you are not going to be able to take advantage of nature’s time clock, which can actually be programmed to eliminate at specific times.

Feed once in the morning and once in the evening. If you feel you REALLY need to, add a midday feeding. Most dogs do not need a feeding midday, but if not feeding him is going to make you feel like a total meanie, then permission granted. Keep to the schedule and the dog’s body will adapt to the changes and establish a schedule for when she will need to “go.”

Record Known Potty Times

When is he going now? Write it down so that you can meet his established needs.

When is he going outdoors? For now, write down the times he goes outdoors and continue taking him out then.

When is he having accidents? Most dogs have accidents around lunch time and between 4 and 6 pm. We often miss them because that is such a busy time for us humans.

Where are the accidents? Wash these areas with vinegar and water at a 50/50 mix. Do not use ammonia as some dogs get confused by the odor.

Housebreaking Facts

There are three key times when dogs need to eliminate:

  • When they wake up from a nap or sleep
  • After a game or playtime
  • 20-40 minutes after a meal

You can’t change this–your dog needs to go at these times. A well-trained dog can hold it a bit but still feels the need to go. Add these times to your plan. You need to be there when he goes and praise him wildly when you see him go in the right place. What this DOES NOT mean is that you shoo him out the door and hope he goes.

If you take him out and he does nothing, be patient. Wait there (pick a spot he has gone on before so it feels and smells familiar). Be very boring till he goes. When he does, throw a full blown party! Praise him, pet him, go crazy. The message is: when you go potty outsid, great things happen!

If he doesn’t go when you take him outside, tether him to you with a leash so he has to go with you everywhere. Chances are he wont go pee or poop while standing right next to you. If he does, you arrest the peeing by barking NO and lift him off the ground. Quickly take him outside to finish up. Here’s the thing about finding pee in the house, or poop, for that matter. If you stumble upon it, well, too bad. Do NOT scold the dog, rub him in it (that is confusing, barbaric, and just plain stupid),or any other punitive measure. If you find it, clean it up with the vinegar and water solution and move on.

If you want this to happen, really happen, you need to be committed to it. That means you have to be a student of your dog’s habits, knowing when he goes, observing when he makes mistakes, following feeding rules and going to the potty spot with him every time so that you can throw a street party. Be realistic about your expectations. It isn’t realistic to expect that he can hold it for an 8 hour day, or wait until after you shower in the morning to have a morning pee. Working together you WILL get this done.