6 Tips on How to House Train an Older Dog

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how to house train an older dogIs your older dog having trouble doing its business in the right spot? If you’re worried he’s too old to train, don’t be.

Contrary to the age-old saying, teaching a dog new tricks has nothing to do with how old it is. Your old dog is still 100% trainable. You just need to know how to train them, and we’re going to teach you.

Here, we have 5 tips on how to house train an older dog. Use these tips to set him right in no time.

1. Pretend He’s a Puppy

As we just said, training a dog has nothing to do with his age. If your adult dog is failing a beginning training behavior like potty training, it’s time to go back into puppy mode.

This is the basic principle behind the other entries on this list. Everything you would do when getting a new puppy, do it now to train your adult dog.

This will be easier with a newly adopted dog than for one who’s lived with you for years. The change in your dog’s established routine can be confusing for him at first, but he’ll soon get the hang of it. For newly adopted dogs, first make sure they know their name so they can respond to your commands.

What follows is how to get you and your dog back into puppy mode.

2. Clean and Quarantine Your House

If you were taking care of a toddler, you wouldn’t start with potty training. You’d start by baby-proofing the house.

It’s the same with dogs. Before you work on the behavior, you need to dog-proof your home.

First, thoroughly re-clean anywhere they’ve pottied in the house with an enzymatic pet mess cleaner. These specially-formulated cleaners produce enzymes that break down and completely destroy biological messes, removing stains and odors.

If you haven’t used enzymatic cleaners on previous messes, your pet can still smell them, even if you can’t. They will continue to re-soil their previous potty spots unless you re-clean the area with the enzymatic cleaner.

Related: 6 Best Dog Diapers for Large Breeds

And just like you would with a puppy, keep your dog out of off-limits or unsupervised areas. Keep doors closed and set up dog gates. If you keep them where you can see them, you can catch and discipline the unwanted behavior.

house train older dog

3. Crate Training

This is the absolute best way to house train any dog at any age. It not only teaches them where and when to potty but a variety of other beginning training skills, too. It establishes a routine and sets you up as the alpha dog.

Overall, it gives them a sense of stability and security. If the reason for their house-soiling is insecurity or anxiety, this alone will be enough to correct the behavior. Here’s how you do it.

First get a crate big enough for your dog and a comfy pad for the bottom. This is now where he will eat and sleep. He’s unlikely to potty here because dogs won’t soil their “den.”

Next, pick specific feeding times, once or twice a day, and feed at the same time(s) every day. When feeding, put him in the crate with his food and lock the door.

Keep the door shut for 15 or 20 min and leave the room. Don’t speak to your dog or let him see you until this time is up.

He will wine and that’s fine. Just ignore him. This teaches him that you are the boss and this is the routine and there’s nothing he can do about it.

When 20 minutes is up, go to the crate, wait for him to stop whining and leash him up. Immediately take him out to potty. Always watch him to make sure he goes.

If he doesn’t eat, put the food away. Don’t worry if he stubbornly misses a few feedings; he’s fine. He’ll soon be hungry enough to get with the program.

Also, crate him when he’s home alone and at a set bedtime every night. Make sure he potties outside first and then lock him in his crate.

At bedtime, turn off the light, shut the door to his room and ignore his cries the rest of the night. A healthy adult dog is able to hold his potty through the night.

4. Teach Commands With Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement training means you reward with treats, pets or praise for good behavior and ignore bad behavior. This works about a million times better for dogs than negative reinforcement (punishment).

Dogs only care about one thing: your approval. Whatever behavior gets them this approval they will repeat as often as they can.

Punishment is still attention. It gives them what they want while being unpleasant at the same time.

This is as likely to give them mood disorders as to correct their behavior. Punishment will only confuse them.

For every desired behavior, use a dog command with rewards. Start by saying the command when you see them doing the behavior and give a reward.

When they get in their crate, say, “Crate.” When they potty outside, say, “Potty.” Giving potty a command teaches them to only potty when commanded.

Next, try to command the behavior and give a reward if they do it. Make sure you also have a stop command like “No,” “Stop” or “Ah-ah!” Remember to reward when they stop naughty behavior on command.

Reinforce verbal commands by using hand signals at the same time. Some dogs respond better to hand signals. Always reward proper behavior and give no attention to the bad.

5. Go to a Training Class

It’s not that we aren’t confident in our (or your) training abilities. It’s that hands-on training with an experienced, professional dog trainer really is the easiest way to give your dog the perfectly personalized training it needs.

Professional dog training is often overlooked because it has the unfair and completely false reputation of being super-expensive. While that may be true of training camps that take in your dog and return them fully trained, a training class is actually very affordable.

Places like PetSmart offer very competent training classes for around $100 per 6-week course. And you can usually find coupons to make it even cheaper.

Typically, these trainers have all sorts of training certifications and credentials and are even licensed to train service dogs. Plus, these classes are better than training camps because they’re actually training you to train your own dog. You’ll learn how to control and teach various dog behaviors and your dog learns to listen to you instead of someone else.

If you’re having trouble with your training and you can afford a $100 class, there’s no reason not to consider professional training.

6. Ask Your Vet

If you’ve tried all these and he still goes in the house, take him to the vet. Perhaps it’s a health issue.

house train older dog

How to House Train an Older Dog

Now that you know how to house train an older dog, start training him now. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be free from those messy, stinky surprises on your carpet.

Want more training tips? Check this out: The Ultimate List of 32 Dog Commands For Every Owner.

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