Knowing how to housebreak an older dog comes in handy if you adopt a dog who starts having accidents in the house. Adult dogs don’t have to be taken out as frequently as puppies and can learn faster. Senior dogs can be a challenge if you’re also dealing with health issues, but they can still be taught or retrained on where to go to eliminate.
To housebreak an older dog, you'll need:
- Visit your dog’s vet. Medical problems such as dietary changes, gastrointestinal conditions, medications, incontinence and cognitive dysfunction in senior dogs can all lead to soiling inside the house, even if your dog has already been housebroken. Your dog’s vet can rule out medical causes or prescribe any necessary treatments.
- Take your dog out consistently. Go outside with her after she wakes up, before she goes to bed at night and before leaving her alone. Bring her outside any other time she shows signs of needing to go. Adult dogs should be taken out an average of four times a day, but senior dogs might have to go more often. Take her to the same area of the yard each time so she’ll learn where she’s supposed to go.
- Follow a routine feeding schedule. You can help keep housebreaking consistent by feeding your dog at the same times each day and not leaving her food out all day. This will encourage her to eat on a regular schedule, which should make it easier to predict when she’ll have to go out. Make sure she always has access to fresh water though.
- Watch for telltale signs. Keep an eye on your dog so you’ll know when she has to go. She might whine, circle, pace or sniff. Look for the same behaviors she displays just before she eliminates outdoors. Get her outside as quickly as possible if you see any of these signs.
- Reward your dog generously. Tell her what a good dog she is and give her a treat when she eliminates outside. You’ll need to reward her immediately after she goes or she won’t associate eliminating with getting a treat. If your dog is overweight or on a special diet, just use praise and petting as rewards.
- Protect your house. If your dog is home alone during the day or when you can’t watch her while you’re home, keep her in a crate or block off a small room for her. The area will need to be small enough so that she won’t be tempted to eliminate in it while you’re gone. Dogs normally won’t soil where they sleep, so just give her enough room to lie down and stretch out. As her housebreaking improves, you can let her roam free for longer and longer periods of time instead of being confined.
Tips: Don’t punish your dog if you catch her eliminating indoors. Startle her by clapping instead so that she stops what she’s doing. Take her outside right away so she can finish in the appropriate spot. Reward her when she’s done. Use cleaning products designed to soak up and neutralize pet odors if you need to wipe up messes. Otherwise, your dog will continue to use that same spot if her scent remains.
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