How to Potty Train an Older Dog

How to Potty Train an Older Dog

by Scritch

Does your adult dog need a little help when it comes to choosing the right place to go potty? Adopting an older dog could mean he was never fully potty trained, or perhaps he came from life on the streets, so he hasn’t learned potty etiquette with regards to indoor living. It may seem like a challenge, but rest assured, it can be done! Follow these basic principles to potty train your adult dog. 

Stick to a schedule

The first step in potty training your adult dog is to develop a structured routine as soon as possible, including meal times, potty breaks, and bedtime. Your dog should get a potty break first thing in the morning, just before bedtime, and 1 to 3 times in between. Adult dogs can ‘hold it’ longer than puppies (which means fewer possible accidents in a day!), but they still need a reasonable number of potty breaks during the day. If you are unable to let your dog outside for a midday break, hire a dog walker to help keep your new pal on schedule.

A predictable schedule will help your dog get used to day-to-day life, and he’ll be able to develop expectations of when he gets to eat and when the next potty break is. Plus, your consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule will help your dog grow accustomed to settling down through the night.

Always supervise

It’s important that your dog never gets ‘alone time’ during the first few days, otherwise he might wander off to find an inappropriate place to go potty. Plus, if he finds a spot to go, he is likely to continue using that same spot as a bathroom. Whenever your dog is inside, keep him within your sight, or if you can’t constantly supervise, consider leashing your dog to your chair, or utilize a pen or crate to prevent indoor accidents.

Signs he has to go

If at any time you notice the following signs, be sure to get your dog outside ASAP! Signs your dog has to go potty include: 

  • Circling
  • Sniffing purposefully
  • Pacing/restlessness
  • Whining
  • Leaving the room

If you find an accident in your home, don’t scold your dog who is still adjusting to this new life and establishing a bond with you. Instead, thoroughly clean the area with an enzymatic cleaner to remove all traces (so your dog won’t be attracted to go in that area again), and prevent your dog from sneaking off to the same spot unsupervised. 

Praise, praise, praise

When your dog successfully eliminates outside, be sure to offer plenty of praise so that he knows he did the right thing. Speak in a positive voice and tell him “good boy!”, offer a treat, scritches, or a favorite toy as a reward. Even if he has gone weeks without an accident, continue to offer praise for going potty outside as it communicates with your dog that he did the right thing, plus it will make him feel like a good boy (which we all know he is!).


Because it’s that important, we’ll say it again: stick to your schedule! It may take up to a couple of weeks but repeating the same routine each day will help solidify the potty training. A changing or disrupted schedule can confuse your dog and increase the risk of an accident.

Finally, be patient and supportive during this time. You may need to take your dog on long walks so he can find a good spot to go. Many dogs will go in a spot where other dogs have gone. He may have a preference for grass, dirt, or concrete, depending on what he’s used to, so it could take a bit of time to adjust to the textures of your yard or neighborhood. Your patience and praise go a long way! 

Continued accidents?

After getting into a daily routine, it’s not normal for an adult dog to frequently have accidents in the house. If you continue to find messes, it could be because your dog was given too much freedom too soon, or it could be a sign of a health issue. Be sure to get your dog checked by a vet in case something else is going on.

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