Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
As your dog gets older you see the tell tale signs of aging; he'll start to walk a little slower and might even forget his house training too!
It can be pretty frustrating when your older dog starts to use the house or apartment as his litter box - and even more so when you were the one that painstakingly taught him the house rules all of those years ago.
But, don’t worry - this can be fixed, and is often caused by a fixable problem and not done out of malice towards you, or that brand new rug!
Recognizing the problem
It’s pretty easy to know when you have a problem with potty training. The puddle in the middle of your floor tends to be a big clue!
But a one off accident doesn’t mean that you have an ongoing issue, so keep your eyes peeled for future accidents. If he has more than three - then you know that you have to take action and pee pad train your dog!
Determining the cause
Finding out why your older dog has started peeing indoors is what will help you to determine a long-term solution. Some of the most causes are:
GETTING ON A BIT
Often, as dogs age - and for that matter - humans too; their mobility decreases. What was once quickly nipping outside to take care of business might take them a lot longer, and ultimately end in accidents.
When my dog started to get on in years, I noticed that she would happily go outdoors to relieve herself on some occasions, and on others, she would have accidents.
She seemed very distressed whenever she had an accident, and I couldn’t figure out why it was only ever on certain occasions - until, I started actively looking. It turned out that my dog had the beginnings of elbow dysplasia, and when the side-door of the house was open she would go outdoors, but - when only the back-door was open, she wouldn’t.
You see, the back door required her to go down three little steps, something that I had never paid any attention to - being young and sprightly myself - but for her, those three little steps were causing her severe pain.
BLADDER ISN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE
Incontinence can occur at any age, for a number of reasons. But commonly, this occurs in older dogs suffering from prostate disorders, urinary tract infections, or as a side effect of certain medications.
When you instill in your dog from a young age that peeing inside is not ok, they can become highly distressed when they begin to suffer from incontinence, not only from the act itself - but from the worry that they have done something wrong and will be told off.
A lot of owners worry that their dog is just trying to take advantage of his old age and do his business indoors for no reason. But no, don’t worry - this isn’t going to happen. If your dog is not going indoors even after being correctly house-trained, there’s more to it than just cheekiness!
Finding a solution
No matter how old your dog is, it’s easy to find a solution that works to allow him to relieve himself in a way that’s comfortable for him - and also a way that keeps your home clean.
Let’s run through my favorite solution with the help of a quick case study!
Jooster, a 14yr old Labrador Retriever, has recently started peeing in the house, much to Randi his owner’s dismay. Her once house-trained dog is no more, and with a full-time job, she’s not sure how she can fit in the training - or bathroom breaks - required to fix this little problem.
Now, Jooster is an older gentleman and suffers from moderate arthritis. Randi has noted that her home does have steps at every entrance which Joost doesn’t like. In fact, she even has to carry him up and down when it’s time for the daily walk!
With Joost being indoors all day, Randi needs to find a solution that will work while she’s at work - a great option here is potty pads.
WHAT ARE POTTY PADS?
Essentially dog potty pads are stationary diapers for dogs, you set these up on the floor in a particular area of your home - I recommend the kitchen, downstairs bathroom, or laundry room.
These pads contain scents which are scientifically proven to encourage your dog to pee there, and can hold a full day of urination with no leaks!
Not only that, but they have a sticky anti-grip underside which ensures that your dog can’t accidentally fold them, or move them.
HOW TO PEE PAD TRAIN AN OLDER DOG
The first step in training is deciding where to put the pad. Your dog’s natural instinct is to not go potty near where he sleeps, eats, or drinks - so you have to keep it far enough away from those!
But - if he’s having mobility issues, it can’t be so far away that he doesn’t make it there on time.
To start, you should confine him to one room - preferably a downstairs bathroom or laundry room, and as he learns how to use the pad you can then give him run of the house again!
On a Friday after getting home from work, Randi usually lets Jooster out to pee. He always pees immediately and in the same spot, what a good dog!
This time, before going into the house, Randi places pee pads down outside in Joost’s designated potty area. Normally he would be let out to run free, but because Randi is going to encourage him to pee accurately on the pee pads, she’s going to pop him on a leash.
Initially, he’s hesitant, but as he was trained to go on command, Randi says “Go Potty” and his bladder kicks in! As soon as he has started peeing, she praised him. And once he’s finished - he is offered plenty of treats and fuss!
Saturday morning and instead of letting Jooster out into the yard, Randi is going to set up a “Safe space” for him to pee in the house.
She then clips him onto the leash and walks him onto the pads, and uses the potty word “Go potty” to encourage him to go.
Jooster was a little confused and didn’t go right away, so after five minutes of waiting - Randi can take him through into the kitchen and let him off of the lead. She now stays with him, drinking coffee and reading some emails - watching for the tell tale signs of him needing to pee.
Once he looks as though he has to go - she again takes him on the lead to the pads. This was repeated four times in total before Jooster used the pee pads.
Immediately after using the pad, he was praised, given a treat, and let outdoors to play.
For the remainder of the day, Jooster was taken to the pads intermittently to allow him to use the pee pads when necessary. Then, last thing at night, before bed - he was let outside to relieve himself to avoid any little accidents.
Continuing from yesterday’s success. Today, Randi is going to have Jooster use the potty pads all day - including the last thing at night potty break.
THE NEXT DAYS
After a full weekend of learning to use the pads, Randi is going to leave him in the laundry room on Monday morning when she leaves for work.
Making sure to provide him with food, water, his bed and on the other side of the room - potty pads. After two days of being confined to the laundry room, Jooster is understandably a little bored - but also he is now pee pad trained!
Training any dog takes time, and patience, but when they are performing an undesirable behavior due to medical or mobility issues - it’s only fair to give them the same treatment you would expect if you were in their shoes.
Any dog can be taught to use potty pads which will help ease the tension of your older dog peeing in the house: from the barely senior to the old-age veterans!