How to Potty Train an Older Dog You've Adopted

In many ways potty training an older dog you’ve adopted is much like potty training a puppy but there can be some important differences. Puppies are mostly a blank slate. Their mother cleans up after them for the first three weeks or so, while they are nursing. Once they start eating solid foods, the breeder cleans up. They may potty on newspapers or other material provided, but they haven’t been trained.

By contrast, a dog that you adopt might have some potty training problems. He might or might not have been potty trained at one time. You might not know his history at the time you bring him home. He might have even been turned in to the shelter because he soiled in the house. This is one of the most common reasons why dogs are taken to shelters by their owners.

If you adopt an older dog from a shelter, it’s best to assume that the dog has not been potty trained. You might be pleasantly surprised and discover that he has already been potty trained and can tell you when he needs to go outside, but it’s best to start at the beginning with his potty training, just in case.



To house train an older dog you should start by putting him on a good schedule. Take him outside to potty first thing when you wake up in the morning and after every meal. Take him outside again before bedtime. Adult dogs should not have to potty as often as puppies but when you are first starting the house training, you can take your dog outside more often to help him avoid accidents in the house.

It will help your older dog if you will stick to a regular schedule. Get up at the same time each day, take him out as soon as you get up, then feed him. Take him outside again after he eats. Take him outside as soon as you get home from work. Feed him. Then take him outside after his dinner and again before bed. If you do these things at the same time each day and evening, your dog will learn how long he needs to expect to wait.

In the beginning you might need to let your adult dog out at lunch time so he can potty. If you can make it home for lunch, ask a family member or neighbor to let your dog out to potty at this time. If you will be late coming home for dinner, have someone take your dog out to potty. He might not be able to wait to relieve himself.

Keep in mind that your adult dog could have some accidents while he’s learning this routine. This isn’t anything to worry about or get upset over. This is normal. If your dog has not been potty trained before, he will have to learn how to let you know he needs to go outside. Try to learn to read his body language so you’ll recognize when he needs to go out. Signs can include sniffing at the floor, going to the door, looking at you, going to a private place such as behind the furniture, or going back to a place where he’s had an accident before. If you see your dog doing one of these things, grab the leash and take him outside right away.

One important thing to remember is to praise and reward your dog when he potties outside. Let him know that he’s doing what you want him to do. Dogs will learn faster when you give them praise and rewards.

If you follow a good schedule for your dog, take him outside when you notice his signals, and praise and reward him, you shouldn’t have any trouble potty training most older dogs.

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