Potty Training Your Old Dog? Teach This Senior New Tricks with Pee Pads

Why It’s Important to House Train Your Older Dog

House training an older dog is important for several reasons. First, it prevents accidents around the house. Dogs that are not properly house trained may urinate or defecate inside, creating messes and unpleasant odors. According to the American Kennel Club, housetraining an adult dog helps “keep things clean for both you and your dog.”

Second, house training allows your dog more freedom in the home. A dog that potties outdoors can be given access to more areas of the house without worry that they will have an accident. As the AKC states, housetraining means your dog can “enjoy their newfound independence.”

Finally, housetraining establishes a routine and consistent process for your dog to relieve themselves (American Kennel Club). Dogs naturally prefer to eliminate in designated areas rather than soiling their living space. Creating a proper potty routine will help your dog learn where and when it is appropriate to go.

Understanding Your Older Dog’s Needs

As dogs age, they go through many physical and mental changes that affect their needs. It’s important to understand what your senior dog requires to keep them healthy and happy.

Physically, your dog may experience limited mobility due to arthritis or other joint issues (Small Door Veterinary). They may have decreased vision or hearing making it difficult for them to navigate their surroundings. Incontinence is also common in older dogs, especially spayed females, leading to possible accidents around the house (RSPCA). Being aware of these physical limitations can help you make accommodations to keep your dog comfortable.

Mentally, your senior dog still needs stimulation, even if their physical abilities are declining. puzzles, slow walks, new sights and sounds can help keep their mind engaged and prevent anxiety or restlessness (Old Dog Haven). Understanding their mental needs allows you to adjust activities to their abilities.

Paying attention to your older dog’s physical and mental changes will help you provide tailored care to meet their unique needs.

Choosing the Right Location

When beginning pee pad training with an older dog, choosing the right location to place the pads is crucial for success. You’ll want to select a spot that provides easy access, especially from your dog’s bed or resting area, but is also in a relatively low-traffic area of your home. As the
Four Paws experts explain, a corner of the room where your dog spends most of their time is often ideal. This allows them to easily get to the pads when they need to relieve themselves.

At the same time, the location should allow you to supervise your dog’s potty habits without too much disruption to your daily household flow. Placing the pads along the wall in an out-of-the-way corner meets this requirement nicely. Just be sure to avoid high traffic areas near doors or in main passageways. An older dog may become confused or stressed trying to eliminate in a busy, hectic space.

Additionally, the surface underneath the pee pads matters. As Dogtopia advises, wood or tile flooring is best, while carpet can be confusing for dogs learning to distinguish potty pads from regular rugs or carpet.

With some thought about location convenience, visibility, and flooring, you can set up an ideal pee pad station to start training your older pooch. Just remember to place it near where your dog rests, but away from household hustle and bustle.

Selecting the Proper Pee Pads

When selecting pee pads for an older dog, it’s important to choose pads that are the right size for your dog, highly absorbent and leak proof, and contain an attractant to encourage use.

Look for pee pads that are larger in size, as older dogs may have reduced control or aim. Pads that are 22” x 24” or larger are ideal. The Potty Buddy Extra Large Pee Pads are a good oversized option designed for older dogs.

large pee pads for senior dogs

High absorbency and leak resistance are also key features for senior dogs. Multi-layer, quilted pads will lock in moisture and prevent messes. Walmart offers various brands of extra absorbent pads for older dogs.

Finally, look for pee pads containing an attractant, which contains pheromones or scents that prompt your dog to use the pad. Petlab’s Advanced Puppy Pads have a built-in attractant and odor control to maximize your training success.

Establishing a Routine

Establishing a predictable potty routine is crucial for successfully house training older dogs. Take your dog to the pad first thing in the morning, after naps, after meals, and right before bedtime to encourage regular potty habits. Senior dogs need to relieve themselves more frequently, so aim for at least every 2-3 hours throughout the day.

A potty schedule provides structure while allowing your dog to anticipate potty times. Take your older dog to the pad and use a verbal cue like “go potty” to signal it’s time. Wait nearby until your dog uses the pad, then immediately reward with praise and a treat. Consistency is key – stick to the routine daily for 1-3 weeks until it becomes habit.

Having a recurring potty schedule will help senior dogs learn to hold it between designated times. Limit access to parts of the home until your dog is fully house trained to avoid accidents. For helpful tips on establishing a potty routine specifically for senior dogs, check out this article.

Confinement Training

Confinement training is crucial when house training an older dog to use pee pads. Limit your dog’s access to the rest of the house until they are fully trained to use the pads consistently. You can confine them using the following methods:

Use baby gates to block off areas and limit access to the room where the pee pads are placed. Make sure the area is just big enough for them to comfortably stand, lie down, and turn around.

Use a crate if your dog is crate trained. Place pee pads along one end of the crate. Make sure the crate is an appropriate size for your dog.

Choose a small room like a bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen to designate as the training area. Use baby gates to keep your dog restricted to this room.

Only allow your dog access to the rest of the house after they have had a successful potty trip on the pads and are supervised. Confinement prevents accidents around the house while your dog learns.

Gradually increase access to more areas over time as your dog becomes reliable about using the pads. Prevent accidents by watching for signs they need to go and escorting them to the pads.

Positive Reinforcement

One of the most effective ways to potty train an older dog is through positive reinforcement. When your dog uses the pee pad correctly, be sure to provide ample praise and treat rewards. The key is to get your dog to associate going potty on the pad with something positive. Say an enthusiastic “Good dog!” and provide a high-value treat immediately after your dog finishes peeing or pooping on the pad. Some good options for treats include small pieces of chicken, cheese, hot dogs, or freeze-dried liver.

giving an older dog a treat for using the pee pad

Verbal praise like “Good potty!” along with pets and scratches can also help positively reinforce the behavior. You want to create a positive feedback loop where your dog is motivated to keep going on the pad. Be consistent and patient, providing a reward each time the pad is used properly. Avoid punishing your dog for any accidents, as that can create stress and confusion. Simply clean up calmly without scolding, then bring your dog back over to the pad area.

According to pupford.com, following a positive reinforcement progression is key for pad training older dogs. The more you can associate the pee pad with positive experiences for your dog, the quicker they will learn this new behavior.

Be Patient

House training an older dog takes time and patience. You may need to stick to your routine for weeks or even months before your dog is fully housetrained. Don’t get discouraged if your dog has accidents at first. This is all part of the learning process.

With an older dog, it’s important to have realistic expectations about how long house training can take. Adult dogs have already developed habits, so it will likely take longer for new behaviors to become ingrained. Puppies can be housetrained in a matter of weeks, but with an older dog, you may be looking at a month or more of consistency and positive reinforcement before they are accident-free.

Stick to your routine, praise and reward your dog for going potty in the right spot, and provide consistent supervision. If your dog has an accident, don’t punish them. Just calmly clean it up and make a note to provide more frequent bathroom breaks. Eventually, your dog will get the idea.

Be patient during this process. Your dog wants to please you but is learning a new behavior. With time, repetition and encouragement, even older dogs can learn good house manners.

Consistency is key when housetraining adult dogs. Stick to your routine, reinforce desired behaviors, provide close supervision, and clean any accidents thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner. Don’t get frustrated, be consistent, and your older dog will get the hang of it in time.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

There are several common issues that may arise when potty training an older dog. Here are some of the most frequent problems and potential solutions.

Medical Causes

Dogs can develop medical conditions like urinary tract infections or incontinence as they age, which can cause urination issues. According to How to Get a Senior Dog to Use Pee Pads, it’s a good idea to get your vet’s opinion if your older dog is having accidents or struggling with pad training. They can check for UTIs, kidney disease, diabetes, and other conditions that lead to incontinence. Treating any underlying medical causes could help resolve potty training difficulties.


Senior dogs can suffer cognitive decline and dementia, which may make prior potty training regress. Keeping routines consistent, using verbal cues, and providing frequent positive reinforcement can help reorient a confused dog. Limit access to potential accident areas and accompany them outside or to pads frequently to set them up for success.

Mobility Limitations

Arthritis, injuries and other age-related mobility issues might prevent older dogs from accessing pee pads reliably. Placing pads in easy to reach spots and providing non-slip surfaces for access can help. You may need to physically assist a dog in pain by gently helping them walk to pads. Providing pads in multiple locations around the home can accommodate limited mobility.

Transitioning to Outdoors

Once your dog is consistently using the pee pads, it’s time to start the process of transitioning them to go potty outdoors. This transition should be done gradually over time to set your dog up for success.

Start by moving the pee pad closer to the door you will use to take your dog outside, such as sliding it over a few inches per day. Make sure your dog sees where the pad has been moved each time so they know to start looking in the new location (Source).

moving a pee pad closer to the door outside

After your dog has adjusted to peeing on the pad right next to the door, you can start taking them outside immediately after mealtimes or naps when they are likely to need to pee. Give your dog lots of praise and treats when they pee outside to reinforce this behavior.

Be patient during this transition, as your dog may still have some accidents inside. Continue to reward successes outside while cleaning up any misses inside calmly without punishment. With time and consistency, your dog will learn that outside is the only place to go potty.

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