Dog Care 101: Tip #161 – How To House Train An Older Dog

Teaching a puppy to “go potty” outside is a normal part of raising a dog. However, what happens when your full-grown, older dog goes back into puppy-mode and decides it’s okay to go in the house again? Best Bully Sticks is going to address some ways you can deal with the behavioral issues that could be causing this puppy relapse.

Potential Medical Issues
Before you address behavioral issues, you’ll want to rule out any potential medical causes. Some of these could include: gastrointestinal upset, change in diet, incontinence, medications, old age or cognitive dysfunction. If your vet rules out these, mostly likely the cause is a behavioral issue you can deal with first hand.

Steps To Take
1. Have A Regular Schedule: Keeping your dog on a regular schedule will help create a time table when certain things happen throughout the day. Food should be given at particular times and be picked up between meals. Taking your dog outside to eliminate should happen at strict times as well such as right when you wake up, when you get home from work and before you go to bed.

2. Keep Tabs on Your Dog: Knowing where your dog is 24/7 is important because you’ll want to be looking for warning signs of your dogs potential to eliminate. If you see your dog whining, circling or pacing, take your dog out immediately.

3. A Pat On The Back: Every time your dog eliminates outside successfully give him a treat and speak kind words to your dog.

4. When You’re Away: When you can’t be around to watch your dog, confine them in an area, like a crate or gated off area, that gives them just enough room to stand up comfortably, lie down and turn around. Dogs eliminate away from the place where they create their den, or home. If your dog is confined comfortably like this, he most likely won’t have any accidents.

5. When Accidents Happen: You have to expect accidents to happen in the house as this training process progresses. If you ever see your dog in the act, make a loud noise, like clapping your hands, to startle your dog, but not scare them. This should cause them to stop long enough to get them outside.

6. Clean Up: You’ll want to very thoroughly clean your home and everything in it to prevent this behavior. Also, steer clear of ammonia-based cleaners. Urine contains ammonia and will just further the behavior. An enzyme cleaner works best.

During this process, DO NOT:
1. Scold Your Dog.  Whether it’s while your dog is eliminating or after you get home and find a mess, your pet won’t understand why he’s being punished.  This will not provide any positive reinforcement for having this behavior stop and will just promote fear and confusion.

2. Rub Your Dog’s Nose in His Waste

3. Physically Punish Your Dog: Jerking on his collar, hitting with a newspaper or spanking will just lead to more fear and confusion. The blame could fall on you for inadequate supervision or time outdoors.

Specific Behavioral Issues
Breakdown in housetraining can stem from specific behavioral issues and include: surface preference, anxiety, fear of going outside or dislike of bad weather. We’ll talk about the causes of each as well as tips to change the behavior.

Surface preference
Surface preference urination is when a dog is only comfortable going on a particular type of surface. Dogs pick up these preferences in the first six to ten weeks of their lives. So, if a dog is used to eliminating on dirt or grass, this will be most comfortable for a dog. For a city dog, pavement might be the preference.

If you want to change you dog’s specific elimination behavior, such as eliminating on the grass instead of concrete, you’ll need to slowly introduce this idea to your dog. For the concrete to grass method, find a grassy area where you want your dog to go outside and place a temporary slab of concrete in that place. Start by putting a few grass clippings on the slab and then very slowly work up to removing the slab. If your dog ever refuses go on the concrete, lessen the amount of clippings. Eventually, the slab will be covered in grass clippings and then you can remove the slab all together.

The reversion to puppy-mode by your dog could be caused by anxiety. This could be at the loss of a family member or fellow dog, or the addition of an unwanted person or dog.  A dog will usually urinate on furniture, beds or sofas that smell strongly of the people or animals.

Anxiety related urination can be dealt with the basic house training methods paired with a few other steps. Resolution of the anxiety is the first step to take, whether it’s between another dog or person. The next step is to change the environment of those places the dog eliminates. Make the area unpleasant by putting velcro, double sided sticky tape, spiky or knobby things on the object so the dog will come in contact with them. You can also make the areas more pleasant by placing food or treats in these spots so the dog associates the place with good things.

Fear of Going Outside
The fear of eliminating outside is usually due to the fact that your dog isn’t used to his new environment. For example, a country dog may not be used to going outside in the city, or a dog raised in an indoor kennel or laboratory may have been trained to go on paper or on concrete.

In addition to the basic housetraining suggestions, you’ll want to help your dog get used to going outdoors while not being overwhelmed. If you live in the city, find a  quiet, enclosed area outdoors where you can spend time with your dog. Having a friend’s dog there might help your dog as well. The sight and smell of another dog going outside might help your dog know that going outside is okay.

Dislike of Bad Weather
Some dogs only have the fear of going outside to eliminate when the weather is bad. Toy breeds sometimes don’t like rain or stormy weather. City dogs may have an aversion to walking on salted winter sidewalks because it burns their pads.

In addition to the basic housetraining suggestions, simply dressing your dog for inclement weather in booties and doggy jackets will help. Even something as simple as salve like Musher’s Secret All-Natural Wax will protect your pup’s paws. Any type of overhang where your dog is out of the elements will help ease your dog’s fears. 

Best Bully Sticks knows this can be a stressful period for you and your dog. Along with all this information, we also want you to know that you and your dog can overcome this behavior!

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