How To Potty Train a Puppy with an Older Dog: How to train an older dog to go potty (with or without a crate)

Have you adopted a new family member? Everything you need to know about potty training an older dog can be found here.


It’s possible you’ve never considered how to potty train an older dog. After all, most dogs are toilet-trained from the time they are puppies, so you may not have needed to potty train an older dog previously.

Unfortunately, some adult dogs have not been potty trained due to circumstances or poor training, so you may find yourself having accidents in the house until you can teach them where to go. We’ll give you how to toilet train an older dog, whether you’re using a dog crate or not.

  • Crate training an older dog

Why doesn’t my older dog know where to go to the bathroom?

If you have recently adopted a dog, it is possible that they have never been toilet trained. Dogs raised in a yard have never had to learn that houses are no toilets, and stray dogs may have never been inside a house, much less learned about potty training.

Dogs may have been taught that toileting on newspaper in the house is acceptable, or their owners may not have bothered to toilet train them. A potty-trained dog may forget what he has learned and begin to have accidents.

This can happen for a number of medical reasons, like an infection in the urinary tract, kidney disease, doggy dementia, or back pain. It can also happen for behavioral reasons, like anxiety or a change in routine or environment.

If you know your dog was previously toilet trained but has forgotten, you should have them checked out by a vet to rule out any medical issues.

Is it possible to potty train an older dog?

To begin with, you might be wondering if it’s even worth it to try to potty train your older dog. Is such a thing even possible? The good news is that it absolutely is! Because they already have bad habits, older dogs may take longer to learn than puppies, but most are just as capable of being clean as normal dogs.

Remember that you’re dealing with an adult dog who has spent years learning how to do things a certain way and may have been punished in the past – so be patient, take your time, and you’ll get there in the end.

How to train an older dog to go potty

The good news is that toilet training an older dog is similar to puppy toilet training. The main difference is that an older dog may send fewer signals when it’s time to use the toilet. While a puppy may circle for a while or sniff the floor, an older dog may not – and if punishment has been used in the past when toilet training, they may even hide from you on purpose.

The good news is that an older dog has a far greater ability to hold his pee, so you shouldn’t have too many accidents once you’ve gotten into the swing of things. What’s the best way to potty train an older dog?

Utilize a crate.

The key to successful toilet training is to provide opportunities for your dog to succeed while minimizing the chances of failure. Using a good dog crate is the first step.

Because dogs don’t want to pee in their beds, confining them to their beds when you do not around mean fewer accidents. When you can’t watch him, such as when you go out or overnight, he should go into his crate.

Take advantage of that early morning wee.

Take your dog to where you want him to pee as soon as you let him out of his crate in the morning. He should be able to walk there on his own, but you may need to use a lead or move quickly to keep him moving in the right direction. When he arrives, praise him and wait for him to pee. Give him a treat and a big pat on the back for getting it right! If he doesn’t go, put him back in his crate and try again in 10 minutes; don’t let him out into the rest of the house until the first pee is exactly where you want it.

Take advantage of other possible early hours.

Dogs don’t always need to go first thing in the morning; they may need to go after eating, sleeping, or playing. Give your dog a chance to relieve himself at each of these points. When he goes in the right place, make a big deal out of it and give him a treat — he’ll want to do it again and get the same reaction.

Keep a close eye on him.

When you’re around, you’ll also want to reduce the chances of an accident. To do so, try to limit where they can go in the house by closing doors or installing stair gates. You’ll need to be ready to take them out whenever they need to go to the bathroom, which you won’t be able to do if they’re sleeping in another room out of sight. Pacing, sniffing, and circling are all signs that he needs to go. You may not get much warning from an adult dog, so be prepared to act quickly.

Ignore accidents.

If you find an accident inside, don’t punish your dog. Punishment will only make him more secretive about his pee, making your job more difficult. Ignore him completely – don’t even look him in the eyes! Make sure you clean up any mess with a pet-specific enzymatic cleaner; anything else could leave his scent behind, encouraging him to repeat the behavior.


Potty training an older dog: vet’s advice

There are a few things you can try if your dog is particularly stubborn and potty training isn’t going well:

  • Use a long line to keep your dog attached to you at all times inside the house. This helps him from wandering out of sight to pee while also allowing you to keep an eye on what is going on. Don’t worry, the habit won’t last forever; it usually starts after a few days.
  • Utilize a dog’s natural desire to scent mark. Collect your dog’s pee (or borrow a friend’s dog’s pee) and sprinkle it in the area where you want your dog to go to the bathroom. Next time you take them there, allow your dog to sniff; they will almost certainly urinate, allowing you to praise them for getting it right.
  • Make a strict schedule for your dog to help him plan his toilet breaks. Every day, walk, feed, and provide toilet opportunities at the same time—the consistency will help your dog adjust to his new routine. He’ll also know when it’s safe to hold his urine because he’ll know how long it will take him to go to the toilet.

Without a crate, how do you potty train an older dog?

Potty training can be more difficult if you don’t have a crate or if your dog is unable to use one for some reason. If you have a large dog, confining him to a small room can be as effective as using a crate. If not, you may have to accept that accidents will happen at night.

One option is to keep your dog locked up in a clean room overnight. This room should ideally be one to which you can restrict access in the future. The goal is to move his bed to a new room and prevent him from accessing the old one once he realizes he should go to the toilet outside during the day. This will break the habit of peeing in the old room.

Another option is to tether your dog and sleep near him at night. Get up and take him out if you feel or hear him stirring. However, there are some drawbacks to this method: it does not work when you are not present, and it can lead to more bad habits, such as sleeping with you.


So there you have it: how to potty train an older dog. It doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require patience. Just remember to reward positive behaviors while ignoring negative ones, and you’ll get there eventually. However, if you’re having trouble, don’t hesitate to contact a vet; it could be a medical issue, or you could benefit from some professional advice from a certified behaviorist.