How to Potty Train an Older Dog? 5 Easy Housetraining Steps

Last Updated on July, 2024

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks; you can’t teach an old dog new tricks; you can’t teach an old dog new-


If you just adopted an older dog that’s not house-trained from a shelter or a humane society, you must put these negative thoughts behind you.

Don’t despair because, in this article, I’ll teach you how to potty train an older dog in just a few steps!

Quick Summary

Yes, an older dog can be potty trained.

Establishing a firm routine, taking your dog to the potty target once every hour, rewarding good behavior, using a crate, and patience and repetition are key steps in potty training an older dog.

Positive reinforcement and patience are essential in potty training an older dog, and it can take a few weeks to fully train them.

Can an Older Dog Be Potty Trained?

an old dog is standing beside a pottying toilet

Yes, an older dog can be potty trained.

Potty training an older dog can be easier than training a puppy.

Adult dogs find it easier to hold it in than high-spirited little puppies. Therefore, they can adjust to a new routine with more ease.

Still, if your new dog has had bad bathroom habits in the past (perhaps because they haven’t lived indoors much) and is set in their ways, it may take a while for them to adjust. So, ensure to be patient and don’t lose hope!

How Does Potty Training Older Dogs Differ From Training Puppies?

Although the basics of house training are the same for dogs regardless of age, you need to note some differences.

Older dogs have more bladder and bowel control and do not need to be taken outside as often as a puppy. You will still need to take your dog outside quite often, in any case.

Another important difference is that an adult dog “marks” their territory much more often than puppies.

Marking their territory involves the dog releasing small amounts of urine in multiple locations. This is a common practice of male and female dogs, and dog owners often mistake this for a potty break.

How to Potty Train Your Adult Dog in 5 Steps?

an old dog sleeping on a bed

Following these 5 easy steps can ensure that your precious adult pooch is fully potty trained in no time.

1. Establish a Firm Routine – and Stick to it!

Having a solid routine that you stick to is essential to the potty training process. 

Ensure your house training routine includes feeding your dog at set times daily. 

Pick up the dish with food 10 to 15 minutes after placing it down, regardless of whether your dog has finished all their food. This helps to reinforce your routine and makes potty training much easier than if you were to free feed.

A successful potty training routine should also involve taking your dog outside at established times throughout the day.

It is recommended that you take your pooch out;

  • Right when you wake up
  • Before bedtime
  • After meals (this may differ from before meals depending on your dog’s individual needs)
  • Following treats given after training sessions
  • Before, during or after a dog-related physical activity
  • After being in a confined space for a while (such as a car or a dog’s crate)

In the first few weeks of your house training routine, keep your dog on a leash so that you can be certain your dog eliminates during their bathroom breaks.

2. Take Your Dog to the Potty Target Once Every Hour

Once you’ve set up a good routine, take your dog out to their potty area (for example, grass, pee pads, etc.) at least once every hour when you are awake. 

You can skip potty breaks when you and your dog are asleep unless your dog wakes you up.

This is a plus point of potty training a senior dog instead of a puppy!

Again, keep your dog or puppy leashed and under constant supervision so that they relieve themselves in the designated potty area and nowhere else when they go to the bathroom.

Keeping your adult dogs leashed applies to fenced yards as well.

a dog breed pottying in a toilet

Most dogs let loose in a yard will find a thousand and one things to occupy them- all of which will make potty breaks the last thing on their mind. 

Leashing them can keep most adult dogs focused solely on going to the bathroom during their frequent potty breaks (and it can also cut down on how much of your grass dies because of dog pee!)

It is common to hear stories of pets who go to the bathroom outside and immediately have accidents inside. This happens if you don’t stay outside long enough with your dogs.

You must wait at least five minutes outside with your dog because they generally need time to sniff around and exercise a little before pottying. 

If your pet does not potty after five minutes, you can take them back in, BUT put them in a crate or any other confined space immediately for ten more minutes before taking them out again.

DON’T let your dogs roam freely indoors when they haven’t relieved themselves outdoors because that’s a surefire way to cause more accidents.

Your dog may also find it difficult to go to the bathroom on grass or dirt if he’s only ever gone on concrete. 

It would then be helpful to have a friend’s dog over a few times to help get your dog accustomed to their potty target.

This tactic generally works because dogs tend to relieve themselves more easily in spots where another dog has also gone.

3. Reward Your Dog

Try not to usher your dog back indoors immediately after they go to the bathroom. 

This creates an unhelpful association in your dog’s mind between pottying and having their fun times end and will lead them to delay relieving themselves.

Instead, reward your dog with their favorite treats and a little freedom for their good behavior.

Praise your dog, spend an extra 10 minutes letting your dog expel their excess energy, let them go wild on their chew toys, etc.

an dog getting rewarded during potty training

Ensure that you respond quickly to your dog pottying and reward them instantaneously so that they form a clear connection between the behavior and the reward.

Positive reinforcement is one of the BEST ways to learn new behaviors!

4. Use a Crate to Avoid Indoor Accidents 

Crate training is a superb way of helping you in potty training an older dog.

Whenever you can’t supervise your adult dog, he should be in a crate, a pen, or a small room with baby gates.

This area should be big enough for him to comfortably stand and lie down in.

This will drastically reduce cases of potty accidents and house soiling. Isn’t that the stuff of dog parent dreams?

When you crate train an adult dog, it helps you cement a good routine and establish much-needed control over your dog’s habits. 

Moreover, their crate will become their haven to relax and spend time without supervision. It will also help prevent accidents because dogs like to keep their personal space clean.

To learn more about crate training, check out our article here!

5. Repeat This Routine and Track Your Dog’s Patterns

an old dog standing in front of a store

Once you have a well-established routine, the key to successful potty training with older dogs is to repeat, repeat, repeat!

If you cannot be around sometimes during the house training process, hire a dog walker or ask a family member to take your dog out.

Whatever happens, ensure that your dog continues to be on his schedule.

Take the time to observe your dog’s behavior as well.

You should maintain a house training chart or jot down notes about when and where your dog relieves themselves during potty training. 

Keeping track as you train an older dog will greatly aid you in learning to recognize their patterns.

How to Know Your Dog Needs to Go?

Learning to recognize the signs that your dog has to go is very important.

You may see whining, circling, squatting, restless pacing, and your pooch may even leave the room

Barking and scratching at the door are other obvious signs.

You can train an older dog or puppy to these behaviors so that you are immediately alerted when they have to go. 

The trick is to respond to the tell-tale signs your dog displays instantly so that they know these particular behaviors work in tipping you off.

What Should You Do if Your Dog Has an Accident?

an old brown dog is pottying outside in a grassy field

When raising a sweet little puppy or even an adult dog who hasn’t been house trained, accidents are a given.

It may be tempting to lose your temper and yell at your poor dog once you find your floors ruined.

However, this is NOT the way to approach an accident and is the cause of many house training issues.

This will convey to your dog that you don’t like them eliminating in front of you. 

BUT you want your dog to understand that you want them to do it outdoors instead of indoors.

It is advised to interrupt your dog when an accident occurs rather than confront them about it later.

Stop your dog from pottying and take him to the target area. Praise and reward him when he goes to the intended place. 

Remember, when in doubt- positive reinforcement is the way to go!

It is also EXTREMELY important to clean up the scenes of past accidents. Leaving the smell of excretion lingering is like begging your dog to eliminate in the same place.

So, use a pet stain cleaner and an odor remover to thoroughly clean the crime scene. 

How Long Does it Take to Housetrain a Older Dog?

You can successfully potty train an older dog or puppy with enough dedication in a few weeks.

It depends on how strictly you follow the above routine when you house train your dog.

Another factor to consider is that some dogs take a little more time to get the hang of potty training, and that’s okay!

Just be patient and treat your dog or puppy with ample love, and they will be a properly trained miracle before you know it.

Additional Tips and Tricks for Potty Training an Adult Dog

Get Your Dog Checked for Underlying Medical Problems

an old dog getting examined by a vet for medical problems

Suppose your pooch is having a particularly hard time with potty training or suddenly lapses back into having accidents. In that case, there may be something medically wrong.

Have him checked out by a veterinarian because ailments like a parasite infection or a urinary tract infection can be the root cause behind recurring house soiling incidents.

Use Potty Pads Wisely

Avoid placing down potty pads everywhere your dog has gone to the bathroom.

Instead, place them down in one place and one place only.

Additionally, place three to four overlapping pads down to prevent leaks and increase the chances of your pooch hitting the target.

Relevant articles:


By this point, the idea that only a puppy can learn new behaviors should be safely behind you. 

Your adult pooch can also be taught good potty etiquette in no time if you follow the five easy steps we just talked about!

Of course, your pet will need time to adjust to their new environment and learn to feel comfortable around you. 

But with a bit of patience and perseverance, you’ll have a wonderfully trained dog that’ll be the talk of the town!


The toughest dog breeds to potty train are Pugs, Pomeranians, Jack Russell Terriers, Dachshunds, Dalmatians and Afghan Hounds.

The likely cause of an older dog no longer being potty trained is due to drastic changes in routine or underlying medical conditions.

Dogs do not like to pee or poop around acidic or spicy smells, such as lemon, vinegar, pepper, or chili powder.

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Laura Vinzy
Laura Vinzy is one of our contributors. She is also a certified professional dog trainer & currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and her two rescue dogs.

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