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Housebreaking Older Dogs

Is it possible to housebreak a dog that's older? When they had to have their old dog put to sleep, my frail (can hardly walk any distance) elderly parents, against my wishes, got 2 new dogs (one a puppy!). They have not really gotten either one housebroken due to their (my parents, not the dogs) poor health. My DH and I installed a fence for their yard and a dogie door, but the folks are just not training the dogs well enough. Due to the age and health of my folks, odds are that we'll be needing new homes for these poor little dogs at some point. I'm afraid that no one's going to want them since they're not housebroken. When that day comes, will it be possible at all to housebreak them, or will they be too old to learn?

Lynn from Chico, CA


Housebreaking Older Dogs

As a dog trainer, I can assure you that a dog of any age can be housebroken unless it is ill. Crate training is definitely recommended. Just train the dogs to go potty outside just as you would a pup. Use the same door every time you take the dog out. Use the same area for the dog to potty in so it recognizes the smell. When the dog does potty, praise it lavishly and take it inside immediately. Don't allow the dog to play or run around because it will get in a bad habit of playing and not going potty.

Pick up the water bowl at the same time every evening for the last time and take the dog out several times. The rule of thumb is: A dog can hold it's bladder one hour for every month old it is plus one. If the dog has an 'accident' in the house, never, ever scold the dog! If you catch the dog in the 'act', say "NO" firmly or clap your hands. Then scoop him up and take him out to his potty area and let him finish. Scolding and spanking will make the dog fearful of you and the dog will go potty in another area of your house where you can't see him. Also, do NOT rub his nose in urine or feces. This does nothing to help the dog. Just clean it up and move on. You wouldn't yell and beat a baby for pooping in it's diaper so you wouldn't do this to a dog either.


Housebreaking a dog is easier than you think. It's up to you to be consistent and watchful. Look for signs that the dog has to 'go'. It will usually start sniffing the floor, pacing around and acting kind of odd. He's giving you signs that he has to go potty. I taught both of my dogs to ring a bell that hangs from my back door knob when they have to go out. The pup learned it first when she was only a few months old and my three year old German Shepherd learned it after that. It took him a couple of days before he got the idea. but he finally did.

Here's how I taught them: I hung a small cow bell from the door knob. I purchased it at Petsmart in the field training section of the store. I had my dogs sit by the door and watch me. I rang the bell, said, "out" and opened the door. When they approached the door I quickly closed it. I did this several times then walked away. The dogs already knew this door was the one that leads to the back yard, so they would usually stand there and whine to go out. The next time I heard one of them whine to go out, I stood by the door, rang the bell and said, "out". I opened the door and they tried to hurry past, but I shut the door. I rang the bell and said "out" again and walked away. Now I knew they REALLY had to go and not long after, I heard the bell ring. It was the puppy. I praised her and opened the door. They caught on real fast! (08/13/2006)


By Anonymous

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