All Things Dog

My Senior Dog Has Forgotten that He's House-trained

So your older, ever-faithful dog isn't "performing" as consistently as he used to. Like other behavior changes in older dogs, lapsed housetraining could be due to several causes. It could be something as simple as an "upset" stomach or a change in his diet. Or it could also be a medical condition—or the fact that his new surroundings are making him temporarily unsettled. Maybe he just needs a refresher course.

Medical conditions

Before embarking on a refresher course in housebreaking, have your vet examine your dog to be certain his "accidents" aren't from a medical problem. Many medical conditions result in an increased frequency of urination or defecation. This may be the reason he's no longer able to wait until you take him outside.

You've adopted a senior dog

Adopted dogs can sometimes be a little tentative in their new surroundings, especially when it comes to going to the bathroom. You should instill house manners from the moment he arrives, and treat your new senior dog for your first week together as if he has never been house-trained.

Bathroom basics

If your elderly dog has had a few accidents in the house recently, you may need to simply revisit the basics of house-training. One suggestion to get your dog back to his old routine is to establish a new one, such as:

  • Feed your dog at the same time every day.
  • Take him out for basic needs regularly: morning, noon, after dinner, evening.
  • Choose a specific place where you encourage your dog to "do his business."
  • Use the same words for commands so you don't confuse your dog.
  • Always praise your dog while he is doing his business in a proper place. Praise, rewards, and positive reinforcement are safer and more effective methods than punishment.
  • Take him out for a walk when he wakes up and after playing.

A last word

House-training your senior dog requires patience, humor, understanding, compassion, and time. There's nothing dogs love more than pleasing their owners by doing the right thing. It's up to you to help him make the adjustment back to his old self—or to his new home—a successful one. And remember, dogs are creatures of habit. The more quickly you turn a good behavior or proper response into a habit, the faster the training process will go.

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