Adult Dog Potty Training: Is It Achievable?

Adult Dog Potty Training: Is It Achievable?

The Martins adopted a retired racing Greyhound they renamed Benny. When they brought him home, he immediately started to lift his leg on a table leg. Benny had never lived in a house and didn’t know better. Luckily, they caught him in time and took him outside. They were going to need adult dog potty training. 

What’s the difference between potty training a puppy and an adult dog? Is it easier? More difficult? Can you really teach an old dog new tricks? 

Easier or harder? That depends on the dog, but usually, for an older dog, potty training is easier. As for that last question, the answer is a resounding yes! Adult dogs don’t lose their ability to learn or their desire to please their parents. They don’t make a mess in the house to mess with you. They either don’t know what to do, like Benny, or they have a physical or emotional problem causing it. 

Let’s look at why an adult dog needs potty training and how to go about it.

3 Reasons Why Adult Dogs Might Need Potty Training

There are several possible reasons why your dog is relieving themselves in the house. Addressing the cause will help solve the problem.

Medical Issues

It’s always a good idea to check for possible medical problems. It could be as simple as an upset stomach due to an abrupt change in the dog’s diet, too much human food, or something they found outside. 

But there are other, more severe possibilities that you’ll want your veterinarian to rule out:

  • Urinary incontinence;
  • Urinary tract infection;
  • Urinary or bladder stones;
  • Diabetes;
  • Kidney disease;
  • Cushing’s disease;
  • Cystitis.

Behavioral/Psychological Issues

The most common behavioral issues that can lead your dog to relieve themselves in the house are: 

  • Urine marking: Dogs mark what they consider their territory. When it happens inside, it may be that something has changed in the household or they are new.
  • Submissive or excitement urination: they lose control when overexcited or to show submission.
  • Separation anxiety: they may be left alone for too long or have a fear of being alone at all.

You’ll need to address these issues before successfully achieving potty training.


Before coming to a new home, many dogs live in less than optimal conditions for a long time. Or maybe you haven’t yet established clear signals and expectations between you and your dog. For example, your dog may need potty training as an adult because:

  • They never lived in a house.
  • They never had the training before you adopted them.
  • They are not getting enough time outside to relieve themselves.
  • They may have spent a long time in a place where they could only relieve themselves on concrete, in a pen or crate, etc.

5 Tips for Dog Potty Training

Some Advice

Before we begin, we’d like to offer a bit of advice. First, every dog is different, and some will catch on faster than others. Be patient with your dog. Second, we do not recommend using potty pads in the house. You want to establish as quickly as possible that elimination belongs outside. Potty pads create mixed signals and confusion.

Select a Designated Potty Area

Pick a spot close to the house where you want to teach the dog to relieve themselves. It can be a patch in your backyard or in front of a nearby tree. This is where you will consistently take the dog to relieve themselves. When you reach that spot, there is no need to rush. Instead, the dog can sniff the area and eventually relieve themselves. 

If your dog is not used to grass or dirt surfaces, you can recruit a friend’s dog to show them the way. 

Establish a Routine

A strict schedule is your greatest asset in training! Dogs do best with a routine. You’re going to make your dog’s digestive system as predictable as possible. If the inputs follow a daily schedule, so will the outputs. You’ll know when they need to go out. 

Feed your dog at the exact time each day. Don’t leave food out all day for them to eat at any time. After 10 or 15 minutes, remove the food dish. The only thing that should be available throughout the day is the water dish until about 8:00 p.m. 

Use a leash when you take them outside. Go directly to the designated potty area. If they eliminate, give them a treat and praise and let them spend a little more time outside. If not, bring them inside and either keep them on the leash or put them in their crate. Every hour, repeat the outside routine at the designated spot. Eventually, they will start going to the door and letting you know they need to go. 

Provide Supervision

Until training is complete, don’t send the dog outside by themselves. It would be best if you supervised to reward the correct behavior. Inside the house, confine the dog to an area such as their crate or small space where you can keep them on a leash near you. If they start to eliminate inside, distract them and take them outside. If you find evidence after the fact, clean the area thoroughly so the dog will not smell it later and decide to repeat the performance. 

Recognize the Signals

As you go through the process with your dog, you will begin to recognize certain signals, such as pacing or walking in circles near the door. Then, it will be clear that they are ready to go out. You can even hang a bell on a doorknob for the dog to ring. 

A Parting Reminder

For an adult dog, potty training does not have to be difficult. Barring physical or psychological complications, it’s a matter of establishing a strict routine and rewarding the dog when they relieve themselves outside. A routine means the dog will know what to expect. It will also make life easier for you and keep your house clean. 

Of course, if needed, you can always rely on K9 Basics to help you! 

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Definitely! 

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