How to Potty Train an Older Dog (Umbilical Cord Method?)

If you’ve recently adopted an older dog, thank you and congratulations! You’re about to discover how wonderful life will become when you provide a safe and caring home to an adult dog. 

An elder dog can bond with a new owner just as quickly as a puppy would bond despite common misperceptions. Not only that, but some forms of training are often more manageable. 

But what happens if, after a few days together, you start to discover that your new dog doesn’t seem to be housebroken? Don’t worry, in this instance, it’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks.  Read on to learn how to potty train an older dog!

Why an Older Dog Might Not be Potty Trained

Older dog peeing on floor in corner
  • Their previous owner did not house-train them.
  • They may never have lived inside a home.
  • Their past home used puppy pads inside.
  • They may have become used to relieving themselves inside a pen or crate.
  • Their past owners punished them after relieving themselves.

It’s important to remember that an adult dog has the physical ability to hold its need to go to the bathroom longer than a puppy does. Still, when they’re in a new home, you might need to make it easier on them by offering plenty of chances to go outside.

Positive reinforcement also goes a long way! Reward your older dog with praise and a little treat when they behave correctly.

How Your Senior Dog Communicates Its Needs to You

Older dogs know how to communicate their needs to you, so you must be able to recognize them and take action. If your dog starts whining, pacing back and forth, circling you, or walks in and out of the room, chances are they want to go outside ASAP!

Let them know you understand them, and get ready to help them properly relieve themselves.

Adult Dog Potty Training Basics

Adult dog on leash

Following a set routine is mission-critical, and this includes meals dispensed at regular times. Regular meals help to keep a dog’s digestive system on a predictable schedule. At set times throughout the day, grab the leash and head outside.

When you give your new dog plenty of chances to go, your pupster will learn what you expect of it and be happier when they follow your directions.

When your dog has an accident (it will happen occasionally), don’t yell or shout and NEVER strike it. Speak to your pup in a low, serious tone of voice that conveys your disapproval, and then bring it outside.

Keep in mind that dogs rarely relieve themselves inside out of anger, boredom, or mischief – they only do so because they cannot physically hold it in any longer.

Umbilical Cord Method For Older Dogs?

Dog getting reading for the umbilical cord method of training

Suppose you’ve adopted an older dog from a shelter or rescue organization. If that is the case, it may not have had many outside bathroom breaks. Which in turn may have weakened its potty-training habits.

If so, it may help to follow time-tested training for dogs/puppies and use some traditional strategies such as the umbilical cord method. 

While the umbilical cord method requires more planning and effort on the part of you, it’s very successful in potty training dogs of any age, including older dogs who have spent considerable time in a shelter.

8 Steps of the Umbilical Cord Method

  1. 1
    Connect your dog to you with a dog leash. Wherever you go, your dog goes.
  2. 2
    However, when you cannot be connected, place your dog in its crate. (But never for more than four hours during the day.)
  3. 3
    Every hour, ask your dog if they “want to go out?” using a happy, friendly tone and then bring it outside for a few minutes.
  4. 4
    Once outside, tell your pup to “hurry up” (or whatever command you choose)! Then offer praise in a happy, friendly voice when your dog relieves itself.
  5. 5
    If your dog begins to relieve itself inside, correct it in a low, serious tone of voice and quickly bring it outside, encouraging it to “hurry up” once you’re at an appropriate spot. If your dog finishes its business, offer praise in a happy, friendly voice.
  6. 6
    Once a week or two has gone by without any indoor accidents, remove the leash and allow your dog a little more freedom to move about one or two rooms. Keep an eye on it and continue bringing it outside using your chosen command.
  7. 7
    If a month passes without any accidents. Start to allow your dog to be alone for brief periods. Keep an eye on it and continue bringing it outside using your verbal cue.
  8. 8
    If another month passes without any accidents, your dog can now have full access to the house. But be sure to crate your canine when you leave.

If, at any point, accidents begin to happen again, simply back up to the previous step. Depending on your dog’s history and background, it may need more practice to establish the connection. Be patient and consistent, and your sweet dog will learn with time.

Other Adult Dog Potty-Training Problems

If your dog is continuing to go to the bathroom in the house despite your persistent efforts to train, there may be other factors to consider:

Medical Problems: Your dog may have a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a parasite. Call your veterinarian.

Emotional Urination: Some dogs can quickly lose urinary control when overly excited or feeling afraid.

Territorial Urination: If a dog feels threatened, it may leave a small amount of urine or feces to mark its territory.

Separation Anxiety: If your dog becomes anxious when you leave the house, it may soil the floor.

Final Thoughts

Adult dogs make for excellent, loyal companions, but information about their previous home, living conditions, and training routines can be hard to come by. That’s why it’s better to assume that the latest member of your family may need help with house training and start from scratch. 

If your new canine was previously potty trained, the re-introduction process should be a snap, and if not, you’ll be providing it with the necessary skills to be a happy member of your home.

If you have any tips to add on how to potty train an older dog, please leave them in the comments below. We can't wait to hear from you!

Additional Resource: The Online Dog Trainer

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