How to Potty Train an Older Dog in an Apartment (Fast and Effectively)


To potty train an older dog in an apartment is similar to training a puppy. Housetraining an adult dog can be quite easy and fast if you are constant and patient.

Dogs prefer to avoid going to the bathroom where they live.

But a dog that has not been potty train or has not been trained properly may have ingrained bad habits. In these cases, you must break the bad habits and this can make training more difficult.

If you just adopted a dog and you work outside your home, it‘s recommended that you take off a few days. You need to spend time with your dog while he’s adapting to his new home and the new routine.

First, you have to identify and evaluate the causes of some potty problems and then set up and adapt your dog to a daily routine.

There are two options for potty train an older dog that you can use. The process in both is very similar.

The first, and the most recommended is to potty train your dog to go outside to do his things.

The second one is to potty training your dog to go inside your apartment. Although anyone can apply it, is recommended only in some particular cases that I will comment later.

But you have to consider some things before you start your dog’s potty training.

Evaluating the Situation

Your Dog’s Background

Whether you adopted or bought your dog, you need to know as much as possible about your dog’s breed and background.

You need to find out everything you can about his habits and previous training. This will help you take precautions and be more assertive in potty training.

Preference for Some Surfaces

Dog in carpet

Is helpful to know in what particular environment your dog lived. For example, you need to know if he lived outdoors with access to grass or if he lived on concrete in a patio.

These details can cause your dog to have preferences for some surfaces that you should consider when it comes to potty training.

Dogs develop a preference for textures when they go to the bathroom. It can be grass or concrete, linoleum or your carpet. Although, the most natural thing for most dogs is to do their things on grass.

Identifying where your dog is doing his things can help you identify his preferences and solve the situation and avoid problems.

If, for example, your dog only makes on carpets, you can start limiting access to rooms or places where there are rugs.

You can also temporarily cover the surfaces with other material to break the behavior while teaching your dog new habits.

Shelter and Rescue Dogs

If you had adopted your dog from a shelter or if you get a rescue dog, sometimes they are not trained. Especially if they have lived outside for most of their life.

Shelters and rescue dogs may not feel comfortable living in an apartment and around people at first.

You have to be careful that he does not panic and have negative connotations when going to the bathroom in the apartment. This can lead to other behavioral problems.

Medical Issues

Whether a dog which has already been housetrain and suddenly starts doing inside the house or a new dog with bad habits. It is necessary to check for medical problems. There are issues with incontinence you might want to check with your vet.

Most shelter or rescue dogs have already been checked by a veterinarian. If you adopted it somewhere else, be sure to take it to check with a Vet as soon as possible.

You need to be sure that there is nothing going on. It can save you a huge struggle when trying to potty train an older dog that has a medical problem.

Behavior Problems

Sometimes there may be some behavioral problems with your dog such as fear of the outdoors or separation anxiety.

If he has separation anxiety it can cause him to be anxious and nervous and to urinate a lot around your home.

Whatever the case, you will have to work separately with the necessary training to handle the situation.

Potty Training to go Outside

Old dog Potty Training to go Outside

For housetraining, the most important thing is to create a daily routine. Getting him into a schedule will be very beneficial for your dog.

It is recommended taking several days off work, preferably one week, to establish a consistent routine.

To potty train an older dog is faster than training a puppy. Housetraining an adult dog can take about a week.

Taking a few days off will help to have a faster and less stressful process for both.

Establish a Routine

Feeding Schedule

The first thing you have to do to establish a routine is to feed your dog at the same time every day. This allows him to go to the bathroom around the same time of the day.

Depending on the dog’s breed, the size of his digestive tract will determine how long it takes him to digest food.

You have to keep in mind that a small breed might want to go to the bathroom one hour after eating. A larger breed can take more time.

If you go to work in the morning, it is best to feed him as soon as you wake up, one or two hours before leaving for work. This will give him time to digest the food and take him out to the bathroom before going to work.

You have to consider the same thing at night. Do not feed him before going to sleep because you are only asking for accidents.

Feed him long time before going to sleep and take it to the bathroom just before going to rest.

Establish the Potty Spot

Another part of building a potty routine is to take your dog at the same spot every time, at least in the beginning.

It is important that they use a specific location to go to the bathroom. The spot should be outdoors, not far from your apartment and preferably covered from rain, It can be under a tree for example.

He will get used to the smell of that place and begin to relate it to going to the bathroom. Every time you go to that place, the smell will motivate him to do his things there.

After a time, when he is already used to going to the bathroom outside, you can expand the area where he can choose the place he wants to go.

When living in an urban area where there are many smells and distractions, it helps to take him to the same dog park or walk the same path all the time. This helps him become familiar with the smells, sounds, and sights of a specific place and don’t get too distracted.

How Often Does a Dog Needs to Go Potty?

When you are building up a routine you have to consider how many times you are going to take your dog to the bathroom. Most healthy adult dogs only need to go 3 to 5 times a day. Veterinarians recommend that no more than 6 to 8 hours pass between potty trips.

But when you just adopt your dog and you’re potty training you have to be sure to have several bathrooms breaks a day. Maybe at the beginning, it will be necessary every 2 hours while building up the time he can hold.

For large breeds, it is recommended to take him out 6 times a day. Which means you should go out every 4 hours or so.

For small breeds, as they have smaller bladders, it is good to take them out 8 times a day. What it means to take them out every 3 hours, or less if it is a breed prone to go more times.

If you can not be at home and you have to be out working for 8 hours you can consider returning to take him out at midday. You can also hire a dog walker or pet sitter that can take him out.

The Potty Break

Dog Potty Break

Take your dog outside. When you get to the potty spot, use a command (it can be “go”, “potty” or “go potty”) to tell your dog to go to the bathroom.

Immediately after he does his things, treat or praise gently. Also, reward him with an extra walk or some play time outside.

It is not advisable to return to the apartment immediately after. It is common for dogs to hold as much as possible to extend their time outside.

Gradually you can reduce the trips outside. But the routine of taking your dog to his potty spot, telling him to go to the bathroom and praise him when he does it successfully must continue.

It is common that in less than a week your dog has already adapted to the routine. But it is advisable to keep a regular routine for at least 2 weeks to strengthen the behavior.

Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Signs

Something that every dog owner has to do, be it with a puppy or an older dog, is to spend time with his dog. You have to observe and start knowing him.

By observing him, you will begin to notice signs when your dog wants to go to the bathroom. Some dogs go to the door, others begin to sniff around looking for a place to do and even some dogs start to walk in circles.

After a while, you will easily recognize when your dog wants to go to the bathroom.

When Accidents Happen

When your dog has an accident inside your apartment, you do not have to make a big fuss about it. No need to yell at him, hit him or stick his nose in his mess as some people do.

The problem with this is that your dog will associate going to the bathroom and having accidents with negative things. This can cause him to be afraid to go to the bathroom or be scared of you too. He can start losing confidence in you.

You have to discipline him only when you catch him in the act. It is not necessary to scold, shout or hit him. You have to do something to startle him. Simply clap your hands loudly to startle him and that will make him stop doing his business.

Tell him that it’s not ok to do it in the house and immediately take him out to his spot where he will end up doing his business. When he does, praise him calmly.

This helps them to understand that it is not good to potty inside the apartment but it is good to go outside.

Clean the Areas Where the Accidents Happen

When your dog does his mess inside your apartment, it is very important to clean the area well so that there is no trace of the waste odors. This breaks the association between indoors and going to the bathroom and helps the dog to not be motivated to mark the spot twice.

Also, if you have more than one dog, it is important to clean because if one dog urinates, the other, even if he is housebroken, by smelling the urine he may want to mark that spot as well.

The dog’s urine has a smell that we can detect immediately. But, even if you think that you have already cleaned the area well, there may be an odor that only dogs can perceive.

There are special products on the market that completely remove the smell. They can be more expensive than normal cleaning products but have special enzymes that completely eliminate odor.

Crate Training

Dog in crate

If your dog is having accidents when you are not around, you can consider to create train him.

Dogs do not like to go to the bathroom where they eat and sleep. For this reason, create training is a way to teach a dog to hold on to go to the bathroom.

The crate should be large enough so that your dog can stand up, roll over and lie down comfortably, but not bigger. If it is very large, your dog may feel he can go to the bathroom in a corner and still keep his space clean.

Keep the crate in a place in your house where there is plenty of activity so he doesn’t feel isolated.

Also, make sure not to keep your dog for a long time in the crate, this can make him feel frustrated and trap.

Also, do not leave your dog confined longer than he can handle to go to the bathroom. If he is forced to do inside the crate because you did not let him go to the bathroom on time, house training can be much more difficult.

If you do not like to put your dog in a crate, keep in mind that you will not have to use it for long. With an adult dog, you would have to use it for about three days while it is well trained.

It is not always advisable or necessary to use a crate. Take into account that there are dogs that get very nervous when they are put in a crate. This can distress them and cause them to soil themselves due to anxiety.

Indoor Potty Training

Indoor potty training an older dog

Indoor potty training is useful for small dog breeds living in apartments. Small breeds have smaller bladders than large breeds so they need to go to the bathroom more often.

Likewise, it is useful for senior, sick or disabled dogs and for owners who work for long periods of time outside their home.

You have to keep in mind that indoor potty doesn’t mean you can always leave your dog inside the apartment.

All dogs, regardless of their age, need to exercise daily, go for a walk and socialize with other people and pets.

Each dog, according to its breed, age and health status, has physical and mental needs that need to be covered so that they can have a healthy and happy life.

Indoor potty training is not very different from training your dog to potty outside.

Remember that it is necessary to evaluate your dog’s background, as explained at the beginning, in order to take the necessary precautions.

Steps for Indoor Potty Training

Dog Potty Pads

For indoor potty training, it is necessary to use potty pads, also known as grass pads, pee pads or training pads.

The most common potty pads are layers of absorbent material in the form of squares or rectangles. They aim to absorb the waste of dogs and some help to neutralize odors.

Currently, there is a wide variety of potty pads, even some are made with real grass, but the goal of all is the same.

We must take into account the characteristics of our dog to ensure that the pee pad we use fits his needs. For example, a small dog that has a small bladder requires a small potty pad but extremely absorbent.

Find a Potty Spot in Your Apartment

The process of indoor potty training using potty pads is very similar to training your dog to potty outside.

In outside potty training, you need to take your dog to his spot outside your home. For indoors potty training you need to have a spot in your home where your dog needs to do his business.

You need to define where to put the pee pad. When you establish the place, stick with it and don’t move it because that can confuse your dog.

It has to be a private place, without much traffic and away from the daily activity of your home. It also has to be a place away from where your dog sleeps and eats, as it will not make their things near there.

Consider that accidents can occur while he dominates the potty pads, so it is recommended to put them on a surface easy to clean.

The Potty Schedule

As in outside potty training, it is very helpful to have a consistent feeding schedule. You have to feed him always at the same time daily to ensure that he goes to the bathroom more or less at the same time.

Likewise, dogs often go to the bathroom when they wake up or after an exercise session or playtime.

Being attentive to these schedules helps you to prevent accidents and to know when it is convenient to take him to the potty spot so he can do his needs.

Keep Your Dog Close to You

At the beginning of the training, to avoid accidents it helps to keep your dog close to you, either on a leash or in a playpen.

This will allow you to observe him and begin to recognize the signs that will help you identify when your dog needs a potty break.

If you put your dog in a playpen or use a pet gate to limit the space, make sure he has enough space to play and move. Just make sure you can always see your dog in case he shows signs that he needs to go to the bathroom.

Using a leash has the advantage that your dog will be able to move freely around you while you watch over him, even when you move around your apartment.

Using the Potty Pad

At the beginning, it is advisable to take your dog to the pee pad every hour to make sure there are no accidents.

This allows you to take advantage of your dog’s successes to reinforce good behavior.

Once you establish your feeding routine and identify your dog’s signals, you can gradually reduce trips to the potty spot.

When you take your dog to the potty spot, use the potty command you prefer. The easier the command, the better.. You can use “go”, “pee”, “potty” or “go potty”, but make sure to use it consistently.

Dealing With Potty Accidents

Dealing with potty accidents

When your dog does outside his potty pad, it’s not useful to scream or hit him. It can have negative repercussions and make training more difficult.

Using positive reinforcement has better results. When you offer praise when your dog does his things on the pee pad, you reinforce the good behavior. You can also use treats to motivate him to use the pee pads and reward him when he uses it.

If you find waste somewhere outside the potty pads, it does not make any sense to reprimand your dog. It will not associate your anger, shouts or sticking his nose in his mess with going to the bathroom in the wrong place.

As in outside potty training, only if you find it at the moment you have to do something to startle him. Clap your hands loudly to make him stop doing his thing and take him to the potty pad where he will finish doing his business.

As I mentioned before, remember that it is important to clean the area where the accidents happen. The place must be cleaned immediately using special cleaning products for dogs that serve to completely eliminate the smell of urine.

Final Thoughts

Potty training a dog requires patience and perseverance. Although training an older dog is faster than potty training a puppy, you have to dedicate some time and effort.

You also have to consider that there can always be setbacks. This is normal, and more so if your dog has deep-rooted bad habits.

But if you are constant and consistent in the training, you will see results soon.