Housebreaking Older Dogs

HOUSEBREAKING OLDER DOGS
 
Housebreaking an older dog can bring different challenges than housebreaking a puppy.  On one hand, the dog has much more developed bladder control and is capable of holding itself for a longer period of time.  On the other hand, the older dog may have had no housebreaking at all, and may have a long history of going wherever it wants.
 
For a new dog entering the household, follow the exact same steps as crate-training a puppy.
 
For a dog established in the household that suddenly develops house-breaking problems, you need to examine why the dog is suddenly having accidents.
 
Is it a health problem? 

Dogs that all of a sudden begin urinating or defecating in the house often have a medical problem, such as a urinary tract infection.  A full work-up by a vet is recommended to eliminate any dog health problems.
 
Does the dog exhibit signs of separation anxiety? 

Housebreaking accidents in older dogs, particularly if they occur only when the dog is alone in the house and are paired with other anxiety-based behaviors can signify an anxiety disorder.  See the article on separation anxiety.
 
Is the dog getting older? 

Incontinence in dogs is not uncommon. Your veterinarian can prescribe medication to help combat incontinence in older dogs.  Some dogs can also develop late-onset separation anxiety which can lead to housebreaking mistakes.
 
Is it marking?

Male dogs often lift their leg to mark territory.  This may be a sign of a dominance problem, or it may simply be a bad habit.  Neutering a dog can often help this problem if the dog is intact.  Crate-training the dog as if it were a puppy will usually help this.  In severe cases, replacing your carpet is highly recommended.
 
Is it submissive or excited urination?

If your dog pees when you come home or guests come over, this may be a sign of submissive urination.  This is not uncommon in young puppies, particularly female puppies, and may persist through adolescence.  The best course of action is to make all entrances and exits as low-key as possible
 

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