How To Potty Train An Older Dog In An Apartment

Pee pads are a are a wonderful invention, especially for those who live in an apartment and are not always able to get their dog outside in time.

Truth be told –

Even though the task may initially seem complicated, the tried and true method behind potty training your dog is quite simple. The perfect balance lies in a combination of two very simple actions that make the entire process much easier on you and your canine companion.

how to potty train an older dog in an apartment

First of all, you must be sure to reinforce and reward good behavior. This means that you should use positive remarks and praise each time your dog does what you want it to do rather than resorting to yelling or harsh discipline.

Oftentimes, simply giving a treat, a scratch behind the ears and a few kind words are more than enough.

Second, you as the pet owner must be sure to limit any opportunities for mistakes or bad behavior. Do not set your dog up for failure by leaving him alone for too long, especially in the initial stages of the training process.

Likewise, be sure to provide him with the patience and understanding you would show your children or anyone else.

If you have a backyard, potty training is easier. Those who live in an urban environment, such as an apartment building may not be able to quickly get their learning dog outside in their time of need fast enough.

This is where puppy pads come in very handy! Ideally, using puppy pads should not be more complex than taking your dog for a potty break outdoors.

And while puppies are generally easier to potty train, adult dogs are also very capable of acquiring the skill.

In this post, I will teach you how to potty train an older dog in an apartment, along with describing the differences between potty training a puppy and an adult dog.

Keep in mind

Potty training your dog in no way replaces the need for taking him on regular walks. Instead, it is intended more as a method to prevent accidents within your living space rather than meant to take the place of allowing your dog to exercise his legs in nature.

Housebreaking A Puppy Vs. An Adult Dog

Did you know that a puppy can only hold his bladder for up to one-hour maximum for each month he grows older?

This means that a one-month-old puppy needs to be provided with a bathroom break each hour, while a six-month-old puppy is able to wait much longer to relieve himself.

The younger your puppy is, the more he needs to take a bathroom break. However, until a very young puppy has received all of the necessary vaccines, he should not be taken outside unless absolutely necessary. This means he needs to do his business inside.

A puppy who is in the process of potty training needs to have quick access to his pad, at least until he has more control over his bladder. He should also be confined using a playpen or pet gate so that he will not get too far from the pad.

Adult dogs are not so different. Even the healthiest, fully grown dog will have a hard time not utilizing some form of indoor toilet after more than seven or eight hours.

And if you are working on potty training an adult dog, it is vital to make sure he knows where to find his pee pad, especially if he is not confined within a smaller area located nearby.

With both puppies and adult dogs, you will want to protect your floor or carpet by using a nylon sheet or something similar underneath the pad or its placeholder.

It is very important to note that sometimes soiling and frequent accidents can be a sign of a potentially serious medical issue that your vet should look into.

An unexplained regression in potty training can also be a behavioral problem as some dogs will mark their territory when they are anxious.

Likewise, it could indicate anything from something as simple as a recent food change to a more bigger issue like adjusting to a new home.

How To Potty Train An Older Dog In An Apartment (13 Steps)

1. Learn About Your Dog’s Breed

It is important that you do some homework about your dog’s breed. This means knowing the basic facts, such as the general disposition, expected weight, height, etc.

An eight-pound dog will obviously have a much smaller bladder than one weighing fifty pounds. This requires a pee pad that is extremely absorbent, yet smaller in size. In order for a pee pad to work as well as it should, it is important to make sure it fits your dog’s characteristics.

2. Find A Potty Spot In Your House

Next, you need to decide where you are going to lay down the pee pad. Ideally, you want a place that is private and removed from the day to day chaos of the home. Do not pick somewhere with a lot of traffic and activity.

Also, you need to be sure to place the pee pad as far away as possible from where your dog eats, drink and sleep as he will not eliminate close to it. Once you have decided on the spot, stick with it.

Consistency is key with dog potty training, so if you move the pee pad around to a new location every day, your dog will understandably become confused as to where he is supposed to go inside.

Unfortunately, even with the best training and intentions, It is no secret that dogs have accidents. This being said, you will want to gravitate towards a surface that is easy to clean.

Even if you get discouraged in the beginning, bear in mind that cleaning will become less of an issue after your dog learns how to pee inside the pad.

Try this hack

Wipe your dog’s urine puddle using a paper towel or wet wipes, and put them in the middle of the pad so it attracts your dog there

3. Understand Your Dog’s Potty Schedule

Just like humans, dogs usually need to eliminate when they wake up, after they eat or drink, and even when they are excited. Be aware of these times and take advantage, using it as an opportunity to rush your dog to his potty spot to do his needs.

A regular feeding schedule helps provide a regular elimination schedule. To make things easier, feed your dog every day at the same hour to induce bowel movement right before you take him to his pee pad and take away his food bowl between meals so that there will be no surprises.

You can also take your dog to his puppy pad when he wakes up from his nap, or you can play with him for a while to speed things up. Basically, do whatever you can to make every potty break count.

4. Keep A Close Eye On Your Dog

To avoid accidents, mess and stress, you should keep your dog close to you, whether in a playpen or on a leash. Look for signs that your dog needs a toilet break (these include barking, circling, digging, sniffing and/or whining).

If you want to be on the safe side, simply take your dog to the pee pad every hour to ensure there are no accidents.

5. Confine Your Dog To A Small Area

Keeping an eye on your dog is much simpler when you confine him inside a playpen or behind a pet gate. Be sure that there is enough room to walk and play, and always take care to set any confining space up so that you can see your dog in case he signals you that it is potty time.

6. Use A Leash For More Control

If playpen and pet gate are not your dog’s thing, you can use a simple leash to have some control over him. Your dog will be able to move freely while you watch over him and you can take him with you when you move to another room, a combination that is highly convenient.

7. Teach Your Dog His First Potty Command

Are you ready to teach your dog his first potty command? It is simpler than you think.

You can use any word as long as it is not overly complicated, and be sure to use it consistently. Pick ones like Go, Pee or Potty and say it out loud while your dog does his thing on the pad.

8. Use Positive Reinforcements

Positive reinforcement works so much better than shouting or becoming frustrated. Praise is a good method to let the dog know you are pleased with him.

Dogs crave our approval, so be sure to offer praise while (and after) your dog eliminates on the puppy pad to reinforce his behavior. Remember that your dog can figure out whether you are angry or happy, so use the right tone and facial expressions to convey the message clearly.

Dog treats are another great way to encourage your dog to use his pee pads, and they are the ultimate training tool since dogs are extremely food motivated. However, use treats in moderation as it could lead to unhealthy weight gain.

9. Do Not Get Angry At Your Dog

Only if you catch your dog eliminating outside his puppy pad in real-time, you should do something that will startle him. For example, clap your hands to make him stop what he was doing and take him to the puppy pad so he could finish.

Yelling or getting angry does not only not help the situation, but it can also create anxiety in your dog that can make the situation worse.

Yes, you want to be sure that your dog knows that anywhere aside from the designated bathroom spot is off-limits. Yet resorting to harsh discipline methods such as pushing their nose in the mess only leads to stress and avoidance.

10. Remove And Minimize Potty Accidents

Your dog should know by now where to go for his toilet break, but to minimize the chance of accidents, you should clean your dog messes right away using an odor and stain neutralizer. This product is designed to eliminate the urine smell, which is unpleasant and also attract your dog.

In contrast to popular belief, bleach is only going to make things worse and it may even be dangerous when combined with dog’s urine.

11. Walk Your Dog Regularly

All of the pee pads in the world are not an excuse to leave your dog inside the house forever. Your dog needs to have his exercise, develop social interactions, and learn how to eliminate outside as well.

12. Think Twice About Using A Crate

While crate is a powerful tool for separation anxiety in dogs, it may not always be the best thing for indoor potty training. Some dogs get really nervous when you lock them in a kennel, and it can cause them severe distress, sometimes to the point where they can actually soil themselves.

13. Consistency Is Key

Potty training a dog requires a schedule and consistent action. You have to be willing to be persistent and not give up on your dog or show frustration the first time they have an accident.

Likewise, you need to be willing to devote your own time to the process of properly training your canine companion!

Bottom Line

Dogs that spend their life having acres of land and woods to explore almost certainly never have a need for indoor potty training. In our modern world, the reality is that many pet owners live in an urban environment that simply does not allow for regular, outdoor potty training.

Pee pads are an absolutely wonderful option in this situation. They provide an absorbent, protective shield against your floor while creating a place for indoor potty training to occur.

Be sure to offer your dog constant and consistent positive reinforcement, as well as a private place well away from his food and/or bed to do his business, and you are sure to experience success!

8 thoughts on “How To Potty Train An Older Dog In An Apartment”

  1. I know this post is fairly old, but if you could give some advice on my situation I would be grateful.

    Essentially a 5yr old pug is used to going outside in a house yard with 4 other dogs.

    She now lives with me in an apartment with my gf and I (its her dog) I have tried to keep a schedule, 30min walk at 9am, 2pm, 8pm, (times when she used to go pee/poo)

    She refuses to go while on a leash it seems. As soon as I leave for an hour or two, she pees in her kennel, which she never did before.

    Really hope for any advise anyone can provide.

    • It sounds like your dog has recently moved in with you and is going through a transition period, which can create some behavior problems.

      The first things you should do is use an enzyme cleaner to remove all pee odors from the kennel. Next, every few hours, take your dog to a spot she is familiar with (a small lawn area close to home or a real grass pad) and wait for her to do her business.

      If that does not work, keep her close and watch out for potty signs, such as circling or sniffing around the crate before taking her again.

      When your dog finally succeeded, give her plenty of praise and reward her with a few treats or a long walk if you are outside (in any case, do not return home as soon as she is finished).

      Hope that helps.

  2. My son in law has a fairly young dog who was previously abused and who is afraid of males. This dog spends the day hiding, either in the closet, or under the bed, but I have gotten her to trust me nough that she will lie down by me, and fall asleep. He can no longer keep her, and I would love to have her, but she is not potty trained.
    I have never had a dog, and I live in a small apartment. I also work irregular hours, so I don’t know if this is even doable.
    I have no idea of how to proceed. If I get your book, which I plan to do, is there any other advice you can give me that will be helpful? Anything will help. I want to help her and don’t know what I’m doing.
    Thank you in advace for your help.

    • Good for you for gaining that dog’s trust!

      Puppy pads are usually a good option for people with irregular work schedules, especially if the dog is young or of a small breed.

      Also, I can say from experience that these pee pads fit perfectly into a one-bedroom apartment, so do not worry if you have little space.

      Just make sure to take a few days off or bring the dog over the weekend so you can start the housebreaking process, as I explain in this post.

  3. Hello, I know this post is old but I’m hoping you could shed some light on my current situation. I have moved into a big city and into an apartment 5 months ago. Prior to, my 2 year old 7lb Yorkie was used to running around in a backyard whenever she needed to potty. I have tried to pee pad and dog litter train her. Unfortunately, she seems terrified of the pee pads and dog little. She continues to use our spare room as her potty room. She avoids the pee pads and dog litter at all costs. We have both tried getting her on the per pads and dog litter with tons of positive reinforcement including treats and praising her. I am continuously washing the floors nonstop. It has now been 5 months, I’ve seemed a trainer and still have come up with no results. She used to be able to hold her urine 6-8 hours. Now, regardless of my husband working from home, she does not notify him, she just sneaks out to our spare room to potty. Please help.

    • Since you mentioned that your dog had no problem doing her needs in the backyard, why not try a real grass dog potty? Chances are she will already know what to do.

      As for the spare room, I suggest that you use a cleaner specifically designed to eliminate urine odor, such as an enzyme cleaner. Otherwise, your dog will continue to mark the same spot again and again. Another option would be to simply close the door.

  4. Hi, I have a 1 yr. old morkie and she does go out to potty, but at night she goes on a towel.
    We are moving into a town house where she can’t run around the yard. How do I get her
    to go out all the time? Also she barks at everything & at us. I can’t have her doing this
    at our town house because of the neighbors. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thanks, God bless you.

    • Hey Sherry,
      If you’re planning to allow your dog to do her needs inside, you’ll need a better solution than a towel. Doggielawn is a good example as it acts just like a small yard and it teaches your dog to relieve herself on actual grass instead of on your towels or clothes.

      As for the barking issue, it’s a bit irrelevant to this post, but I’ll make sure to cover it in one of my next articles.

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