House training an older dog - PLEASE HELP!

by Brenda

My Katie is 6 1/2 yrs. old. She was a breeder in a puppy mill for 5 years. My problem with her is that she won't potty train. I've put pads down for her. We've tried the bells on the door, she was scared to death of them. I'm at the "very frustrated" stage. I've cleaned my carpets two times, ready to clean it again.

I will NOT put her in a crate. She lived in one for 5 years. So that is not an option. Any suggestions you can give me would very much be appreciated. I spoke with another Coton owner and she had the same situation with her. She said she may never get trained. Help Please.

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Jan 27, 2024
Work with a R+ trainer NEW
by: Michelle

You've received excellent suggestions already. So you don't feel alone and so you have someone who can help you stick with a plan, find a positive reinforcement trainer online or locally to help you create a stick to a plan. You are a hero for taking on a puppy mill dog, so put on your cape and stand tall and proud.

I have wood floors and have taken up most of the rugs for now. I also close off most rooms of the house so I can keep her from stealing away to potty in private.

If your home is wall-to-wall carpeting, you will be dealing with accidents, but you can minimize the number of them with the supervision suggestions you're receiving. I also tether my girl to me when she's having a bad spell (she was re-homed to me from a breeder, not a puppy mill, but still a situation where she could eliminate indoors quite a bit.). Tethering her helps keep me focused on her and her "tells" as in when she looks like she's looking for a place to potty - circling, nose to the ground, etc. Then I can say, "need to go potty?" and out we go immediately.

I stay with her outside and watch and encourage her to go using the cue "go potty" repetitively. When she goes, "GOOD potty!!" Stay outside some more to see if she needs to go more than once (some dogs do) or if she needs to do the other kind of business. Once inside the door, I give treats, but you could also treat immediately while still outside.

Jan 27, 2024
I can relate NEW
by: Marci

I had a very similar situation. I rescued an older dog who wasn’t house trained. It was hit or miss with him. I agree with Gale that constant supervision is key. If you only correct them once in awhile, they will never understand what they’re doing wrong. It’s a huge PAIN, but a few weeks (or months) of hard work are worth years of frustration. I was getting to the point of giving up, when like magic he got it. And once he understood what he was supposed to do, he’s never regressed. I’m so glad I hung in there. Good luck and hang in there!

Jan 27, 2024
Don’t give up!
by: Gale

I know how frustrating this is. My dog, Lucy, learned potty training quickly, and there were no issues until she got sick. When I had to switch her from going outside to using training pads, training was much more challenging. But with a lot of patience and floor cleaners, she finally got it!

Because Katie has learned habits that have been entrenched over a long period of time, regular potty-training methods aren’t likely to work as well or as fast. But you can turn this around with lots of supervision, consistency, and rewards.

Here are my suggestions based on what worked for Lucy:

  • Keep a log of when she eliminates. Is it a certain time of day? How long after each meal? How long after she drinks? How long after she plays or wakes up? Once you know when she’s likely to have to go, you can more easily predict when to take her out to a designated area in your yard. (Or on a walk if you don’t have a yard). Take her outside or to her pee pad every hour if you have to so you’re setting her up for success.

  • Praise and reward like crazy! Cotons want to please us, so let Katie know when she’s doing something right – every single time. Use treats, verbal praise, and lots of affection.

  • This is the hard part. Until she’s trained, you have to supervise her constantly so she doesn’t have the opportunity to have an "accident." If you can’t supervise and don’t want to use the crate due to her history, is there a small room you can leave her in? When I’m not home, Lucy stays in my big bathroom, where she has a sleeping area, a play area, and a potty area. She actually prefers this room when I leave to being left with totally free access in the house. It gives her security. A small kitchen or room without carpet also works if you use a baby gate.

  • If she’s going on the carpet, you have to clean with an excellent cleaner so she won’t be attracted the scent. I’ve heard good things about this odor eliminator.. I use Skout’s Honor because I always choose eco-friendly, plant-based products when I can due to Lucy’s health issues. I also removed the area rugs in the house temporarily during the training period to make it easier on both of us.

  • Remember that setbacks are normal, especially with an older dog. Stay patient, avoid punishment, and focus on reinforcing positive behavior.

I would love to hear what successful training methods worked for others house training older dogs.

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