How To Re-Train An Older Dog

Perhaps you adopted your new pal from a shelter and, due to past circumstances, they were never trained / adequately trained. Or maybe your furbaby has grown up and is beginning to age just as our elderly do. Either way, there may come a time when you need to re-train / train your adult dog.

Growing older can pose both a health risk and an emotional risk to your beloved furry friend. Memory loss, unfortunately, impacts dogs the same way it would a human. They can grow forgetful of the simplest tasks. You may notice that your dog either forgets to do their business outside or they are unable to control their muscles and will have accidents in the house. This could be due to old age, a medical condition, or merely a slip of the mind. It is just as important to remain consistent, patient, and positive while trying to re-train an elderly dog.

First Time Training For An Older Dog


I’m sure that at some point in your life you’ve heard the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This is an untrue statement. An older dog is fully capable of learning new commands and “tricks” if you will, it just takes time and a lot more patience.

When you care for an older dog who hasn’t been taught from an early age, you will notice that they have tendencies to do things their way, and it will take some time to break that cycle. If they frequently urinate where they please (indoors), chew/scratch unwanted items, or possess other qualities you don’t approve of, know that you can correct these habits with a proper method of training. Refer to our article “How To Train A Puppy” because you will teach your dog the same commands, the same way, just at a slower pace.

The most helpful training advice will be to ‘know your dog.’ Know where they came from and why they were put up for adoption. If available, gather facts on how they were treated, if they have any temperament issues, fears, or habits the adoption agency can make you aware of. Use any and all information to your benefit. Once you know their personality, you will have a better handle on how to train them; what to do and what not to do.

Break all the bad habits with positive reinforcement. When they do something ‘good’ reward them with a treat, if they do something you don’t like, never hit them! If they were abused in a past association, yelling or hitting may send them into a downward spiral.

If you aren’t having luck training your new pal, consider a dog trainer; especially if temperament issues are present. Training isn’t only for puppies. A lot of trainers have experience teaching the young and old. They know how to work with all ages, and will better advise you on specific training methods, that will cater to your pal.


Is Your Dog Getting A Little Forgetful?


Dogs can fall victim to memory loss just as aging humans do. This may mean they forget to eat, forget where to sleep, forget certain commands, and sometimes forget that the restroom is outside. Focus on staying positive and helping your dog to live out their golden years in peace. Jog their memory with positive reinforcement, just as you would if you are training a puppy. The method of re-training is the same; you just need to reinforce it more often; until they get the hang of it again.

A common problem can be your dog forgetting where to do their business. The best thing you can do in this situation is to establish a routine of frequent potty breaks. Take your dog for more walks, play with them in the yard, and get them up and out of the house frequently. Not only will your dog naturally enjoy being outside, but they will also get plenty of fresh air, and many opportunities to use the restroom outside. Each time your dog uses the bathroom outside, praise them. Positive reinforcement is one of the biggest tools you can use to your advantage.


Accept That There Will Be A Few Accidents


You should be aware that no matter what you try, there will be an accident every once in a while. Try not to get frustrated or cynical when this happens. It’s just an accident that happens with age. If you can commit to remaining positive through these mishaps, then you and your dog will be much happier.


Create a Routine That You Know You Can Stick To


Creating a routine means more than just accounting for frequent potty breaks outside. It means that you will do the same things at the same time every single day, such as walks, feedings, play, potty breaks, etc… This enables your dog to expect certain events at a particular time each day. How will they know what time it is? Eventually, they will get used to the routine, and their internal clock will kick in. You will be impressed by how well they know the time of day based on their routine.

Is Your Dog Losing Control Of Their Muscles?


Unfortunately, your dog may reach a point where they can no longer let you know that a potty break is needed, so, unfortunately, some of the training techniques listed above will not be of assistance to you. If your dog has lost control, consider the following tips:

• Keep your dog outdoors when the weather is nice.

• Take your dog for more frequent walks and potty breaks.

• Line a kennel or the kitchen floor for your elderly dog to sleep on. The use of a pee pad can be incorporated as well.

• Never yell or raise your voice when your dog has an accident- they cannot help it.

• Never kick, hit, slap, or abuse your dog for their accidents. Although years ago, this was standard practice, this method of punishment is unacceptable and ineffective.

• Praise your dog when they are successful in using the restroom outside.


Could this be related to a medical condition?


If your dog is getting older and you’re worried that the lack of potty resistance isn’t just a bad memory, look for signs that it could be something more and visit your vet. If something is wrong, your dog may not be able to communicate it to you, but deep down, you will have a feeling for it. We get to know our animals habits, moods, and tendencies very quickly after we adopt them into our family, so use your eyes and listen to your gut. If you have a potty trained dog who suddenly starts losing control of their bladder, it’s alarming for them too.


For more information on dog training, check out our 8 Important Commands To Teach Your Dog and How To Potty Train A Puppy.


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