How to Potty Train an Older Dog in an Apartment?

If you have just got yourself an older dog, the good news is you'll have to housetrain him, and potty training is definitely the most important habit you'll have to teach your dog. And that's a great family journey for you and your dog. I'm sure you are asking just how you are going to go about that in your apartment smoothly.

The first thing you should know is that it is actually much easier to potty train an older dog than a puppy. Potty training your older dog inside can be a bit daunting as apartment training has its own set of challenges, but the steps are pretty the same while training your puppy to potty.

If you are the busy type, perhaps with school or work, your dog might not be able to wait before doing his poop-y business. This means you have to set some essential rules in place. The best thing to do is to walk your dog through how to use the potty or litter box so the whole house won't be a mess when you get back home.

I mean I've been there many times doing some heavy cleaning and Lord, getting the smell out of my nostrils! Not to worry because there are great cleaning agents out there to do that for you. To help you get your adult dog on that house training journey, we've come up with these pretty simple, practical, and sure steps to get what you want. Now, just chillax and let's paw away!

So before we dive into potty training for your adult dog in your apartment, let's talk about some reasons you'd want to think about to train your dog indoors.

Sure, training your adult dog outside how to potty is a great option, especially within the right conditions. However, there are lots of good reasons to consider at least beginning your training in the house. Here they are:

  • You can trust your dog to behave inside with you.
  • Your dog won't stain your car or traveling crates with pee or poo.
  • Your dog will be able to do his business in the right place.
  • Your dog will be able to keep it together when you go visiting.
  • Training, your dog inside an apartment, is the best if you stay in one, especially if it's a high-rise building.

9 Simple steps to potty train your adult dog

older dog trained to use litter box

1. Create a consistent routine

Dogs like human beings learn through the predictable and constant housetraining routine. Routines become habits, and it takes a good time to get dogs to emulate what we want them to do.

This routine [1] should contain potty breaks, playtime, mealtimes, confinement time, training time, etc., and all the other elevating activities that are part of your dog's daily life.

Training an older dog to use an indoor dog potty or pee pads starts by creating a gentle but firm method to ease your dog into this new way of handling himself. Don't forget that dogs are very familiar with routines, love, and thrive in them.

Don't underestimate the power of setting a schedule and sticking to it as it will help prevent accidents and ensure you give your dog every chance to go in the right location.

2. Pick a potty spot

Now you have to choose a spot for your dog's indoor potty. You should pick a part of the house that is private and away from the house's busyness. This is where you'll direct your dog every time.

You should make sure that the potty spot is comfortable and easy to access for your dog. One great tip is not to move around the potty, so your adult dog does not get confused and ends up making a mess of the whole thing. This routs potty training.

3. Create a feeding schedule

The next thing to do is to create a feeding routine for your dog at the same time every day. This ensures that he goes to the bathroom around the same time of the day.

The size of your dog's digestive tract will determine how long it takes to digest food based on his breed. You have to bear in mind that a small breed dog might want to go to the bathroom one hour after eating. A larger breed dog, however, takes more time to digest food. Here are some tips for feeding schedule;

  • Set regular feeding times for your dog and be watchful of when they drink water so you can take them to potty after some time.
  • Ensure you take your dog to the indoor toilet every 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Take your dog to the toilet after eating and playing.

4. Crate train your dog

Crate training is a process of training your older dog to accept a crate as a familiar and haven. It comes recommended by the Humane Society of the United States.

To crate train your dog during potty-training helps your dog realize that he should not soil his haven; instead, he should go to the potty to do his business. Your dog will want to keep his crate clean by not soiling it.

Here are some tips for crate training:

  • Choose an appropriately sized crate. Your dog should be able to lie down and turn around but with no extra room. An extra room can be used by your dog to potty.
  • Make the crate very cozy for your dog.
  • Associate the crate with great kinds of stuff like treats, feed your dog at the back of the crate, and put toys in the crate. This way, your dog will quickly associate the crate with a clean and pleasurable place.
  • Reward your puppy for going in his crate. He will be happy to go inside if it's a rewarding place to be.
  • Take your dog to his potty whenever you let him out of his crate.

5. Use commands to set the tone

using command to get your adult dog to potty

While house training your dog to potty, it's essential to pair up specific actions with commands or cues. These commands/cues keep your dog under control and give your dog a good sense of and order. This way, your dog knows what to do when he hears the cue.

Every morning you should make sure you use the command that they are used to on their walks. For example, some people say "Go Potty," "Go Pee Pee," and "Toilet," etc. Say it before and after the act. Since you know your dog, you should know precisely the command that your dog will better understand and is quite familiar with. Ensure it is easier to tie the act to the command for your dog.

Here is how to cue your dog to potty in three easy steps;

  • Start teaching this firstly in the morning. In the morning, you'll set your older dog for success since that's when he's most likely to go after a long night of sleep.
  • The moment your dog is about to squat or lift his leg, say "go potty" or any other suitable command. Be precise, saying it, especially when he is urinating.
  • Instantly praise your dog and give a treat after going potty. Repeat every morning. 

The best thing is that once your dog learns the chosen command well, going potty becomes more or less a reflex, where your dog just does it without much thought involved.

6. Reinforce good potty behavior with rewards

Positive reinforcement is a significantly effective reward system for dogs that conditions your dog to do exactly what you want.

To solidify potty training, always praise your dog when he does his business in the chosen right spot. The reward can come in different forms, such as a kind word "good boy," a long pat, tummy rub, or play. Using treats is a gentle and tasty way of kick-starting and keeping steady your dog's desire to learn.

So, if you are talking and positively interacting with your adult dog, you reinforce good behavior, and this is how your dog knows he's been successful. Your dog will wag his tail in the excitement that he has pleased you.

7. Observe your dog for signs that he needs to go

Proper observation of your adult dog's body tells tale signs and goes a long way in helping you know when your dog needs to use the potty. You have to be watchful as sometimes it's too late to find out your puppy need to potty.

It's better to avoid accidents instead of keeping eyes on your dog. When training your dog, there are some signs he might show, which means he needs to do his business. Some include pacing, circling, sniffing, squatting, going to the door, and returning to a previously soiled area in the house.

Once you see these signs, don't waste time, instead, give your dog a verbal command or cue telling him to wait and take him to the potty area or pee pads.

8. Keep your dog close to you

When potty training begins, it is best to keep your older dog close to you to avoid accidents. You can use a leash to do so as this will allow you to observe him and begin to identify the signs that will help you identify when your dog needs a potty break.

Using a leash allows you to ensure that your dog moves freely around you while you watch over him, even when you move around your apartment. You can leash your dog either to your ankles or hand with a leash of about 6 feet long, so you don't end up making your dog uncomfortable.

9. Don't scold, use love

There will be times that your dog will soil the apartment, and other accidents might occur from time. It is normal. Perhaps you didn't keep a close eye on him as you should have or you forgot to his pee time. When potty training a dog, failure, and success is shared. Blame your dog for nothing.

Here are some​ ways to handle such times;

  • Don't scold your dog harshly in the least bit if you find a soiled part in your apartment. This includes yelling or hitting your dog in any way. Simply clean up the mess made.
  • When you catch your dog in the act, interrupt him by saying "No" or "Bad" then lead him to his litter box to finish up his business. Afterward, you praise him.
  • Always accompany your dog to the potty area of the apartment, so he knows exactly where to go.


Potty training an older dog in an apartment isn't very different from training a puppy anywhere else. It still necessitates you to keep a very close eye on your dog as he learns the ropes of the routine, using positive reinforcement when your dog does well and accurate behavior discouragement methods to get what you desire from your dog.

The key attitudes are consistency, reliability, watchful eye, tolerance, and a whole big bowl of love cause trust me, your love will be tested. Bear in mind that dogs are super intelligent and can adapt really well if you train your dog to meet his needs.

Not just that, you also have to train yourself to meet your dog's needs. You'll be rewarded with peace of mind that your dog's got it. I mean, who would not want to be proud of his older dog strutting off to the potty in the right spot and back at home and in other people's homes.

Tell us how you got around to house training your older dog to potty and the bumps you hit along the way. If you need help getting your older dog to potty, do drop a thought in the comment section below. We are your dog guide, and we are always delighted to help you and your dog stay happy.


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