Q: My old girl, Tim-Tim, is losing bladder control and I’m wondering if I should train her to use an indoor potty system. Is it too late to teach an old dog new tricks? —Loves Old Dog in Louisville
A:We sure can teach old dogs new tricks! Sometimes it just takes a little longer to get the behaviour you want…but it is well worth the patience and effort to work towards a reasonable goal. An indoor potty system may be the best thing for your dog, but I would also encourage you to take Tim-Tim outside more frequently; this may also include going out in the nighttime. Just keep your shoes by the side of your bed for a quick exit. Also, for physical and mental stimulation, it is good to keep up some type of exercise with her.
It’s amazing the many types of indoor potty systems available. Teaching Tim-Tim to use one of these gives you options to go outside or not. If she has other medical issues, say arthritis, she may prefer the indoor option more often.
First, though, you need to have Tim-Tim thoroughly examined by your veterinarian to determine what may be causing this problem and how to best assist her. A geriatric exam is usually done for senior dogs. Once you understand what needs to be done to make her more comfortable, it can give you peace of mind that you are doing the very best for her.
To train her on the indoor potty, we want her to get used to it and what it is for. If Tim-Tim understands a cue word such as “go potty,” we can use this cue as we walk her onto the indoor toilet. you may have to entice her onto it with a treat. Help her get comfortable with the texture once she steps on it. It is also best to keep the system in one area, because as dogs age, it’s preferable to keep many things the same.
Don’t let Tim-Tim have the run of the house and keep her in uncarpeted areas in your home because accidents are bound to happen. At times, she may not even realize she is going to the bathroom. Because we wanted our Shepherd, Asia, to be in our bedroom at night, knowing she tended to pee during her sleep, we just used plastic under soft towels for her bed.
Remember not to give up on Tim-Tim, especially as she ages. After a lifetime of her faithfulness and fun-times, she deserves your love and support through difficult times. Continue to enjoy, love, laugh, and praise your old girl.