Sometimes people are hesitant to adopt older dogs because they think they will be impossible to train, they won’t bond, or they won’t have much energy. After fostering more than 30 Boston Terriers, most older and never puppies, I can tell you this is categorically untrue, but today I’m just going to focus on the potty-training part.
One of my favorite fosters, Zoye, languished in a chicken wire cage at a puppy mill for 7 1/2 years. She came to me after a failed adoption, where they kept her in a kitchen for six months, claiming she bit their daughter, bit their other dog, couldn’t possibly be potty trained, and was going deaf and blind.
When the woman handed me Zoye in her carrier, I though, “Oh, crap. Now I’ve got an old, aggressive dog who probably can’t be rehabilitated and may need to be euthanized. Why me?”
The first thing Zoye did, as if to solidify my fears, was walk into the door of my car. However, once I got her home, I quickly realized that these failed adopters just weren’t properly informed about adopting older or puppy mill dogs, both of whom generally need special love and care.
The first piece of special care I gave Zoye was to take her for a vet visit, at which time we discovered she had six mammary tumors. As we waited for her appointment to get them removed, we worked on potty training at home. She didn’t mind wearing a diaper at all, which was a blessing (if you haven’t seen a doggie diaper, it’s cloth or some sort of waterproof material, into which you simply insert a Maxi Pad, and when it’s wet, you just replace the pad).
Here’s the thing about using a diaper: With a dog who can be potty trained, it’s simply a tool to save your carpet, not the place you should be expecting them to potty for the rest of their lives. When used with a “zero tolerance” potty training policy, a diaper can be very effective. What I mean by zero-tolerance is that I take responsibly for preventing ANY mistakes in the house. Dogs go out every one to two hours (don’t forget to remove the diaper!), and they are always in the room with me where I can see them at other times.
Pottying in the diaper is NOT okay, and the dog should receive a firm “No!” and be put gently out on to the grass. This also goes for any other sort of indoor pottying. As the dog learns the rules, the diaper can be removed for longer and longer periods of time, until you no longer need to use it.
Within two weeks, I had Zoye potty-trained using this method, and you can do it, too, with a good diaper, a consistent schedule, a little patience, and minimal cleaning supplies. Good luck!