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Can you re-toilet train a dog with IVDD?

Interestingly, when they become incontinent with IVDD, the idea they may regain continence seems impossible. There is no advice on this anywhere I have looked, and it seems to be accepted that they may or may not regain continence.....but can we influence the outcome?

I think we can. With all the dogs I've rehabilitated, I have started to think through a process of routine and careful management, we can teach them continence again, and with that, retrain their little bodies to gain strength and help them become aware of the new signals they may feel when they need to go.

This blog is purely based on my experience with 26 Grade 5 warriors who were all completely incontinent with IVDD. Some had surgery, some did not. You may disagree, I am only sharing this based on my own experience and knowledge in the hopes it helps you, the warrior pawrents and your beautiful IVDD warriors.

I think so, to a degree, or you can at least make things easier.  In this situation I am talking about those who have become incontinent due to IVDD or similar illnesses.

As many of you know I’ve rehabilitated many warriors.  IVDD is close to my heart, and I admire any pawrent who supports their dachshunds through this journey. The incontinence part of the disease is often distressing for many owners and for some of the dogs.

But (touch wood) all of the dogs I have rehabilitated, even darling Fudge, did regain some or all of their continent.  Yes, it may not have been 100% reliable and often they didn’t have the same amount of “holding it” capacity as those that hadn’t had IVDD, but it can be better than just going.


In the early days your focus will be on recovery, and this bit is the most unpredictable. You often feel helpless, there is nothing you can do to help them.  But, this bit is where you can do a lot of learning.

1.        Keep a diary of their routines. Sleeping and waking.  Eating and drinking.  When they toilet or you find a wet bed.  By doing this you’ll start noticing patterns.

For example, I know Chelly will want to do a poo at night-time.  Knowing this ensures I give her extra time outside to snuffle about.

2.        Express their bladders. I know it can seem a bit scary at first, but its so important, and selfishly, it means you don’t end up washing beds all the time. Bladder care is so important, it helps prevent urine infections and worse.  Here’s a blog I wrote previously on the important of it, there’s lots of useful links in it so please do read it if its relevant to you:

3.        When learning to express, using puppy pads can be helpful, it also means you can see the urine and spot the classic indicators of an infection – e.g. the smell, colour and how concentrated it is.  I find these pads useful, being washable, I saved a fortune on pads (which work out expensive).  I had 3 on rotation – 1 in the wash, 1 drying and 1 in use:  I also use these pads on the sofa, under some vet bed.  Just in case.  It means we can have normal dachshund cuddles and my sofa is protected.  (Obviously we are not letting them jump off the sofa, so create a baracade of some sort.  Or if you want to get clever, I have used these….  They slot straight under the cushions and create one exit…..usually over my legs so I can help them.

4.        Once you are an expressing expert, set a time table for expressing.  I always give mine a good drink about an hour before, it makes finding the bladder easier and helps flush things through.  This routine will help them learn awareness too.  In theory (and from my experience) they relearn to associate the feelings they may have (but less obvious than before) with the action of you expressing.  I think (I can’t prove this) they then start recognising these new feelings and then start making actions to go to the toilet in the right place.  Fudge was paralysed for 2 years (ish) before I took him on, and was completely incontinent.  However, he did become aware of needing to do a wee and would often take himself outside to go.  No 2’s were less predictable, he did learn when he wanted to go, but only at last minute….but that was still progress and he never did it on his bed…..the sofa….or me!

5.        What about number 2’s? Well Elaine from Dedicated to Dachshunds swears by the ice-cube trick.  By popping an ice-cube on their bottom it causes the muscles to contract and cleverly moves a poop out of the passage.  I tend to massage the bottom area which has the same effect.  That way I can feel whether there is more to come or if they are done.  Both options work well from my experience.  Again like weeing, write down the timings, and again try to get into a routine.  Regaining bowel continence is less likely, Chelly is 90% there (given they said she’d never walk or regain continent I’ll take that).  Sometimes she isn’t aware, but the majority of the time she asks to go out. Fudge had less awareness, but still made huge improvements here.

6.        The routine of expressing is the trick.  The body learns and then, logically speaking, the dogs start picking up on the feelings associated with the action and then much like puppy training start doing it themselves.

7.        Be patient, it takes time, they are having to learn everything all over again.  Literally, everything. I know its hard, but the majority do improve. 

8.        I did use belly bands with Fudge, mostly at bedtime (so he could snuggle under the duvet with me) and if we went anywhere that was indoors.  Towards the last 6 months of his life he was very much aware of needing a wee and a poo and rarely had accidents. Belly bands are really useful with IVDD dogs, but do make sure you look after their skin, and don’t overuse them.  Here’s a blog I wrote on them:  I used these ones (in a medium) with Fudge: .  He had a Patterdale shape. They were nice and wide and didn’t tend to slip.

I know having an incontinent dog can be hard, been there, done that.  But, it is possible to make life easier for you and better for them. It’s a bit of a faff early on, but long term it makes a huge difference.

Sending all you warrior pawrents strength and love.  I hope this blog helps you and your darling warriors.

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