Q&A: How to get my dog to go outside instead of using training pads?

teach-your-dog-to-sitHi! I have a puppy (Border Collie mix). He is approximately 7 months old (I got him since he had 2 months). I house trained him in my apartment and he goes to pee and poop on his training pads. I was waiting until he had his full vaccines. Now I want to train him to go outside. I’m walking him twice a day and I see him smelling but he does not go outside! He waits until he gets to the apartment to go on the pads. I’m willing to reward and praise him if he goes outside but he doesn’t! What would you recommend?
Thanks, Cristina

Hello, and thank you for reaching out for help with your 7 months old Border collie mix puppy. Your pup would be a dream for those who want a well trained pup who goes potty strictly outdoors! From your description it sounds like you have done a very good job in house-training him, so well that your pup has learned to go exclusively on the training pads. Kudos to you as this is not an easy task!

The problem you have encountered is a common one: dogs aren’t that great in generalizing. This is the same problem owners encounter when they are able to train their dogs at classes and then once out and about around the world with all its stimuli, the dogs lose it. Thee are many ways we can help dogs generalize behaviors in different contexts, but it takes some time and patience. Training a puppy who has always gone inside to go outside is fortunately much easier than training a dog who has always gone outside to start going inside. Here are a few tips for you:

Try in the morning. Mornings are great outdoor potty training opportunities, because the dog has a full bladder in the morning and this can up the chances for success. I would go on a walk and then take him to a quiet area. Keep the leash extra loose and let him sniff. Be patient, some dogs feel our frustration at times and this can inhibit them from going. If he’s fully vaccinated, you can take him to areas frequented by other dogs. Sniffing the urine of other dogs or seeing them potty may entice him to go so he can also leave his personal “business card” too.

Find a quiet area. Some dogs are very picky about going potty in certain places. If the place you walk is loud and there are many distractions going on, your dog may not be comfortable going because he is a bit nervous. Your home is safe and quiet so he feels more comfortable going there. So look for a place that is very quiet and where there are not many cars, people or noises.

Bring a long line. Some dogs do not have a problem going potty outside, but going potty when on the leash. Some dogs get inhibited by the leash especially if it’s short. If there is a large area when you can let him wander on a long line, that can help him feel better. A long line is a long type of leash that comes in different lengths ranging from 10 feet to even 30 feet.

Try bringing a pad with you. Some dogs are so used to going on pads, they need to see pads to learn to go potty outside. Try bringing one with you and placing it in a designated outdoor spot. Some owners have success bringing one that already has a bit urine on them to help the dog go.

Dedicate a full day. If you have the time, try dedicating a whole day for the process or maybe even a whole weekend. Put your dog on leash and go outside first thing in the morning. Follow all the tips above. If he doesn’t go despite waiting and letting him sniff in quiet areas and keeping him on a long leash, etc, go back home. As soon as you notice him walking towards the pad to potty, interrupt him and call him to. Let him get a treat or play with the toy a few seconds (you want to reward him for coming!) and then immediately clip the leash on and go outside. And try again. Rinse and repeat as needed. Of course, be ready to praise, praise and praise and reward with high-value treats when he finally goes! Then, make a mental note of the area he went and return to the same exact place each and every single day.

Another idea is to put the action of going potty on cue. When you catch your pup going potty inside on the pads, say “go potty!” right before he goes. Do this every single time. You want her to associate the word “go potty!” with the action of going potty. This can help your dog generalize the act of going potty from indoors to the outdoors as the cue is familiar.

Training a puppy that was used to potty indoors to go outdoors may take some time, but patience eventually pays off. Being consistent, persistent and providing loads of reinforcement when the puppy goes in the correct spot will up your chances for success. Good luck!

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One Response to Q&A: How to get my dog to go outside instead of using training pads?

  1. Kandace March 16, 2017 at 4:48 am #

    Hi I have a 2year old dog she is sort of potty trained on pee pads but always miss so I want to try training her outside but she never goes I’m also worried that my other old dog goes pee inside and I don’t want that to confuse her what do I do?

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