Q&A: Transitioning From Potty Pad To Outside

“I have a 12 week old puppy. He was “potty pad” trained by the breeder, and he is pretty reliable at using the pad. I have begun the process of transitioning him to going outside to potty. My question is, should I leave a potty pad inside for him or should I leave it as a “back up” and if so for how long?”

Donna Wengel 

Dear Donna

It is great that you have a 12 week old puppy reliably going on a puppy pad, and you are certainly heading in the right direction to have fully trained puppy – well done!

At this stage, you should begin moving the pad close to the door that you would like your dog to use to go outside when he needs to. This way, if he decides to use the pad, he is at least starting to associate moving toward the correct area leading to outside. Once this is successful for a few days, you should take the pad and move it just outside the door, assuming you have a patio or deck that leads to grass. If your door exists directly onto grass, you can skip this step, and simply remove the pad all together. The point is to get rid of the pad all together, so leaving it in the house for an extended period can confuse the dog.

There are two important tips to remember:

Firstly, if your puppy starts having more accidents as you move the pad toward the door, you have probably progressed too fast. Simply slow down the process of moving the pad until he understands what is expected.

Secondly, it is always helpful if you give your dog a ‘word association’ command when he goes. For example every time you see him go outside, or you take him out to go, say something like, ‘go potty’. You can keep repeating this, and then make sure you calmly praise him when he goes. He will then start to associate these words, and this praise, with relieving outside. And lastly, remember he is a young dog, and accidents will happen even when you feel he is fully trained. Continue to take him out regularly to help increase your chances of success.

Good luck!

Beth Jeffrey
Professional Dog Trainer and Animal Behaviorist

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Beth Jeffery

Beth Jeffery is a Dog Trainer and Behaviorist with over 15 years experience in the field. She spent years in the Service Dog field, training both Guide Dogs for the Blind and Assistance Dogs for the Disabled, as well as many years working with pet dogs. Beth current runs her Dog Training business in San Diego, working with dogs of all breeds, all ages, and with all issues, from puppy training through to aggressive dogs.

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  • I have a 9 month puppy that is trained to use the pee pads but I’m really tired of my house smelling like pee and want to know the best way to transition him outside. I work all day and he states in a pen with his bed water and pad. When I’m home he is out and whenever he needs to go he walks into his pen. He is very smart and stubborn and also like to play and eat his poop every now and then. I need a way to train him fast or I’m gonna go crazy. I’m to the point of having panic attacks with this citation.

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