Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."
Why Is Weaning Important?
It is a good idea to wean dogs off training pads for a couple of reasons:
- Training pads may be confusing to dogs as it teaches them to go potty in the house. Dogs do not generalize well, and therefore they may have a hard time understanding why they are allowed to go in one area of the house but not another.
- Dogs may not do well when it comes to aiming. This means they may go potty on the edges of the training pad and leave messes nearby.
- Your final goal is having your puppy or dog go potty outside.
Weaning a dog from training pads to the great outdoors is a gradual process that will take some time—but it can be done. The secret is doing it step by step with lots of praising for doing things right. What you would do is move the training pad gradually closer and closer to the door over the course of a week or two. Finally, you will take the pad outdoors and then remove it once she gets the idea.
Tips for Weaning a Dog Off Training Pads
A good way to prevent a dog from soiling in the indoor area he/she was used to is by:
- Taking her outdoors and making sure she has done everything. Some dogs like going on the pad when they come out from outside because they have been used to it for a long time and it has their scent. Some dogs may be saving some pee or poop to mark it. Many training pads contain products that encourage dogs to mark.
- Take her out, try to tell her ''go potty'' on command, basically, just seconds before she does number one (pee) or number two (poop) say "go potty" and after she goes potty, just within two seconds, praise her and give her a treat. She has to associate going potty outdoors with something good. The more she is praised and given a treat, the more she will feel motivated to do her business outdoors. Always keep treats with you handy when outdoors to emphasize this. I like to wear a treat bag.
- Clean up all indoor areas well. Invest in a good carpet cleaner. It needs to have enzymes in it. You want a product like ''Nature's Miracle''. If you do not use an enzyme cleaner the carpet will have traces of her smell and she will feel compelled to still go indoors.
- Make going potty indoors inconvenient. In other words, after cleaning the carpet with an enzyme cleaner put something in place of where she had her training pad. This is just temporarily. You can put a box or something she cannot go underneath or around it.
- When coming indoors keep her leashed so you can prevent her from going potty again inside. Watch her carefully. If she is giving signs she is about to go entice her to follow you immediately outside. When she goes outdoors, lots of praise and treats.
- Use an umbilical cord. If you cannot trust her going potty when you are not watching, attach her leash to a belt or around your waist so you can go about your business and keep an eye on her. This way she will not sneak away and try to go potty indoors and can give you warning signs she may need to go potty.
- If the dog is crate trained, use the crate for when she cannot be on an umbilical cord. Make sure it is the right size. If it is too big your dog will feel compelled to make it a bathroom. It should be snug enough that she would not feel comfortable doing her business there and sleeping in it. She still though be able to stand up and turn around comfortably.
- Should she ever go potty indoors when you are not watching, scoop up the poop and take it outdoors where you want your dog to potty. Clean up the area immediately with the enzyme cleaner.
- To help your puppy, move the training pads gradually closer and closer to the door. Then move them outside right by the door, then closer and closer to the potty area. Once in the potty area, make the training pads smaller and smaller until you can stop using it completely.
- When it's time to move to the yard or grass area, place dirt and grass on the pad so he can smell the grass and dirt and get accustomed to it.
- Last, but not least, keep her on a feeding schedule. Do not leave food out all day. When on a feeding schedule, a dog's potty time is more predictable. Set up a potty routine and stick to it if you can. Generally, dogs go potty first thing in the morning, in the afternoon, in the mid evening and then right before bedtime.
Adult dogs should have good control of their bowel and bladder. This means they should have no problems staying without going potty for extended periods of time (at least six hours) and should not have problems keeping it during the night. Do not confuse dog urine marking with urinating due to a physiological need to empty the bladder. A vet visit is always recommended if a dog starts to go potty more than usual. Urinary tract infections and disorders of the bowel may cause an increasing in potty frequency.
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© 2011 Adrienne Farricelli
Shamika Southerland on June 30, 2019:
I just got a sog feom a friend and i an trying to house train her she use to going on a pad what do i do HELP
LaDawn Lemerond on March 18, 2019:
if im going to try and pad train my new puppy when i get her in a couple weeks can i use two pads at diffrent areas of the hous
sally on November 26, 2018:
My puppy has acces to a dog flap he wil use it when we’re in but not when we’re out, he’ll pee on the puppy pads. Please help
John on November 11, 2016:
Funny, I have the same issue as Glenny as I also live on the 8th floor of a high-rise building. My Frenchie is now 16 weeks old (we got her at 13 weeks) and have successfully trained her to use the pads (for all business). But I've been trying to get her to take care of business outside but she doesn't seem to get it no matter how much time we spent or how often I take her to the same spot. (Granted, we don't have many patches of anything resembling grass.) But the season is changing and it's getting pretty cold. I'm trying not to give up hope, but could use some pointers if they exist!
Cassie on August 22, 2016:
We adopted a dog that was 3 years old and was trained to still use the pee pads. We've been so patient in trying to break this dog of this habit and it has been difficult. I did read some helpful tips in this article to try.
I liked the idea of keeping the dog on the leash for a minute inside to see if she is sniffing around, etc. She likes to go on our living room rug or to another room when we are not looking. We do try to remember to keep all the doors closed, but every once in a while she will sneak off when a room is open. We walk her regularly and so it is frustrating to see her do this right after she was gone and did business several times outside.
Thank you for the article.
I hope, due to her age, becoming housebroken is still possible.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 17, 2016:
Gleny, I feel for you, it is quite challenging potty training a puppy to potty outside when you live on the 8th floor. You will have to wait until your puppy has obtained better bladder control (and for the time being use pads) or you can try carry him/her downstairs (if small enough) and hopefully that will distract him to hold until you make it downstairs.
Gleny on August 17, 2016:
Thank you for your article! But how do you move them outside if you live in the 8th floor of a building? You can't not just move the pad outside of the apartment.
How to Use Puppy Pads & Outdoor Potty Training Together
How to Housebreak a Dog That Is Already Pad Trained
When you bring a new canine home, one of the first orders of business is house training, or teaching your puppy appropriate places to use the bathroom. If you work long hours, have health issues that prevent you from walking your dog, or live in a high-rise apartment, going outside regularly isn't always an option. It may be beneficial to simultaneously train your dog to eliminate outside and train him to use pee pads inside.
There’s no need to quit cold turkey, unless you’re out of pads and simply cannot (or refuse) to buy any more. While quitting “cold turkey” is definitely an option, it may lead to accidents. When your puppy goes potty on the floor, it reinforces a bad habit – when instead, you want to focus on replacing one good habit (using a pad) with another (going outside.)
It’s better to take the pads away for just an hour each day, at first. Watch your pup carefully for the hour. If she rushes to her usual pad area, or show signs of needing to go, take her out.
A pad-trained puppy is accustomed to relieving herself whenever she wants. She’ll need to learn to “hold it.” Using a crate teaches your puppy to hold it because most puppies will not pee or poop in close quarters, where they sleep. A crate is the best option if you’re dependant on using pads when you’re at work or in the nighttime.
For more information on transitioning from puppy pads, check out these tips.
Try feeding half of their normal dry food with half tinned, then gradually reduce the amount of dried kibble over a few days. When you have weaned your cat onto a wet diet, apply the same principles when converting to raw. Feed half and half and gradually reduce the amount of tinned food over the course of a few days.
How to Switch from Raw to Dry Dog Food Prepare your dog's normal raw food meal, but replace a quarter of it with the dry kibble. Feed your dog three-quarters raw food with one-quarter dry kibble for seven days, than slowly introduce more dry food by removing another quarter of raw food from the mix and replacing it with dry food.
The Ins and Outs of Potty Pad Training
For all the joy and excitement of bringing home a new puppy, potty training can be enough to make you wonder what you were thinking. In fact, one of the most popular questions on The AKC GoodDog! Helpline is how to potty train a puppy. The goal of potty training is simple, but the details can be confusing, like whether to use puppy pads.
Having your dog go outside is the ideal solution, but potty pads can sometimes play a role in successful potty training. For example, with very young puppies it’s necessary to make frequent trips outside. That might be too challenging for elderly owners or apartment dwellers. Or if you don’t have a backyard and your dog’s toilet area is a public place, you might want to limit your puppy’s exposure until he’s fully vaccinated. So, if you want to include potty pads in your puppy’s housetraining routine, read on for tips on how to potty train a puppy on pads.
It’s easy to get frustrated with your new puppy when potty training is taking longer than you expected. But it’s essential to be patient during this process. Remember, potty training takes time. Don’t expect more from your puppy than he is able to deliver. The following points will help you keep your cool:
- A puppy can’t control his bladder until he is 16 weeks old. So as much as you might like him to wait, he simply can’t.
- A puppy can only hold his bladder as long as his age in months plus one hour. So, a four-month-old puppy can only hold it for five hours. That includes during the night as well.
- Every breed is different. For example, a toy breed might need more frequent potty breaks due to a fast metabolism and tiny bladder.
- Every puppy is different, even within breeds. Your first puppy might have been potty trained in a few weeks, but your next one might need months.
Supervise at All Times
It’s important to watch your puppy at all times for safety, but this is also the key to successful potty training. You can’t prevent accidents if you don’t have your eyes on the dog. Here are some tips to help with supervision:
- Take your puppy to the potty pad frequently. How often will depend on his age and bladder strength. For very young puppies, it could be as often as every 15 minutes. Better a wasted trip than an accident.
- Set a timer if you’re having trouble remembering when to take your puppy to his pad.
- Watch your puppy for telltale signs he has to go such as sniffing the ground, circling, or whining. When you see those signs, take him straight to the potty pad.
- Use a long leash if you are having trouble keeping your puppy in sight. Tie the leash to heavy furniture or around your waist to limit your puppy’s movements.
- Put your puppy in a crate or a safe area whenever you can’t supervise him.
Use a Crate
A crate is an important potty training tool because dogs don’t like to soil where they sleep. Plus, a strong denning instinct means that if you introduce a crate properly, your puppy will see it as his safe space rather than a punishment. Keep the following in mind when introducing a crate to your puppy:
- Choose an appropriately sized crate. Your puppy should be able to lie down and turn around but with no extra room. If the crate is too large, your puppy can use one end as a toilet which will delay potty training.
- Use dividers with a larger crate. If you buy a crate for your dog’s adult size, dividers can help the crate “grow” with your puppy.
- Associate the crate with wonderful things. If you put treats in the crate, feed your puppy at the back of the crate, and leave food-stuffed chew toys in the crate, your puppy will learn to love it.
- Reward your puppy for going in his crate. He will be happy to go inside if it’s a rewarding place to be. Although a crate is great for a quiet time out, don’t use it for punishment.
- Take your puppy straight to his potty pad whenever you let him out of his crate.
When thinking about how to potty train a puppy, don’t underestimate routine and consistency. Setting a schedule and sticking to it will help prevent accidents and ensure you give your puppy every chance to go in the right location. These tips will help you stay consistent:
- Know when your puppy has to go. Most puppies need the bathroom when they wake up in the morning, after eating, after playing, and after napping. So, take your puppy to the potty pad every time one of these events occurs.
- Take your puppy to the potty pad anytime they haven’t been for an hour or two.
- Bring your puppy to the potty pad whenever you suspect it’s time. But if he doesn’t go, don’t let him run around and play. Instead, put him back in his crate for 10-15 minutes, then immediately try again. Repeat until he does his business.
- Feed your puppy on a schedule. If you control when your puppy eats, you can better predict when he’ll have to go to the bathroom. Don’t free feed.
- Choose an appropriate place for the potty pad. Try not to move it while your puppy is still learning. If you confuse your puppy, he will have more accidents and take longer to train.
Reward With Praise and Treats
Dogs repeat behaviors that are rewarding and doing their business in the right spot is no different. If you reward your puppy with praise and treats whenever he uses his potty pad, he will be more likely to use it again in the future. Keep the following in mind when rewarding your puppy:
- Reward your puppy immediately after he does his business. Don’t wait to get the treats out of the cupboard. Have them ready to go in the moment.
- Keep a bowl or bag of treats beside the potty area so you are always prepared.
- Use a leash if your puppy is easily distracted. Walk him to the potty pad on a leash and only unclip him after he’s done his business. The freedom to play will be a bonus reward.
Switch From Pads to the Outdoors
When it’s time to transition your puppy from potty pads to the outdoors, many of the tips above can be applied in the same way. Simply take your puppy outside rather than to his pad. This advice can help along the way:
- Teach your puppy a potty cue like “Hurry Up” or “Go Potty.” Start by using the cue whenever your puppy is about to go, then reward him as soon as he finishes. With enough repetition, you will be able to ask your puppy to go where and when it’s convenient for you, including in the outdoor toilet area.
- Move the potty pad outside. Only move it a small distance each day so you don’t confuse your puppy. First work toward the door to the outside, then to just outside that door, then slowly to the final outdoor location.
- Decrease the size of the potty pad once it’s outside. Some puppies will catch on quickly, particularly with the help of potty cues, but if your puppy is struggling, cut the potty pad smaller and smaller until he’s using the ground instead.
Handle Accidents Calmly
It’s human nature to look for what’s wrong and take what’s right for granted. But we need to do the complete opposite with our puppies. Always reward and praise good behavior and ignore the things that go wrong. This is especially true with potty training accidents. Bathroom mistakes are inevitable with puppies, so please don’t overreact and frighten or punish your puppy. Here are some tips for handling potty accidents:
- Interrupt your puppy if you catch him in the act of having an accident. Don’t scare or startle him. Marking the behavior with a quiet hand clap or the words “oh-oh” should be enough to stop him mid-stream. Punishing him in the act will only teach him not to go in front of you, leading to a dog that sneaks behind the couch to go in private.
- Take your puppy to his potty pad as soon as you catch him. If he stopped when you interrupted him, he might finish on the pad and you can reward him when he does. If he doesn’t finish on the pad, at least you have shown him where he should have gone.
- Do nothing if you don’t see the accident happen. Showing your puppy after the fact won’t teach him anything about potty training. If you want to scold somebody, lecture yourself for not supervising closely enough.
- Clean all accidents with an enzymatic cleaner. Dogs are attracted to the smell of previous business, so thorough and proper cleaning is essential.