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Is it time to transition from puppy pads to outside?

Pad-training was easy. All you ever had to do was put some of her poo and pee on the pad. Her own scent attracts her to the pad, and the blue color stands out easily in her limited field of vision. As long as there is a pad available, your dog won’t make a mess on the floor.

But the puppy pads have got to go.

When you use puppy pads, no matter how often you change them, no matter how often you disinfect your floor, they keep a distinct poopy-peepy smell inside your house.

Worse, puppy pads get you accustomed to smelling doggy smells indoors, so you may not even notice the stink – but your guests do. They’re just too polite to say anything, and your dog is so cute, anyway.

Now, you’re ready to be able to invite guests over with confidence, rather than worry about the sight and smell of your dog’s pads. 

But the BIGGEST problem with puppy pads is how they do not require your dog to communicate their needs with you.

This was a huge problem with Matilda when she was a pup. She used pads very easily. But, if we forget to leave her a pad, she would run to our room and poop on the floor, without warning us.

It took a few weeks to transition from puppy pads to outside, but it was worth it. Our home smelled better, and she learned for the first time how to communicate with us – a foundation built in potty-training that lasts a lifetime.

Cutting Back On Puppy Pad Dependency

Begin by gradually cutting back on the number of puppy pads you use. Eliminating the pads altogether can confuse your pup.

It could cause her to have accidents, which will be a major setback in your training. It’s better if your puppy keeps using the pad between successful outdoor potties, than to have a bunch of indoor accidents.

Do not praise your puppy for using the pad, but never scold her, either. Save the praise for those hard-earned outside pees and poops.

Always Watch Your Dog When There’s No Pad Available

You may want to leave a pad out when you go run errands, at night, and any time your dog is unsupervised. When you are home and available to supervise, you can use this time to go pad-free.

The idea here is, if there is no pad on the floor, you need to watch your puppy. If you’ve run out of puppy pads, and have to eliminate them instead of gradually cutting back, you will need to watch your puppy as though they have never been trained at all.

Changing Your Dog’s Bathroom Routine

By now, you should be pretty familiar with your dog’s bathroom routine. You may notice them rushing towards the spot where the pad used to be. Upon noticing the pad is gone, she might start looking for another spot, sniffing and pacing about.This is where you will intervene so you can change your dog’s established bathroom routine.

You need to teach your dog to communicate when you have to take her out. You can do this by training her ring a potty bell, having her spin, bark, whatever.

Potty bells were a huge help in stopping Matilda’s accidents. When your dog is accustomed to using potty pads, they don’t develop that so-important skill of letting you know when they have to go.

We really like Caldwell’s Potty Bells on Amazon, they’re long enough for even tiny dogs to reach!

Dealing With The Wait

Dogs who are pad-trained are especially likely to take forever to do their business outside. By any and all means necessary, commit to getting that pee and poop outdoors.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have a big, fenced-in backyard, you will need to wait with your dog until they do their pees and poops outside. Do not let your dog loose into your backyard to do their business while you are still potty-training them. Even if you watch from the window, you will not be able to praise them for their good work.

The wait is the hardest part. Every dog owner hates the wait.

She starts to do her poopy spin, but gets distracted by a bird – again. She starts to squat – but notices that the other tree is a much more suitable spot.

Just keep waiting. It’s worth it. 

Running or walking can help speed up your dog’s digestive system, and jostle the pee or poop out of them. You can also leave a dirty pad outside to attract them to the spot with their own scent.

Eventually, you won’t have to try so hard just to get your puppy to do her business outside. After a few weeks, it will become routine – she’ll almost automatically ask to go outside instead of looking for a pad. 

The hardest part is that battle of wills, in which your puppy is still magnetized to using a pad. 

Taking A Break From The Wait

Sometimes, you’ll find yourself waiting and waiting with no results. You might not be able to wait outside for hours and hours.

Short breaks are better because your puppy will understand the point of the potty trip – rather than just happening to relieve herself outside during a long outside play session.

After 20 minutes, if your dog shows no signs of doing their business, you could continue waiting, or you can take a break and try again in a few minutes.

Some dogs pee and poop on the floor immediately upon getting back inside. It’s something about the warmth and comfort of being in the house again. Make sure this does not happen to you.

Upon getting back inside after an unsuccessful potty trip, you’ve got to keep your eyes on your puppy at all times.

If you can’t do that, put her in her crate until it’s time to go back out. In 15 minutes, get your dog outside and try again. Repeat until you get your first poo or pee.

When Your Dog Finally Goes Outside

Just when you are about to give up and put down another pad, your dog is going to finally squeeze out a log in your backyard. And you are going to be SO. HAPPY.

Let her know. Throw a potty party. Make it rain treats!

Don’t go inside right away. Let her run around, play and sniff.

Treats, playtime and praise are all part of the potty party. Show her that going outside is much, much more rewarding that using her pad.

Though it might be cold out, relieving herself outside, rather than on a pad indoors, will become more rewarding. Even female dogs want to leave scent markings when they pee and poop.

It takes a while to break the habit, but in the long run, transitioning from puppy pads to going outside is as rewarding for your puppy as it is for you.

How To wean your puppy off potty pads

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.