Robin and I were at a new Home Dog Training client in Flowery Branch a few days ago helping the family with their 12-week-old Labradoodle puppy.  Puppies are a “blank slate”, so when it comes to “What do I need to teach him?”, the answer is “Everything”.  Juno had a great temperament and demonstrated a high willingness to learn and obey his new family. We focused on teaching Juno some fundamental obedience commands while emphasizing the need for good behavior and proper focus.  We also spent a great deal of time on toilet training.  This is what I would like to discuss today…

Should I train my dog to use Wee-Wee Pads or Potty Outside?

If you get a puppy, toilet training is probably number one on your list of “git ‘er done”.  A jumping or barking puppy is obviously annoying, but constantly stepping in poop takes it to a whole new level.

The first question that you need to answer regarding “Toilet Training” is how you want to train your puppy not to go to the bathroom on your carpet or furniture.  To properly answer this question, you  need to understand that there are actually two “Toilet Training” processes.  You can either teach your puppy to go to the bathroom outside or teach him that he needs to use Wee-Wee Pads when he needs to go to the bathroom.

It is important that you pick the right process for your puppy.  It could be very difficult after you have taught your puppy to potty outside, to switch and use the Wee-Wee Pads on the kitchen floor. Robin and I have a general list of questions and guidelines that we share with our clients when they are trying to make this decision.  We would like to share them with you:

1) YOUR DOG’S ADULT SIZE: Our rule of thumb is that if your puppy will be 20 pounds or more when he is full sized, we highly recommend that you Potty Train him to go outside.  Even though you may do an excellent job in training him to go on the Wee-Wee Pads in the kitchen or hallway, his droppings could be pretty large.  You really don’t want that smell in the house.

 2) YOUR SCHEDULE: We all understand “the call of nature”.  No matter what you may do, your dog can only “hold it for so long”.  If your schedule demands that nobody will be home for ten or more hours a day, potty training your dog to go outside may not be appropriate.

If you have a large dog (over 20 pounds when adult), we suggest that you get a dog walker or neighbor to let your dog out in the middle of the day.  You could do the same thing with a small dog, but training him to go on Wee-Wee Pads would be easier and possibly less expensive in the long run.

3) LIVING IN A HIGH-RISE CONDO/APARTMENT BUILDING:  Many times our bladder simply tells us “I have to go now!”.  This can also happen with our puppies and dogs. If you live in a high-rise apartment building or it is a very long walk to “get outside”, you may not have enough time to make it outside for potty.

We strongly suggest Wee-Wee Pad training for small dogs (under 20 pounds when adults) if you live in a high-rise or a building where it takes you over five minutes to get to an appropriate “toilet spot”.  If you have a large dog and live in this type of environment, we still recommend taking them out, but will build a large amount of visual vigilance in our Potty Training program.

4) SAFE OUTSIDE ENVIRONMENT:  Although this can apply to larger dogs, this guideline focuses on smaller dogs.  If you live in a location where “the outside” is a busy, metropolitan environment or there are no quiet, open spaces where you can allow your dog to potty, we suggest that you train your dog to use Wee-Wee Pads.  An environment with loud noises, fast cars, and crowds of people (i.e. metropolitan location) can be scary and even dangerous for small dogs.  If they are scared, they won’t potty.

5) YOUR DOG’S PRIOR EXPERIENCES:  If your dog or puppy has already been taught to use the Wee-Wee Pad or to Potty outside, we strongly suggest that you continue to use that method.  It may take a little bit of adjustment on your part, but a clean house often outweighs the slight inconvenience.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t switch from Wee-Wee Pad to Potty or visa-versa.  It is just a lot of work.

None of these Toilet Training Guidelines should completely overshadow the other.  You must consider all of them carefully and weigh your answers based on your own situation.

It is also important to understand the different processes you are teaching your dog when you pick one Toilet Training method over the other.

a) POTTY TRAINING OUTSIDE: Most of our clients train their dogs to potty outside. This is a process that is based on management and scheduling.  Our clients must consistently manage their dog’s actions and nutrition and then determine their dog’s potty schedule.

Potty Training Outside is normally faster than Wee-Wee Pad Training because our clients have more control over the process.  Their goal is to determine their dog’s potty schedule through repetitive observation, management, and adjustment.

b) WEE-WEE PADS: As we mentioned earlier, smaller dogs are best suited for Wee-Wee Pad training. Where Potty Training is based on the schedule, Wee-Wee Pad Training is based on the environment.  The client must associate the Wee-Wee Pad as their dog’s one and only toilet area.

The training process for Wee-Wee Pads is far more passive than the direct approach of Potty Training.  The client must slowly allow their dog to “realize” that the Wee-Wee Pad is their toilet.  Since it is a passive process, it will normally take longer than Potty Training.  This is because the client is not really teaching, but allowing their dog to learn what is right.

You now have some guidelines to help you determine if you should train your dog to potty outside or use the Wee-Wee Pads.  You also have some insight regarding the training concepts between each method.  Now comes the hardest part.  You just have to do it.

Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over sixteen years.  We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.