We were at a new Home Dog Training session last Monday in Alpharetta working with a new “puppy family” that has recently brought home a beautiful 12-week-old Labradoodle puppy named Bugsy.  Bugsy was really a great puppy and demonstrated an excellent temperament during our training. She had a high willingness to learn everything that we taught her and provided excellent focus to all the family members. 

Should you potty train your puppy to go on wee-wee pads or to potty outside?

Our training session focused on good behavior, proper focus, introductory socialization, and rudimentary obedience commands.  Being a new puppy, we obviously spent a good amount of time on proper potty-training techniques.  This is the subject that I wish to focus on today …

Very few people think about potty training as they are picking out their new puppy. The one topic that all new puppy owners focus on starting the second day they bring their puppy home is potty training.  It is one of those issues that no new puppy owner will say “Oh, we’ll get around to that…”

So, it is now the day after you have brought your wonderfully cute puppy home, and your living room is quickly turning into a toilet.  You are now thinking “How do I fix this?”  To accurately answer this question, you must first be aware that there are really two “Potty Training” processes.  The first process involves taking your puppy outside to potty.  The second process involves the use of Wee-Wee pads in the house and training your puppy to go to those pads to potty when “the need arises”.

If you remember the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when Indie was picking which chalice from which to drink, the Knight Templar advised and warned “Choose wisely.” The movie clearly showed us the consequences of “choosing unwisely”.  The same consequences, although not as horrific as depicted in the movie, can be said of picking the wrong potty-training process for your puppy.

It could be very challenging to switch your puppy from pottying inside on Wee-Wee pads to not pottying in the house and only going potty outside on the front lawn.  It would almost be the same as teaching someone how to speak German and then talking to them in Chinese.  Robin and I have a general list of questions and recommendations that we discuss with our clients when the “Wee-Wee pad or Outside” potty question arises.  We would like to share them with you:

1) THE SIZE OF YOUR DOG WHEN FULL GROWN: Robin and I have a general guideline that states if your little puppy will eventually be over 20 pounds when full grown, you should train them to potty outside. It may be really easy and convenient to have your little six-pound Labrador Retriever go on the Wee-Wee pad in the corner of the kitchen now, but when your cute, little six-pound Lab becomes seventy-five pounds, his “bathroom volume” can become quite substantial.  You really don’t want that stuff and the smell of that stuff permeating your kitchen and drifting into the rest of your home.

 2) YOUR DAILY SCHEDULE AND YOUR DOG’S BLADDER: We all comprehend the concept of “the call of nature”.  No matter how well you work on your dog’s potty training, there is no way you can “tell him not to go”.  He can only “hold it for so long”.  If you have long work hours or other commitments that normally cause you to be away from home for long periods of time (ten or more hours a day), potty training your dog to go outside may not be appropriate.

We still recommend that puppy owners that have puppies that will become over 20 pounds (see above) train their puppy to go outside.  When this is the case, we recommend that they ask friends or employ dog walkers to let their dog out in the middle of the day for a potty break.

3) LIVING IN A HIGH-RISE:  We all have probably experienced an instance when our bladder sends us an emergency text of “I have to go now!”.  Our puppy’s bladder also has the ability to send him this “emergency text”.  If you live in a tall building with a long stair or elevator ride, you may not have enough time to get your puppy outside before he is overwhelmed with his need to potty.

We highly recommend 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 five minutes or more to get your dog out to potty. If you have a large dog in this same environment, we still suggest that you focus on getting him out to potty.  In this case, you will need to be more observant of his “signals” while properly managing his food.

4) YOUR PUPPY’S SENSE OF SAFETY & SECURITY WHEN OUTSIDE:  Although we normally see that this can be an issue with smaller dogs, it may become an issue with larger dogs as well.   If you live in an overly chaotic, urban environment or there are no subdued, open areas where you can permit your dog to potty, we recommend that you potty train with the Wee-Wee Pads.  A location that is mostly filled with loud noises, fast cars, and bustling crowds of people (i.e. metropolitan location) can be scary and even dangerous for many dogs.  If they are scared, they won’t potty.

5) WHAT YOUR DOG ALREADY KNOWS:  If your dog or puppy has been previously taught either method, we highly recommend that you continue following that method with his potty needs.  It may be a slight inconvenience for you, but switching methods often causes a great deal of confusion and a great deal of potty accidents during the transition period.  You can switch from one method to the other, but just be aware that there will be a lot of “poop in the house” during the “re-education process”.

None of these potty-training guidelines are meant to outweigh the other.  It is important that you clearly understand your specific situation and then make the best decision based on your needs and wants.

It is critical to recognize the different processes you are teaching your dog when you choose one potty training method over the other.

a) GOING POTTY OUTSIDE: The vast majority of our clients train their dogs to potty outside. This is a process that is focused on proper scheduling and continual management. Our clients must regularly manage their dog’s actions while providing proper nutrition in order to discover their dog’s potty schedule.

Outside potty training is typically faster than Wee-Wee Pad Training because our clients have more control over the process.  The goal of the process is their recognition of their dog’s potty schedule by focused observation, appropriate management, and timely adjustment.

b) WEE-WEE PADS: 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 create a clear recognition that the Wee-Wee Pad is their dog’s singular location for potty breaks.

The training process for Wee-Wee Pads is based on a passive and slow approach. The client must gradually allow their dog to “recognize” that the Wee-Wee Pad is their potty place. The client is not really “teaching”, but “allowing their dog to learn” what is right.

Robin and I have now provided you with the guidelines you can use to pick the type of potty training that is best for you and your puppy. Now comes the hard part.  You just have to do it…

Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over nineteen years.  We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and great families and are ready to help you.