Using pee pads can be great for an indoor potty area for your dog, especially if you live in an apartment, need to leave your dog home during long work days or can't manage to let your dog outdoors as often as it may need. But what about if you move to a house with a generous yard, change your work schedule or increase your activity to meet your dog's bathroom needs? With patience and perseverance, you can train your dog from the pad to the yard.
10 Steps for Pad-to-Yard Transitioning
Every dog is different and will have different reactions to switching its potty routine. When you want your dog to go outside rather than on a pad, however, there are steps that can make the process easier.
Plan a Potty Routine
Before you make any changes to your dog's bathroom area, it can be helpful to get a sense of its normal potty routine, and even to plan that timing. Regular mealtimes and exercise times can make bathroom behaviors more predictable, which can help you be alert to your dog's signals for needing to go outside and avoid accidents.
Use Potty Commands
Training your dog to respond to bathroom commands such as "Do your business!" or "Go potty!" can give your dog clues about where to eliminate waste. Start using those commands when your dog uses its pad, then use those same commands outdoors as you begin the transition training. At the same time, stop using the commands for any pad use, but emphasize and reinforce the desired behavior outdoors.
Move the Pad
Begin moving the dog's pad gradually closer to the door. This will help the dog recognize that going outside is appropriate for potty time, and will teach the dog which door to go to when it needs to go out. Do not move the pad all at once, however, or the dog may not realize it has moved. Only moving the pad a foot or two every few days will help your pet learn the new location more easily.
Scent Mark Outside
Dogs recognize their own scent in areas where they eliminate waste, and putting those scent markers outdoors in a designated potty area will help your dog know where to go and feel more comfortable. You can move a soiled pad outside temporarily, or just move some of your dog's waste into the proper area so they can catch the scent more easily.
Clean and Deodorize Inside
After you have moved your dog's bathroom area outside completely, it is critical to thoroughly clean and deodorize the old pad area to remove any lingering scent markers that may indicate a potty place. Use an enzymatic cleaner that will break down odors more thoroughly so there are fewer clues left for your dog to notice.
Block the Pad Area
After removing pads completely, block the area where the pad was located to make it inaccessible or less recognizable to your dog. Moving some furniture or placing a box over the pad area temporarily can discourage your dog from returning to the same spot for bathroom business. After your dog is fully trained to go outside, you can remove this blockage if desired.
Offer Praise and Treats
Your dog will need strong positive reinforcement for doing its business outside rather than indoors on a pad. Use verbal praise, petting and treats to reward your dog immediately after going potty outdoors. Do not, however, scold or punish your dog for any lingering indoor accidents, since the dog will not understand what it is being scolded for, and negative consequences will only make your dog fearful or anxious, which can make potty time even more unpredictable.
Use a Crate If Needed
Dogs will naturally avoid going potty in a close, confined area, and if your dog is crate trained, it can be useful to use the crate to help transition your dog from the pad to the yard. Crating your dog after meals or while you have to be away from longer periods will ensure there are fewer indoor accidents, and you can then take your dog outside for a potty break right away after removing it from the crate, helping establish a firm potty time routine.
As you work to transition your dog to an outdoor bathroom area, you will need to be constantly vigilant about its signals for potty time. Watch for sniffing, circling, squatting or other behaviors that indicate a need to go outside, and take your dog outdoors immediately if you see these behaviors. This will help avoid accidents and get your dog accustomed to going outdoors rather than seeking out a pad.
It may take several weeks to fully transition your dog to an outdoor potty area, and there will inevitably be accidents and setbacks along the way. Just like initially housebreaking a puppy, however, your dog will learn, and going outside will gradually become a firm habit rather than a confusing change.
Whatever your reasons for training your dog from the pad to the yard, whether it is for your own lifestyle changes, moving homes or just not wanting to clean up pads any longer, this switch is possible. With patient, firm training and a careful consideration of your dog's bathroom habits and needs, you can successfully encourage your dog to do its business outside and dispense with the need for pee pads.