How do we train our puppy to pee outside on our schedule?
April 25, 2022 5:25 PM   Subscribe

We have a puppy who is about 4 months old. Despite ample opportunities to do her business outside, she often still pees on training pads indoors. How do we get her to go solely outside and on our schedule, not hers?

We have an adorable 4 month old standard poodle in addition to her "brother," a 9 year old standard poodle. Everything about her is great, especially her temperment, and she gets along swimmingly with her brother. But we're wondering how—or at what point—to get her to pee outside on a regular cadence instead of inside whenever she wants.

We've crate-trained her and she can make it through the night with no accidents at all, so we know she can hold it when required. She goes out first thing in the morning and pees and poops. She goes just fine on walks and when we let her run around in the yard. When she does her business outside, we diligently say "go potty" and give her treats.

The issue we're having though, is that despite frequent outside time, she often will still pee inside of her own accord. She gives signs when she needs to poop so we can take her out, but for peeing she'll head right to the training pad and go before we can. Today, she pawed at the door to our yard so I let her out. She ran around for a bit and didn't do her business. I let her back in. We played this game three times—and about two minutes after she came back in she went on the training pad. Later, we went to an off-leash area for a couple of hours—she didn't pee the entire time, but as soon as we got home, she went inside.

In our ideal world, she'd wait to pee until she was outside and take the opportunity when she is. Right now, that's about once an hour that we let her out (though we know it could be, and would like it to be, less frequent). We're wondering if we're doing it right and this will just take more time? Or is there something else we should be doing?
posted by 0xABADBABE to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would try moving the pee pad right outside the door, then into the yard, then eventually get rid of it all together.
posted by phunniemee at 5:29 PM on April 25, 2022 [10 favorites]

This is just an off-the-cuff idea: move the training pad out into the yard. My theory is that she will then get the idea is that outside is where she pees, and after a while you can remove the pad.
posted by TimHare at 5:31 PM on April 25, 2022

Move pad right inside the main exterior door before outside the door to be careful, but otherwise I agree with phunniemee and TimHare. Dog doesn't currently have any way to know pad is wrong, so you have to build right associations with the pad (i.e. being outside) before you can ditch it.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:35 PM on April 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

One good way to let a dog know it's time to pee is to lead by example. This only works if someone in the house is equipped to pee standing up, and if there's a high enough fence or enough distance from your neighbors that you can get away with it. But in my experience it does work.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:36 PM on April 25, 2022 [3 favorites]

Oddly, and I don’t know if this applies to females, but my male cat always tends to need to go when I go. Which is not a dog or a poodle but lends to nebula*’s idea...
posted by one4themoment at 5:47 PM on April 25, 2022

I think this is why most trainers I'm familiar with discourage pee pads. Is there a reason you're using them? I understand the reasoning with a 2 or 3 month puppy but once a dog is able to hold it, it seems like it's counterproductive. Better just to teach puppies they don't pee inside, period.

When my dog was a puppy, I trained him to go out when I took him out by taking him out on a very predictable schedule. I think it was after napping and after eating, or else every 2-3 hours. And if I did catch him peeing inside, I'd just scoop him up mid-pee (this can take some dexterity!) and whisk him outside.

And my sympathies. My dog did relatively well with crate- and house-training, but it took a few months to get him to 100%. But once they get it, it's rock-solid.
posted by lunasol at 6:50 PM on April 25, 2022

You can't have pee pads as an option if you want her to only go outside. Follow the advice above to move them near the door, then outside. Take your time with this, but start now or it will just get harder to train her out of using pads.
posted by ananci at 6:55 PM on April 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

Agree with everyone else about needing to ditch the pee pads completely if you want her to pee outside exclusively, but also wanted to point out that the ability to go all night without urinating is pretty much unrelated to housetraining in general. There is a hormone that develops in most animals that causes the body to produce less urine overnight. (This is also why some toddlers stay dry overnight well before they are toilet trained and other kids wet the bed long after they are toilet trained during the day.)
posted by xeney at 7:59 PM on April 25, 2022 [4 favorites]

for peeing she'll head right to the training pad and go before we can.

That's because she knows that the training pad is where she's suposed to go to pee. She's doing exactly the same thing as a cat using an indoor litter tray.

Move the training pad, but not so far that she has to search for it, and make sure she goes on it in its new location. Leave it there for a couple of days so that in her mind it's always been there, then move it again. Keep doing that until it's right next to an outside door, preferably one she can see through, and then move it outside. Keep moving it until it's in the best spot for her to pee outside. Then bury it slowly, one handful of dirt per day.

Dogs want to do what pleases us, but explaining to them in an unambiguous way exactly what that is takes time.
posted by flabdablet at 9:04 PM on April 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

Based on our experience with foster puppies (n=3), the growth from four to five month pup will help a lot here. Other people's warnings scared me about pee pads, but our fosters were smart and preferred to go outside exclusively to poop, but peeing was more variable. Since we had multiple puppies at once (and still have 2), our ability to closely monitor and reward for going outside / scoop up and relocate if it looks like they're going to go inside was limited. So we just pushed through as best we could letting them outside frequently like you're doing, and leaving a reusable pee pad inside. And honestly, they're now a little over 5 months and grew out of using the pad probably 3 weeks ago? I've left it on the floor, but they only use it to sleep on now. I read there are some major developmental changes in pelvic muscles that help improve their bladder control while awake around month 5, so maybe that's part of it.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:09 PM on April 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Poodles are devastatingly smart assholes and I love them so much.

If you want the quick version that involves some cleaning - pick her up when she starts to pee on the pee pad and walk holding her outside into the yard. Yes you will for sure get pee on you. Only do this if you don’t have carpet between the pad and the door. But also, we only had to do it twice before we never had to do it again. Poods really want to please and moving to the right spot while it’s happening and then praising while outside in the right spot works. (Also we probably would have tried some of the above if we weren’t under a time crunch for other reasons. This fixed it in less than 24 hours.)
posted by Bottlecap at 9:44 PM on April 25, 2022 [3 favorites]

Standard Poodles are so great!

But, what everyone upthread has said. Get rid of the pee pad.
posted by Windopaene at 10:30 PM on April 25, 2022

Food treats. When she’s outside and about to squat to pee, give her a treat as she’s squatting. Try and catch her every time she goes outside. This works really very fast to get a dog to figure out where the good place is to go pee. If you’re doing clicker training, do the whole click and treat routine, but if not just get her the treat as she’s squatting, right before she actually pees.
posted by LizardBreath at 3:51 AM on April 26, 2022

Move the training pad outside.

You also need to try and pay close attention to the puppy. When it goes to use the pad move the dog outside quickly. Then when it pees outside give it lots of praise.

It takes time and close attention, but you will get there eventually. 4 months is still early days.
posted by 0bvious at 4:03 AM on April 26, 2022

If possible, have her watch you move the pee pad so she can see it. I'd put something washable where you've kept the pee pad, as there may be mistakes.
posted by theora55 at 5:49 AM on April 26, 2022

We used a puppy potty log app to keep track of her pee and potty times, and it was helpful to know when she might pee next. Not sure if you already do this, but any time she whined, we would take her out to her pee spot and wait a few minutes, and if she didn’t go, then we’d pop her back in her crate for a few minutes and take her out again. If she didn’t go still, then I’d crate her for about 20 minutes and take her out again. This does mean taking her out more frequently, but hopefully it’s pretty temporary.

We used a grass pad indoors instead of a pee pad, but we did line the bottom with a pee pad. I don’t know if that might be an easier transition before removing the pee pad completely or if the texture difference might be a lot to learn right now for her. When she was about 15wks, we started bringing the grass pad right outside our door so she’d associate going outside (took us about 2-3 weeks), and then leaving it outside the door completely. I wish our dog still liked going on it after she was 5-6mo or so, because she hates going outside in the rain, and it’s a nice backup (maybe a future good thing about being pee pad trained!).
She hasn’t had any accidents since she was about 6mo or so, so hopefully the journey is short! But this is only one data point; I’ve heard of dogs just sorting things out after a few months instead of doing something as structured as we did (2 hours nap, 1 hour up- take out to potty, training, play/kong or puzzle, potty; slowly transitioned out of this when she stopped napping as long though, probably 4mo).
posted by sincerely yours at 7:51 AM on April 26, 2022

In addition to the above notes about moving the pee pad closer to the door then outside, what worked for me was to keep my dog on a leash inside the house. I held the leash all the time, so she was always near me, and anytime I could tell she was about to pee, I was able to head to the door immediately.
posted by hydra77 at 9:15 AM on April 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Yeah, we did what hydra77 suggests with a somewhat younger dog, plus trips outside before and after meals whether the dog was acting like he was about to go or not. It worked, but it took a lot of attention for a couple of weeks.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:47 AM on April 26, 2022

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