When puppy pad training means they won't "go" outside

By Frania Shelley-Grielen. All rights reserved.

New puppy owners are often given well intentioned advice from their veterinarians to restrict their dogs interactions with other dogs and with the outside environment -which includes walks- until fully vaccinated. While limiting a puppy’s exposure to possible agents of infection may be a good idea on the one hand, it is highly problematic on the other. In terms of socialization and learning, which includes learning to eliminate outside the house and not in it, the younger the puppy, the greater the beneficial impact of socialization and learning. Between the ages of around 4 to 14 weeks, puppies are more readily open to learning about their environment which includes the physical world, other people, animals and behaviors expected of them in the human world. Not allowing puppies to benefit from this “sensitive period” for learning can have negative life long consequences if not managed and addressed.

When outside walks are discouraged puppy training pads are often considered a viable alternative to help in house training a young puppy. The first hurdle the puppy owner may face with using the pads is getting the dogs to target the pads in the first place. Dogs instinctively prefer a soft surface to eliminate on and in the natural world that surface would be grass covered. Manufacturers of training pads scent the pads with grass to promote a dog’s natural preference. The question can be asked ‘though that without being trained to eliminate on grass initially the puppy is learning instead to eliminate on a pad that smells faintly of grass and not the grass itself?

Once training pad use has been accomplished ( i.e. no scolding for not using, careful placement in both the places the puppy is already eliminating on or setting up a large enough confinement area along with bed, toys, food and pads an adequate distance away from all that so that the puppy will use them) your dog is now puppy pad trained. Good news? Well, if your puppy has been effectively trained to use puppy training pads, they may very well be reluctant to eliminate outside of the house thanks to successful puppy pad training.

A more successful overall house training program includes training for your puppy to relieve himself outside as well as inside. To facilitate this, allowing the puppy to be able to become acquainted with the outside environment to target as well as puppy pad training inside even before being fully vaccinated is key. Some veterinarians recognize this and suggest carrying the puppy to a toileting location. (You've seen those people carrying those puppies on the sidewalk, that's them.) This limits exposure and permits the dog to become comfortable and familiar with the outside environment, especially grass patches, tree pits, sidewalks, etc., as areas to relieve herself in. All house training, including outside efforts call for owners to greatly reward the corresponding efforts -"Good pee pee outside!!!" (you've seen those people too).

House training and other behavior concerns are the main issue that separate people from their pets. The good news is that the larger veterinary community is now responding to this as seen in this recent industry publication from Clinician’s Brief.com: “Even before the vaccination series is complete, puppies can be safely socialized. Reasonable precautions should be taken. For instance, puppies should interact with puppies and dogs that appear healthy and whose owners are following their veterinarian’s advice regarding necessary vaccinations. The risk for contracting a life-threatening disease is likely less than the risk for developing a behavioral concern secondary to inadequate socialization later in life.

Behavior problems are the main reason that pets are relinquished to shelters, so early socialization is critical it cannot wait until the puppy is "fully vaccinated.”
And what if your puppy is one of those dogs that is puppy pad trained? Is there hope. Yes, read on:

First: no scolding or punishment no matter what.

Second: at home start saying "good go pee" (or whatever other term you prefer) the very instant your puppy begins to urinate so they can learns the request. Remember timing is everything in training so pay attention to that instant.

Third: put your dog on a strict walking schedule with the morning walk as early as possible and definitely before 8 am with walks every 4 hours after that. The schedule should be the same every day.

Do not leave food down before the dog’s morning meal. Give the morning meal right before walking -add whatever treats in that will make puppy really love it. When outside allow for sniffing as much as possible and engage with your puppy when they are not busy sniffing by asking for sits or stays, etc. Ask for "good go pee" in a happy voice next to areas where it looks like other dogs have peed and puppy sniffs.

When there is an outside elimination, praise like it’s the 4th of July. Should your dog keep to puppy pad training and consistently wait until returning home to use the pads go back to basic house training, You know, the part where you keep the dog on leash attached to you so that as soon as you see signs of an impending bathroom break, pacing, looking around, wiggling, whatever intention movement your dog uses- go outside immediately and walk.

Remember your dog is being a really good dog, doing what he was trained to do. The tricky part is learning something new.

Follow the suggestions exactly for at least 2 weeks.

Note your progress.

Keep going.

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