How to Potty Train Your Puppy with Pee Pads

How to Potty Train Your Puppy with Pee Pads

by Scritch

You have everything you need to welcome a new puppy into your home—except a beautiful, sunny, fenced backyard. But of course, the lack of an easily accessible, enclosed outdoor area isn’t going to stop you from bringing home your new fur ball. Enter: pee pad training. The invention of these portable potty pads has been a convenience especially for those with mobility issues, and those who live in high-rise buildings or homes in locations where the weather becomes an obstacle (imagine trying to get your 5-pound puppy to go potty in two feet of snow).

When it comes to portable dog bathrooms, you have multiple options, including:

  • Disposable pee pads - discard after each use
  • Synthetic grass patches - rinse and sanitize regularly
  • Real grass patches - discard and replace with a new one every few weeks
  • Dog litter boxes - similar to those made for cats but with higher walls and no roof

Training your puppy to use any of the above indoor bathroom options will follow the same potty-training process. 

Start with a routine

As soon as you bring your puppy home (or even before!), determine a daily schedule that involves feeding times and what time you’ll both go to bed at night. Sticking to the schedule each day will help your pup be successful with potty training because both of you can develop expectations on when your pup will have to ‘go’. 

Incorporate scheduled potty breaks into your daily routine. Your puppy should go potty first thing in the morning, right after every meal, and just before bedtime. Include additional potty breaks throughout the day based on your puppy’s needs. As he gets older, he’ll be able to hold it longer, but as a general rule of thumb, puppies can hold their pee for about an hour for every month of age. 

Constant supervision

When they first come home, new puppies don’t know any of the rules and need constant supervision to prevent them from chewing on things they shouldn’t or wandering off to a hidden location to go potty. Consider installing baby gates or a pen to keep your puppy confined to a limited area. Because dogs instinctively don’t like to eliminate where they sleep, crate training your puppy can make life easier when you need to step away for a few minutes (gotta shower at some point!).

Place the pee pad in an accessible area and for consistency’s sake, always keep one in the same spot. When it’s time for a potty break, set your puppy on the pad and say “go potty” to start working on associating a phrase with the action. If at any time, you notice your puppy circling or determinately sniffing for a good spot, rush them over to the potty pad. When they go, immediately reward with verbal praise and a tasty treat. 

It will take some practice, but eventually after routinely taking your puppy to the pad on a regular schedule, he will start to pick up on the pattern and go to the pad on his own. Be sure to praise every time he goes in the appropriate place. If you catch your pup going potty somewhere other than on a pad, do not scold, but either try to rush him to the pad or simply let him finish and quietly clean it up. 

Some pee pads contain attractants that encourage your dog to pee on them. However, you can also create your own by dabbing a paper towel in your puppy’s pee and then patting it on a potty pad to attract your puppy to use the pad next time. If an area of your home smells like pee, your dog is likely to continue going in the same spot. For this reason, it’s very important to thoroughly clean any accidents with an enzymatic cleaner. 

Changing from pee pads to outside

If your circumstances change (or you’re simply over the smell) you can train your puppy go potty outside. This transition will be smoother if you initially train your puppy on a real grass patch, but puppies trained on potty pads can also learn to go outside. 

From now on, do not praise your puppy when he uses the pad (don’t scold him either), but save your praise and treats for when he goes outside. Start the transition by gradually moving the pee pad closer to the door that leads outside. When you catch your dog going toward the pad, quickly take him outside and wait for him to go potty. You can also take a used pee pad outside to attract him to go. If he does, immediately offer praise and treats. 

If you’ve been waiting outside for more than 20 minutes and your dog still hasn’t gone potty, you can go back inside and try again in about 15 minutes. During this time, it’s important to watch your dog like a hawk—sometimes they will go as soon as you get back inside. Another option, if your dog is on a regular potty schedule, is to take him on walks around the yard or neighborhood during the time he would usually go potty. Continue walking around until he takes care of business, praising when he finally does. Being outside, moving around and getting your pup’s blood flowing might help move the process along.

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