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Puppy pad training a young dog is always challenging. They have horrible bladder control and no matter what, it seems like they’re always making a mess.
Training a puppy to use potty pads can be a great step to full housebreaking, or can be a full-time fix for small dogs!
Today we’ll talk about how to puppy pad train your dog and cover what you need to know for getting started.
Most dog owners will train their dogs to go potty outside. Some use potty pad training as an intermediate step, while others skip over it entirely. Still other owners may choose to train their dog to use a designated indoor area inside on a regular, ongoing basis.
Remember that if you are using potty pads as a temporary fix for young pups with poor bladder control, you’ll later have to house train your puppy not to pee inside, and gradually graduate them to outdoor potty use.
Is puppy pad training right for you? If you fit one or more of these categories, consider potty pads:
For dogs, newspaper on the ground may not be obvious enough. Why is it ok to pee on this spot but not this spot? Why can I pee on this newspaper but not that magazine? Giving your puppy a distinct spot to do their business is key for successful puppy pad training.
There are a lot of options for training your puppy to pee in a specific spot inside. You can try:
It’s worth noting that litter boxes with pellets and fake grass mats have huge advantages because they are more distinct from your floor than classic potty pads. They take advantage of your dog’s natural instincts to help them potty in the right place.
You’ll want to give careful consideration to where you place your puppy potty pads. Choose a spot with relatively low foot traffic, and preferably over tile or some other hard floor.
Many owners opt for the bathroom. This is wise because the potty corner won’t be near food, it won’t be in the way of entertaining guests, and bathrooms are already small rooms that make it easy to confine your pup.
Don’t forget to puppy-proof your toiletries!
While your dog is learning to use the potty pad, you’ll need to do some management to protect your floors from accidents.
Here are our favorite management tips to set you and your pup up for potty success:
You can leave your puppy in a crate to start with, but eventually incorporate barriers to teach her where to go. Using confinement to help housebreak your pup is a multi-step process.
Dogs don’t like to pee or poop where they sleep, so giving your dog a smaller space can help teach her to hold her pee.
When you are just starting out, use a crate for your puppy. Be sure to take her to the potty pad as soon as you let her out, but whenever you’re not watching her, she should be in the crate.
You’ll want to make sure that you properly crate-train your dog well so that the crate is a safe, happy space to be and not a scary punishment.
When your pup is being kept in her crate for potty training, make sure to take your pup to the potty pad very often.
Remember, puppies cannot hold their potty for very long when they’re little. You’ll want to take your pup to the potty pad as often as possible. Take your pup to the potty area 10 minutes after eating, playing or drinking. Basically, whenever humanly possible!
The more you take her to the pad, the better chance you’ll have of her relieving herself there. When your puppy does go potty in the right place, be sure to lavish him with tons of treats and praise. We suggest using super high-value training treats, like hot dogs!
Also keep in mind:
During the initial puppy pad training stage, you want to make sure not to leave your puppy unattended. If you’re going to praise your pup for good potty behavior, you need to be there to provide positive reinforcement.
It can be pretty frustrating just hanging around in hopes of catching your dog poop on a pad, but it’s absolutely essential if you want to properly train your dog. Once you get to stage 2 and 3, you can begin leaving your dog alone, but until then you’ll have to be patient!
One your pup is doing well with the crate, you can graduate to a larger space. Instead of leaving your pup in a crate, you will now create a small area within your house for your pup to roam.
Give your pup just enough room for a cozy puppy bed, potty pads, plus some water and toys. Instinctively, she won’t want to potty in her toys, water, or bed – so that just leaves the puppy pads! Giving her fewer choices makes it easier to make the right one.
As always, when you catch her using the puppy pads, provide ample treats and confirmation. Also make sure to clean up messes immediately so that your dog never faces the temptation to eat her own poop!
Once your pup has learned how to use the puppy pad in an enclosed space, you can gradually expand the area. Eventually, you’ll have a free-roaming, potty-trained pro!
At this stage, your pup can finally be left unattended.
Your pup is bound to make mistakes – it’s natural and normal.
Don’t scold your pup, or you may end up confusing your dog and teaching her that it’s not ok to pee in your presence. When your pup makes a mess, simply take her to the pad. If he goes there, reward her handsomely!
If she doesn’t, don’t take it personally and do your best to reward her when she does it right next time!
You’ll want to clean up messy mistakes immediately to reduce stain and smell. Dogs have a tendency to pee in the same spot over and over, so eliminating the odor in inappropriate bathroom areas is key.
There are a lot of products available to clean pet messes. We recommend looking for products that are eco-friendly and pet-safe, such as OxGord Organic Pet Stain Remover!
If your dog is doing business in the litterbox, grass mat, or potty pad and you do your part to clean regularly, the smell should not be too terrible. These products are engineered to reduce smell!
For disposing of messy pads, most puppy pads usually get tossed in the trash, while grass pads can be biodegradable, but check the instruction details of the products you use for specific disposal details.
Now your puppy is pad trained – and that may be all you wanted to achieve. However, if you plan on getting your dog to regularly potty in a yard, there are some other options you may want to consider as well, including:
There’s no way around the fact that potty training a puppy is work. But with patience, management, and a lot of treats, you should have an indoor potty trained dog in just a few weeks.
Have you trained your pup to use potty pads? What worked for you? We want to hear your pro tips below!
Kayla Fratt is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant through the IAABC. She has worked in private dog training, group classes, and shelter behavior modification work for most of her adult life. She now works as an online dog behavior consultant with Journey Dog Training.