My Top Tips for How to Puppy Pad Train a New Dog

Puppy pad train a dog instead of using newspapers

Growing up, it was normal to lay old newspaper on the floor when you had to leave a puppy home alone. I still remember having to clean up the soiled paper after my first puppy, Sandy used it as a toilet. I’d complain, just as any kid would. But I loved Sandy so much that I always did it anyway. 

Now, decades later, I’ve had lots of new puppy parents ask me about puppy pads. These puppy pee pads are pretty much the modern-day version of lying newspaper on the floor. They’re a bit fancier, but the idea is the same. 

So, what do I think of puppy pads? Well, they can be great tools in some cases. But I don’t think we should depend on them too much. There are lots of pros and cons for puppy pads. Let’s explore  both the good and bad to help you decide if puppy pads are right for you.

For dog guardians that still think pee pads will benefit their pup, I will also give tips on how to train your puppy to use them. Like with any 1 Minute Dog Training, positive reinforcement is the key to potty training a puppy with pads.

Pros and Cons of Puppy Pad Training

First, let’s discuss why some dog lovers may or may not want to use puppy pads. I’ve found that puppy pads make some areas of training easier. But they can also create other obstacles.

Pros of Using Puppy Pads

Convenience

It is best to potty train your dog to go potty on a leash outside. It's even better if they go potty in the same place each time.

A potty pad can be convenient in instances where pet parents can’t easily access outdoor spaces. If you live in an apartment building, puppy pads might be a tool you consider using.

Or what if your dog has to go potty when it’s raining or snowing? This is another reason some people rely on puppy pads. That way, their pup has a designated potty area for when outside isn’t easily accessible.

Early Training

Young puppies have tiny bladders. They haven’t developed the ability to “hold it” either. They should be taken outside about once every hour. So, if you have to leave your young puppy alone for more than an hour, puppy pads can help. 

Stress Reduction

A tiny puppy has to go potty every hour to prevent accidents. They learn to hold it for longer periods the same way a child does.

If you or your dog have limited mobility, potty pads can reduce the stress of potty training. You may not be able to regularly take your dog outside, so pee pads are a safe alternative.

Cons of Using Puppy Pads

Confusion

I’ve noticed that dogs using potty pads often take longer to become fully potty trained than dogs who don’t. Teaching your pup to go both outside and on potty pads creates confusion. I recommend that dogs have a single designated potty spot. It speeds up the learning process.

By training your dog to pee on pads, you also show him that it’s okay to go potty inside. This may cause accidents if he’s confused about where to go. For example, a small rug or bath mat could be mistaken for a pee pad.

Dependency

I’ve had clients who rely too much on potty pads. Why would they want to walk outside if they can just stay inside? This made it difficult to transition their puppies to going outside. The more families use pee pads, the more they may depend on them.

Chewing

I have seen this multiple times. Your dog may think the pee pad is something to play with.

Puppies love to chew. They may shred pee pads to pieces if left unsupervised. This can be dangerous, because puppy pads are not meant to be eaten.

Not to mention the mess this can make! Which leads me to my next point….

More Messes

Pee pads are meant to contain messes in one area. Yet, when puppies are active, they may continuously run across the pee pads, tracking urine and feces across your floor. Also, as gross as it is, they might even snack on poop left on a pad.

Environmental Impact

Disposable puppy pads create waste. You’ll need to regularly toss old pads and buy new ones. Doing so isn’t ideal for the environment or your wallet. There are some eco-friendly options, such as reusable pads. However, these are often more expensive and require regular cleaning.

The Essentials of Potty Training

The bottom line? I don’t normally recommend puppy pads. But I understand that many dog guardians still need them. So, let’s explore how to set your new puppy up for success with potty pads.

Step 1: Setting Up the Potty Area

Start by selecting a designated area in your home. This is where you’ll place the potty pads. Choose a spot with easy access for your puppy, yet not in the middle of high-traffic areas. Keep the potty pad in one place to prevent confusion.

Avoid using your puppy’s crate as their potty space. The crate should be a place where your puppy can nap and be left alone, so she shouldn’t urinate there.

Step 2: Introducing the Potty Pads

Once you’ve selected a potty spot, it’s time to introduce the potty pads. Place several potty pads in this area. Make sure the pads are extra absorbent and cover a generous area to give your puppy plenty of space to choose from.

Step 3: Creating a Potty Schedule

Create a potty schedule to set up your dog for potty training success. Young puppies should have potty breaks about every hour. You can make bathroom breaks less frequent as your puppy gets older. The best times to take your puppy outside are after sleeping, eating, and drinking.

Take your puppy outside for potty time whenever possible. Only lead her to a potty pad if there’s a reason you can’t go outside.

Step 4: Positive Reinforcement

Dog training should center around rewards instead of punishments. When your puppy successfully pees outside or on a potty pad, reward her. Most dog parents use praise and treats to encourage good dog behavior. You might offer a small treat and give praise in an excited tone.

I recommend the Tellington TTouch® as a form of praise. The TTouch involves creating conscious circular movements on your dog’s body to help him relax.

House Training Tips

Whether you use dog pee pads, house training is a process. There isn’t a quick fix, but I’ve picked up some helpful tricks over the years!. Here are some other tips I recommend for successful potty training.

Use a Crate for Training

Crate training can help with potty training. Dogs don’t like to soil the area they sleep in, so they will avoid peeing in their crate if possible. Please don’t keep a pee pad in the crate, because we don’t want to encourage dogs to pee in there.

A dog’s crate should be a safe space. When first introducing your puppy to her crate, leave the door open. Let your dog explore the crate on her own. Reward your puppy when she inspects the crate or goes inside. Practice some TTouches throughout the process as well. It’s important that you never force your dog inside as a punishment. That will only teach her to fear the crate.

Consider a Grassy Pad

You can teach your dog to pee on grass if you have extra room on your balcony for a grassy patch.

A faux grass potty pad can be a great alternative to a traditional potty pad. Since the potty pad looks like grass, it may make it easier to transition to real grass.

Once your puppy is house trained, you can use these grassy pads on a deck or patio for days when the weather is too bad to go outside.

Keep it clean

If you use potty pads, make sure every potty pad that’s sitting out is clean. As soon as you see a soiled pad, dispose of it (or wash it if it’s reusable). Dogs are more likely to use clean pads, and it keeps their space hygienic.

Transition to Outside

Unless something is preventing you, the ultimate goal should be to train your dog to go outside only. If your puppy is comfortable using pads, use that to your advantage. Move the potty pad closer to the door over a few days. Once your puppy is used to going near the door, place the pad outside.

Handle Accidents Calmly

Accidents are part of the potty training process. Instead of getting frustrated with your dog, view accidents as learning opportunities. If you catch your puppy peeing inside, calmly get his attention so he stops mid-pee. Then, lead him outside to finish his business.

Getting mad at your puppy or punishing him will only confuse and scare him. Always stay calm when redirecting your dog, especially puppies. Then, clean the accident inside with an enzymatic cleaner so your dog can’t smell it.

Nighttime Potty Training

Young puppies may not be able to hold their bladder through the night. You will likely need to get up in the middle of the night for potty breaks. If that’s not possible, keep a pee pad in her sleeping area. As she gets older, you can phase it out.

Please note: If your puppy sleeps in a crate, please don’t keep the pee pad in the crate. I only recommend keeping a pee pad in a sleeping area like a playpen or a bathroom with the door closed. 

Consistency is Key

Consistency in dog training is so important. Ensure everyone in your household is on the same page regarding the training methods and schedule. This unified approach helps avoid confusion for your puppy.

Avoiding Common Potty Training Mistakes

Mistakes can create confusion and slow down the potty training process. Here are my tips to avoid the most common pitfalls I’ve seen in my years as a dog trainer.

  • Supervise Your Puppy – Keep an eye on your puppy during the training period. Whenever you notice him acting like he’s about to pee, take him outside.
  • Limit Freedom – To help you supervise your dog, confine her to her crate or a small space. Only allow her to roam freely if she just peed outside and you’re keeping a close eye on her. Your dog can earn more freedom to roam as you become more confident in her potty training progress. 
  • Be patient – Puppy training takes time, and each puppy learns at their own pace. Stay patient and consistent. Getting frustrated will only stress out your puppy and make the process harder.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to train your puppy on pads?

The time it takes to potty train a puppy on pads varies. With consistent training, most dogs can understand the concept within a few weeks. Complete success can take several months, depending on the individual puppy. Yet, in most cases, you’ll want to focus on teaching your dog to go outside instead of relying on pads.

Are puppy pads a good idea?

Puppy pads are a good idea in some cases. However, puppy pads should rarely be relied on. They could confuse your pup, making training take longer.

When should you start pee pad training a puppy?

If you plan to use potty pads, start pad training your puppy as soon as you bring her home. Early teaching helps establish good habits and makes the process smoother. However, you should focus more on taking your dog outside to pee.

Can a dog be trained on potty pads and outside?

Yes, a dog can be both pad-trained and outside-trained. Some pet parents start with pad training and then transition to outdoor training as their puppy matures and is fully vaccinated.

Is Potty Pad Training Right for You?

When your puppy starts whining, it's time to grab the leash and go outside. You can teach your puppy to hold it until you've gone outside.

I believe potty pad training can be a good method in certain instances. It can give your puppy a designated bathroom spot when you’re unable to go outside. But potty pad training can lead to some confusion for your puppy. Your pup may think that it’s okay to go inside, making accidents more likely.

While puppy pads can be great tools for puppy guardians who can’t regularly let their dogs outside, they’re not usually necessary. I recommend teaching your puppy to go outdoors, so he can learn faster. No matter which route you take, be patient, kind and consistent with your puppy.

For more potty training tips and tricks, look out for my new book: Puppy Potty Training Guide, which is coming soon! I’ll dive deeper into advanced potty training techniques to set your pup up for success.

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