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How to Potty Train a Puppy With Pee Pads: 4 Easy Steps

Kate graduated from Sonoma State University with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in biology. She currently resides in Sonoma, California.


Train Your Dog to Poop and Pee on a Pad

Although many owners opt for training their puppy to go potty outside, using pee pads to train a puppy is ideal for anyone who lives in an apartment or condo without a yard. It’s also a great option for pet owners who will need to spend several hours a day away from home, because the pee pads will give your puppy somewhere to relieve himself while you’re out. However, it isn’t an entirely easy process, and it requires some time and patience.

  1. Choose a Pee Pad
  2. Choose a Potty Spot
  3. Show Your Puppy Where to Go
  4. Praise Your Puppy

Things You’ll Need:

Potty training a puppy using pee pads typically involves a few other materials. In addition to a supply of training pads, you may find a few other items useful.

  • Pee Pads: A good supply of puppy pee pads will help ensure that you don't run out just as you are making progress. Make sure to stick with the same brand of pee pad throughout training since changing brands can confuse your puppy.
  • A Timer: Some way to set a timer will be helpful to remind you when you need to let your puppy out since consistency is so important. Although a puppy’s bladder can be unpredictable, bringing your puppy to the pad regularly can prevent accidents and will help teach your puppy the purpose of the pad.
  • Dog Treats: Dog treats are important because rewarding your pup for going to the bathroom on the pads can really help reinforce the good behavior. You may also want to use a leash for leading your puppy to the pads.

1. Choose a Pee Pad

The first step is to settle on a specific brand of pee pad and choose a size. Some dog owners prefer to try pads that resemble grass. However, those may require additional maintenance. They typically involve a drain system to hold your puppy’s pee underneath the plastic grass, which would need to be emptied and cleaned at least once a week.

Regular plastic pee pads are an easy choice, however, it’s important to choose a quality brand and a good size that you will stick with since changing brands can confuse your puppy. It’s best to choose a larger than needed size for more coverage.

2. Choose a Potty Spot

Designate a spot where you want your puppy's potty spot to be. Try to choose an area of your home where you can easily keep an eye on your puppy, but the area or room should be somewhat confined.

It's best to avoid carpet as much as possible, for obvious reasons. Also, keep in mind that you should choose somewhere that can serve as a long-term spot for the training pads because moving it around in the future could interfere with training your puppy.

3. Show Your Puppy Where to Go

You should take your puppy to the pad often; a puppy usually cannot hold his bladder for very long. Even an hour is often too long for a puppy. Because the objective is to teach your puppy to go to the pee pad whenever they need to, you may want to use a leash to guide your puppy to the designated spot.

When to Guide Your Puppy to the Pee Pad:

  • After eating
  • After waking up
  • After playing
  • Every two hours

Set your timer to go off every two hours. When it goes off, you should walk your puppy over to the pee pad and wait to see what happens. It can be frustrating and patience is definitely required, but it's important so that your puppy will grow into a fully potty-trained dog.


4. Praise Your Puppy

You can encourage your puppy to go to the bathroom by saying phrases like "go potty," "go pee," etc..

When your puppy actually uses the pad, showing praise is the most effective thing you can do to reinforce this behavior. Tell your puppy that they've been a good boy or good girl, and give him or her a treat or two. However, if you wait several minutes and your puppy doesn't go to the bathroom on the pads, you should wait to try again later. It may be tempting to keep waiting and see what happens, but the process doesn't work that way. Unfortunately, accidents are necessary for the training to be effective.

Be Firm, but Don’t Scold

Your puppy is bound to have an accident away from the pads, and that's the right opportunity to enforce the idea that it's not where it should go to the bathroom.

You don't need to scold. In fact, aggressive tones and yelling will just scare your puppy. A stern "no" is good, and you should immediately pick up your puppy and take him or her to the pee pad as quickly as possible. It can be especially helpful if you catch your puppy as they're having an accident instead of after.

Proper Cleaning to Prevent More Accidents

One effective way to prevent more accidents is to properly clean the areas where they happen. Have you ever noticed that dogs like to go to the bathroom in the same spot over and over? The reason for this is that dogs are scent driven.

If your dog smells a remaining scent from an old accident, he will be triggered by the scent to go again in the same spot. It is very important that you completely neutralize the scent from any accidents that are not on the pee pads.

Use a pet odor cleaner that is specifically designed to eliminate this odor. I have used Nature's Miracle for this task for many years with great results (see below). Nature's miracle has specific enzymes that are designed to break down the scents that dogs pick up on.

My Technique for Erasing an Accident:

  1. Pick up the puppy's poop or clean up the urine.
  2. After cleaning the area, spray liberally with a stain or odor remover..
  3. Let the area sit for about 10 minutes; this will allow time for the enzymes to neutralize the scent.
  4. Blot the area dry with a paper towel.

This process, although a little more involved than just cleaning up the accident alone, is well worth your time. It should completely break down the odor, ensuring that your dog doesn't develop a habit of going potty in the same inappropriate spot over and over.

Common Mistakes and Problems

  • Putting Down a Pee Pad Wherever There's an Accident: This is a bad idea because not only will it confuse your puppy, but the point of pee pad training is that there is one designated spot where your puppy should be going to the bathroom.
  • Punishment for Accidents: It’s very easy to assume that yelling ‘bad dog’ repeatedly and making a big deal out of their mess will help, but it actually does the opposite. As mentioned before, it will just scare your puppy and will distract from what you’re trying to train him or her to do.
  • Troubles Confining Your Puppy to One Area: Confinement is important because it’s easier to potty train a puppy if he or she is limited to one section of your home. Of course you don’t need to keep your puppy confined to one area permanently, but while the training process is going on, it may be a good idea.

If you’re having trouble finding a good space to confine your puppy, you could purchase baby gates. It’s an easy solution that will keep your puppy where you want him to be. Make sure that the space is within your eyesight, though, so you can monitor your puppy.

Remember: Patience and Consistency!

These are the basic principals for successfully potty training your new puppy to relieve himself only on pee pads. Although it can be very frustrating and it’s tempting to give up at times, it’ll be entirely worth it when your puppy is finally trained.

Remember, patience and extreme consistency are the keys to success here. If you start to vary your routine at all (i.e. repeatedly changing the length of time between trips to the pads, changing the brand of pads, or changing the pee pad location) it can and likely will confuse your puppy, setting you back significantly with your potty training.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2017 Kate Daily