Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Paper Training a Puppy
If you just got a new puppy, you may be considering paper training him or her with the old method of using newspaper. Paper training your puppy to pee on newspaper may appear, at first glance, to be an ideal solution. After all, already read newspaper is always handy to recycle rather than just tossing it in the trash, so why not put them to good use?
Although paper training your puppy to pee on newspaper may appear like an economical solution that is also environmentally friendly, there are several drawbacks that are worthy of considering before investing your time in paper training your puppy to pee on newspaper.
Before committing to this potty training method, it helps to first take a peek at the pros and cons associated with paper training a puppy. With this information in mind, you can then evaluate whether training your puppy to potty on newspaper is right for you.
The Pros of Paper Training Puppies
Paper training puppies still, as of today, remains a prevalent method of potty training. It offers several advantages which explains why many new puppy owners may opt to use this potty training method. A closer look into why new puppy owners may select paper training reveals the following reasons:
It's a Cheap Way to Potty Train
Whether you have paid to subscribe to have your favorite newspaper delivered or you get lots of newspapers for free in your mailbox, it's likely that you are interested in paper training your puppy because you find it to be a potentially economical solution.
After all, puppy pads at the store can be quite expensive. You can expect to pay about $15 for 30 pads. If you do the math, with young puppies peeing and pooping for a total of about 12-14 times a day, puppy owners can go through a pack of pads fairly quickly.
Newspaper training can, therefore, prove to be quite an economical solution, especially when you have accumulated lots of newspapers throughout the years or you have friends and family saving them for you.
It's "Environmentally Friendly"
Many consumers are looking for environmentally-friendly ways to recycle products, and using newspapers to potty train puppies can help them feel as if they are lending a hand in saving the planet.
According to the University of Southern Indiana, it is estimated that 500,000 trees must be cut down in order to produce the Sunday newspaper. Sure, nothing can be done about that once you have purchased that big fat Sunday newspaper bundle, but many people feel good by putting it to good use rather than tossing it away once and for all.
It Comes in Handy for Specific Situations
Training a puppy to use newspaper to poop and pee on can come in handy to people who work long hours each day and are unable to take their puppy out as often as needed.
It may also come in handy for those cold, frigid days when there is a foot of snow blocking the door and going out to potty is a great inconvenience. Pint-sized puppies or sick, old or convalescent dogs may particularly suffer the cold.
Newspaper training puppies is also popular among puppy owners living in condominiums, apartments or high-rise buildings or people who are elderly or with disabilities considering the effort and time it may take to bring a puppy out to potty in a timely manner.
Owners of particularly fearful dogs, such as recently rescued puppy mill dogs, may too find the use of paper training advantageous considering that these dogs may be terrified of going outside.
Another advantage to point out is that puppies who are trained to pee and poop on paper will adjust fine should they ever be boarded or hospitalized considering that there may be nobody to take a puppy or dog out at night.
Not the Type of Training Expected!
The Cons of Paper Training Puppies
Of course, as with almost everything in life, there are disadvantages that accompany their advantages and this applies to paper training puppies as well. For several reasons, listed below, paper training puppies is not the most highly recommended potty training method, especially if your final goal is to have your puppy go potty outdoors.
Development of a Substrate Preference
This is a little-known fact, but an important one when it comes to the puppy potty training process. Puppies tend to develop a substrate preference between the ages of 7 and a half and 8 and a half weeks. Therefore, if a puppy is taught to pee on the surface of a newspaper, it will learn to seek out that specific substrate in the future, explains veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall.
This means that if your puppy learns to pee on newspaper, he may struggle that day you decide that he should go potty in the yard on grass. In other words, the puppy will need to be "retrained" to go outside.
Of course, this is a challenge that can be overcome, but it's something worth mentioning. If going potty outdoors is the final goal, then it is far easier for the pup to learn to go potty outside from the get-go.
Puppies trained to potty on newspaper who are then expected to potty on grass can be helped by strategically placing the paper gradually closer and closer to the exterior door (like just one to two inches per day) and then placing the newspaper on the grass.
To help a smooth transition if you are a busy pet-parent, during weekends when you are home, observe your puppy carefully. The moment he begins to squat on the paper, quickly escort him outside and wait for him to do his business. Then, lavishly praise the puppy when it pees or poops outdoors.
Once the pup starts reliably pottying outside on the paper, further tricks to help wean the pup off of the paper include gradually making the newspaper smaller and smaller and/or placing some blades of grass on it until the puppy is conditioned to go potty totally on grass.
Potentially Messy Affairs
Things can get quite messy when newspapers are used for potty training. The newspaper doesn't absorb pee well, and therefore, if your puppy pees a substantial amount, the chances are that, when you lift the newspaper, you will find a mess. If you don't remove a soaked newspaper promptly, your puppy may walk on it and leave lovely pee paw-prints all over the house.
To prevent major messes, newspapers should be kept strictly on easy-to-clean surfaces such as tile or linoleum floors. You cannot use newspaper on the carpet for obvious reasons—the urine will spill into the carpet and cause hard-to-clean messes. Some puppy owners though who have no other choice though, have found that the use of heavy-gauge plastic, strategically placed under the newspaper, can help protect their carpets and rugs.
One majorly annoying problem encountered when paper training puppies is that puppies aren't perfect in aiming their stream of pee. Chances are, they'll have a good intent to pee on the newspaper, but they'll miss the newspaper and pee on the floor instead.
On top of that, puppies are playful, rambunctious beings, and they may see newspaper as a fun item to play with and shred into pieces.
More Environmentally-Friendly Options
And for those who wish to newspaper train their puppies to help the environment, it must be considered that there are more environmentally friendly options. For instance, by recycling a single run of the Sunday newspaper one could potentially save 75,000 trees.
And of course, newspaper drenched with dog urine and poop is unsuitable for curbside recycling. So those newspapers are likely put to better use if normally recycled if you are looking for green solutions.
Successful Newspaper Training in 5 Easy Steps
If you find that paper training your puppy is right for you, you may be wondering how to get started. Paper training your puppy to pee on newspaper is a fairly easy task, but it can get frustrating at times when things may not go as planned. Patience and persistence go a long way.
- Pick the ideal location. Choose a small room or area with an easy-to-clean floor surface such as tile or linoleum. Many puppy owners pick a small bathroom, laundry room, corner of a kitchen or hallway.
- Place several sheets of newspaper on the floor in several layers. Initially, you may find it useful to cover the whole floor area with newspaper to set your puppy for success. Then, gradually, you can remove more and more sheets, until your puppy learns to go just on a few.
- Keep your pup's food, water, toys, and bed area at a distance from the potty area. Puppies by nature (other than store-bought puppies or puppy mill dogs) dislike to potty near where they eat, play or sleep.
- Catch your puppy at a time he may need to go potty. Puppies tend to have the urge to potty after they have slept or shortly after a meal (like within 15 minutes). Place your puppy on the newspaper and say the verbal cue "go potty."
- Praise your puppy for going potty by saying "yes!" and then give your puppy a tasty treat. Make sure when you praise and reward that you don't interrupt the urine flow or the act of defecation, or your puppy may stop to get the treat and then continue elsewhere.
If your puppy doesn't go immediately, be patient. Keep an eye on signs your puppy needs to potty. If your puppy is about to go, but not directly on the newspaper, try either slipping the newspaper right under him or enticing him to step on the newspaper.
Rinse and repeat the above steps several times. The more you practice, the better. Puppies are creatures of habit, so if you praise and reward for going on the newspaper often, they'll likely pick up on it and go on it more and more. It's the power of positive reinforcement training which causes behaviors to strengthen and repeat.
What if your puppy has an accident? In such a case, avoid methods based on intimidation such as scolding your puppy, pushing your puppy's face in the mess or hitting your puppy with a rolled newspaper. These methods will only teach your puppy not to trust you and will cause your puppy to hide to pee and poop.
Instead, just clean up the mess using an enzymatic cleaner (I prefer Nature's Miracle) and be proactive: individualize what you can do to prevent your puppy from making a mess next time (e.g., put your puppy on a feeding schedule, make the newspaper area larger, put him on the newspaper earlier, supervise better etc.)
And remember: accidents are totally normally during potty training (otherwise, it wouldn't be called training!) You can't expect a young puppy to be perfect because young puppies ( generally under 12 weeks) haven't attained yet sufficient bladder and bowel control. With time, patience, close supervision, and persistence, you will start seeing progress, and all the hard work will pay off.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 16, 2018:
Rochelle, that's a classic! Yes, that's worth mentioning too as one of the main cons of newpaper training dogs. Sounds like he wanted to leave his own "news headlines" on it too!
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on October 15, 2018:
We once got a pup which had been paper trained. He quickly trained us to not leave unread newspapers on the floor.