Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
A dog who pees off the pee pad may be a frustrating ordeal, especially for dog owners who had high hopes of their dogs using them with little or no effort. Let's face it though, apartment living was never really designed for dogs, who are outdoorsy creatures by nature and who may be more drawn to using dirt and grass as their official bathrooms.
Life in the city, without ready access to a lot of space for your dog, may have made the pee pad the right tool for you and your pup. It just takes a bit of adjustment time for your pup to realize what he has to do. Even if you don’t live in a confined space, pee pads may turn out to be a great way to potty train your pup.
Pee pads can be helpful on those days when your dog won't potty in the rain. They may work well too if you work long hours or your puppy or dog is recovering from some illness or a recent spay or neuter surgery. Or maybe, you may not feel too well or there's some strict quarantine in place.
As helpful as pee pads can be, if your dog pees off the pee pad (or right next to it), you may feel frustrated. If so, rest assured, you're in good company. Many new puppy or dog owners often wonder, "Why does my dog pee off pee pads? Aren't they meant to pee on it?"
Pee pads are surely meant to be peed on, but like many other tools, you'll need to implement some training and help set your pup for success. Just don't have too high expectations and remind yourself that this tool is more for your convenience than your pup, so if you want to start off strong, ensure that you understand how pee pads work and how you can set your fur baby for success by using some simple strategies.
Why Does My Dog Pee off the Pee Pad?
If your dog pees off the pee pad, it helps to take a closer look at what may be going on. Consider several of these possibilities.
The Novelty Factor
Most dogs aren’t mind readers, and they don’t speak English to the extent we’d like, so they see the pee pad as just some piece of paper you’ve casually discarded on the floor with no real purpose. Or if they do discern a purpose, it’s for play, and they destroy the pad just for the fun of it.
The biggest reason why puppies pee off the pee pad is because they really haven't grasped the concept. Unless you got your puppy from a reputable breeder who took the time to introduce your puppy to them, your puppy may have never encountered a pee pad in his life before.
While you don’t want your pup repeatedly destroying the pee pads, you may want to have a few laying about so they can at least get used to their presence. Let your pup sniff at it and paw at it to see that it’s not going to harm them.
Not Aiming Right
On the other hand, the good news, if you got your fur baby from a reputable breeder, is that they will have already started the puppy pee pad training process by designating a special space specifically for potty time and getting your pup used to use pee pads.
It could be that your puppy knows that he has to go on the pad, but he may not be that good yet to aim correctly. Perhaps he's perfectly on the pad but his bum is sticking out. Give these pups some credit for the effort. With time and your gentle guidance, they get better and better at aiming.
It's in a High-Traffic Area Too Busy Area
The placement of the pee pads needs to be strategic. Avoid trafficked areas where there is lot going on as a distraction can negatively impact the short attention spans of puppies. One minute he's thinking about using the pad, the next he's off of it heading towards a toy your toddler just dropped and he has an accident right off the pad.
A Matter of Hygiene
If your dog's pee pads are dirty and soaked, your puppy may be naturally inclined to not use it. Yes, despite having messes in the home, dogs are naturally inclined to not want to step on their pee or poop. So give your pup some credit if he's peeing off the pee pad because you have forgotten to change it recently!
Not Able to Hold It
Most puppies are unable to hold their pee and poop until they are a little older. At around three months, they should be able to hold it long enough to walk up to a pee pad and go there, but accidents are not uncommon until they are five to six months old. Smaller breed puppies take longer to potty train generally compared to larger breed dogs.
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If your puppy is of a small breed or he's under three weeks, it could be he is missing the pee pad for the simple fact that he can't hold it long enough to get there. With very young puppies, the moment they realize they need to potty, they have already soiled on the spot.
Possible Behavioral Issues
Male dogs (and sometimes female dogs too) who miss the mark may be intently marking rather than peeing for the physiological purpose of emptying the bladder.
Urine marking in dogs is often triggered by a need for leaving pee-mail, for the purpose of defining territory or as a way for dogs to manifest their stress and unease with certain triggers and situations.
Sometimes puppies may pee due to excitement or submissive urination. Expect this type of peeing to take place if your pup missed the pee pad when greeting you or when you interact with him in a certain way.
Possible Medical Problems
Last but not least, consider medical problems. If your dog has been pretty good at aiming right on your pee pads and now is missing the spot, give her the benefit of doubt.
Puppies and dogs can develop annoying urinary tract infections, which can cause them to have a strong urge to pee causing accidents in inappropriate places.
Signs of a urinary tract infection in dogs include peeing frequently and in small amounts, traces of blood in the urine, and excess licking of the private areas. UTIs in dogs can be diagnosed by collecting a dog's urine sample and bringing it to the vet.
If your puppy has been particularly challenging to potty train, consider the possibility of an ectopic ureter. An ectopic ureter consists of an abnormality of the ureter which causes young pups to have accidents around the home.
Female dogs are known to be 20 times more likely to develop this with certain breeds being more affected such as Golden and Labrador retrievers, Skye Terriers, etc.
Other possible causes for accidents around the home include increased drinking and increased urination (medically known as polydipsia and polyuria) due to underlying diabetes, Cushing's disease, or kidney failure.
In older dogs, urine accidents may occur as a result of poor mobility, achy joints, and the onset of canine cognitive dysfunction, the dog-version of Alzheimer's disease in humans.
Treatment consists of taking care of the underlying cause.
How to Stop a Dog From Doing This
If your dog is peeing off the pee pad a lot, after doing some troubleshooting, it's time to find the most appropriate solutions based on the underlying problem.
If you are patient and work with your pup on a consistent basis, you’ll get to the outcome you want and hopefully a cleaner house. So let’s take a quick look back at some of the important pieces to the pee pad puzzle and some general reminders about caring for your pup.
- If your pup is younger than 12-14 weeks old, they can’t control their bladder with any consistency so be prepared for lots of accidents.
- Have enzyme-based cleaners on hand for those inevitable accidents. It eliminates the odors and doesn’t smell like ammonia (which can smell like pee to a dog’s sensitive nose).
- Ensure that the spot you want your dog to use as the potty is quiet and doesn’t have any distractions. You want them to know they’re going there for a purpose.
- Create a den-like area. You can use a playpen for this. Clearly delineate a space for sleeping, eating and playing from the potty area. Think of it as your pup's little home with a clear area as their "bedroom and kitchen" where you'll feed the puppy, allow play and sleep and while the opposite area is used as a bathroom. Puppies should instinctively know to go potty far from where they eat, play and sleep.
- If your puppy often misses the target, consider larger pads when you are starting out to encourage your dog to try hitting the mark. Alternatively, line up several in the area your dog is peeing.
- You can also put a small bit of excess urine from a prior mess on the pad for them to scent and know that’s where they should be going.
- Make access to the pee pad extra easy and don't move them around. Puppies need consistency.
- Especially in the early stages, be sure to praise your pup for a job well done when they do what you’re expecting them to do. Don’t scold them when they miss or have an accident elsewhere in the house. This will only teach puppies to hide from you when they need to pee or poop.
- If your ultimate goal is to train your puppy to go potty outdoors, if feasible it's often easier simply training to go outdoors rather than using pee pads. Or at most, provide an indoor potty area that most resembles the surface your pup will use outdoors. For example, you can use an indoor Porch Potty if your dog must potty on grass outdoors.
- Like anything with your pup, potty training going to take time, commitment and patience on your part. Dogs are loyal creatures and very intelligent, but they don’t operate on the same wavelength as humans. Give them the benefit of time to pick up what you want them to learn.
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.
© 2020 Adrienne Farricelli
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 16, 2020:
Oh, potty training! We never had to use pee pads on the floor because we live in a house that allows us to let them out to the yard pretty quickly. But even then, we realized that accidents go with the territory.
A couple of our female dogs had issues with it as they got older and due to health problems. So we used them on their bedding area because they'd pee in their sleep. As you've noted, you need to determine what the cause is and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Good tips as always!
FlourishAnyway from USA on September 16, 2020:
I liked the variety of explanations because every animal and situation is different. I also liked how repeatedly you displayed empathy, advocating giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 15, 2020:
Interesting facts about dogs and such behaviors and actions. I did not know about this until I read your hub. Always to the point and lots to learn about dogs. You have shared everything one needs t know about dogs.
Sp Greaney from Ireland on September 14, 2020:
Everyone I know who has had a dog has at some point in time had to rely on these. But they did eventually manage to get the dog into a routine to go potty outside which was better for both parties. They only use these now if they know they will be out of the house for 5 or more hours. They are useful though.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 14, 2020:
I've used pee pads for some of my pets and have found them helpful. Thanks for sharing all of the useful information and tips.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 14, 2020:
Hi Peggy, I have raised my dogs without pads after noticing how easy it was to just get them started to going potty outside from the get-go, but sometimes when I foster small-breed puppies, I sometimes get them used to pee pads and going outside in case their new dog owners may find them useful.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 14, 2020:
We always had a yard and never used one of those pads for our dogs. I can understand the use of them, however. Your tips are good ones, as usual.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on September 14, 2020:
Well presented. Useful article. Thanks.