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  • Kristen VanNess

Puppy Training: Teaching a Puppy to Use Puppy Pads

Are you bringing home a small-breed puppy in the middle of winter? Do you live somewhere with extreme temperatures or safety concerns with wildlife? Do you need to house train a puppy while you are living with limited mobility? Or, maybe you live many stories up in a high-rise apartment building. Puppy pads can be an appropriate alternative to the outdoors for small puppies or small-breed dogs.

What product should I use?

There are many brands or types of puppy pads. Most are fairly similar, though they may vary by size. There are disposable puppy pads, and also cloth washable types available as well. Some companies produce special holders which can prevent puppies from chewing the pads up, and the holders can give your puppy clear boundaries. Without the tray, puppies will sometimes stand with their front paws on the pad but the back half off the pad, meaning they will miss the pad when they go! Some families elect to use real or artificial grass, especially for balconies.

Some families use a litter box with wood pellets.This is especially common when breeders are raising litters of puppies and starting the puppies on house training before the puppies go home.

Where should I put the puppy pads?

Some families notice a corner or area where a puppy prefers to eliminate, and will put the pads there. Other families will choose a place, such as a bathroom or laundry room.

How should I train my puppy to use the puppy pads?

First, check with your puppy’s breeder or shelter to find out if they started house training. This process can start well before puppies come home. If your breeder or rescue started this process, then you can build off of what was used.

One of the easiest ways is to put an exercise pen around the pads to mark off the specific area. When you think your puppy needs to eliminate, take your puppy to the pen and put him in there. Stand nearby and watch. When your puppy eliminates, open the pen and reward your puppy with multiple treats.

Take your puppy to the pen during transition times, such as when he is waking up, when you finish a play session, when he finishes eating, or if he stops chewing one of his toys. Initially, this may be multiple times an hour. Each puppy is different, and your puppy may need more opportunities, or may be ready for fewer.

While some families may give puppies free access to the pads at all times, this can result in some puppies learning to shred the puppy pads like toys. Not containing the pads will also make it more difficult to keep your puppy on the pads until he eliminates. Once your puppy understands the routine and process, you do not need to continue using the pen around the puppy pads.

Keep track of bathroom habits

Keep a chart of how often you take your puppy to his bathroom area, and note if he goes/what he does. Also note the time/location of any indoor elimination elsewhere so that you can look for patterns. If your puppy is peeing in the kitchen every evening while you prepare dinner, then you know you need to take him to his pen with the puppy pads more often during dinner. This might be before dinner, partway through preparing dinner, after you finish preparing dinner, and after you finish dinner.

If you find your puppy eliminating in the wrong place

You can gently pick up your puppy and move him to his bathroom area or just let him finish and do better next time. You don’t want to yell at your puppy, because then he may learn to not eliminate near you—and that makes house training much harder! Many puppies like to bite at cleaning products, and you may benefit from putting him in a crate or pen while you are cleaning up.

We recommend you use a bacteria and enzyme cleaner when cleaning up these areas.

Restrict access

Just like when you train puppies to eliminate outside, you want to make it hard for puppies to make mistakes and eliminate in the wrong areas. Use crates, gates, and leashes to supervise your puppy in the house, especially if your puppy is not empty! By closing extra doors or using a gate to keep your puppy in the same room as you, you can more easily watch your puppy and be ready to take him to his bathroom area if you think he needs it.

In summary, teaching puppies to use puppy pads is very similar to teaching puppies to eliminate outdoors. There are many reasons families may choose this option, and with careful training, you can get great results. A trainer can help you with personalized training for your puppy if you need additional help working towards house training.

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