In theory, pee pads are a great idea. A pee pad is placed on the living room floor and the dog or puppy pees on the pad instead of your rug. It sounds so simple and easy but why doesn’t it seem to work? Every week I receive calls from frustrated dog owners complaining that their dog will pee on the pad one time and then pee on the rug. Or they will take their dog outside and he will not pee until he comes inside. Does this sound familiar? If so, then you’re not alone. Trying to potty train your dog can be frustrating when you’re using pee pads, but don’t worry there is a better solution. In fact, I tested this solution on a litter of SEVEN rescue puppy’s and it worked. All seven pups, between the ages of 6 – 9 weeks old, had the run of the living room none of them peed on my rug or floor.
What do pee pads teach dogs?
“I take my dog outside and they won’t pee. We come in the house and my dog pee’s right away.” I hear this from clients over and over as they struggle to potty their dog or puppy. Dog owners don’t understand what is doing wrong and this cycle continues.
When pee pads are used in the house they teach and encourage your dog to pee in the house. That means that if you want your dog to eliminate outside you have to teach them to pee outside. Using a pee pad teaches in the house most of the time and then trying to get them to pee outside is confusing for your dog. Once the dog learns to pee in the house, even on the pee pad, it will take more effort to change. The good thing is that with the right tool and dedication you can change that. Being consistent with our dogs is the first step and using an alternative to pee pads will help.
What’s the difference between the rug and the pee pad?
Nothing, to the dog. Pee pad users need to know that their dog cannot tell the difference between the pee pad and your rug. When dog owners use a pee pad you’re teaching the dog to pee on cotton. That means you’re bathmat, living room rug and carpet are all fair game to pee on. Why does dog pee on the rug when there is a pee pad when one foot away? Dog’s can’t discriminate between which cotton, pee pad, bath mat, etc they are allowed to pee on. It’s all the same to the dog.
Puppies are going to struggle with this concept even more than adult dogs. Remember, when a pee pad is used the dog is learning to pee in the house on cotton rugs or pads.
Dogs won’t pee and poop on the same pad
Have you ever wondered why our dog pees on the pee pad and then poops on your rug? Dogs do not like to pee and poop in the same place. In other words, your dog won’t typically pee and poop on the same pad. You will need to place multiple pads on the floor if they have to eliminate more than once. If a pad has been used your dog is less likely to use it again. This means you need more than one pee pad.
Better options to pee pads
My favorite alternative to pee pads is the fake grass. This option works great indoors and on a patio or decks. Some dogs will take quickly to the grass and pee on it the first time. Other dogs will need some encouragement. This is a picture of how a coupled got their puppy to use the fake grass. Initially, the puppy started to chew and play with the grass so they used an ex-pen to limit access to the grass. Every morning they took the puppy to the grass and reinforced him for using it. After a week the dog was going outside to the fake grass on his own.
Dogs quickly transfer from the fake grass to the real grass outside. Fake grass can be purchased on Amazon or at most big box pet stores. I used fake grass for my Italian Greyhound when she was home alone and it worked great. I found a remnant piece of fake grass on Craigslist and cut it into two pieces. The fake grass went into her pen while I was at work. I had a dog walker come in the middle of the day, but sometimes she had to use the grass. When I was home, the fake grass went outside on the patio. It worked great. If my dog had to pee in the middle of the night, I had the fake grass on my patio and she went to it immediately and used it. I’m told that Italian Greyhounds can be difficult to potty train but both of mine are 100% potty trained.
This grass can be used for puppy’s when you can’t watch them, and for when left home alone. Puppy’s and small dogs may not be able to hold their bladder while you are at work for 10 hours. I recommend using the fake grass if you must leave your dog home alone for an extended period of time (6 – 10 hours).
Once your dog uses the fake grass immediately reinforce them for using it by giving them a piece of yummy food. Once your dog is using the grass on a regular basis you can move it to a different area in an enclosed pen or in the house. Some companies sell fake grass for dogs with a tray attached to the bottom. Using a pee pad in-between the grass and the tray will help catch and trap the urine. This will make cleaning the urine easy by throwing the pee pad in the trash. The fake grass will need to be cleaned daily. My favorite industrial strength solution is OdoBan. Amazon and Home Depot carry Odoban. I have used Odoban for years and it’s the best at eliminating odors. It also kills germs, bacteria, virus’s and eliminates the smell of urine. It ‘s a good idea to have 2 – 3 pieces of fake grass so one can be used while the other one is being cleaned.
Make sure you read the instructions on the Odoban label. Always rinse the Odoban completely off and let the grass dry before using.
When pee pads DO work
I have a friend with three small Chihuahua’s. When she leaves for long periods of time she uses a washable pee pad. Now, just to be clear one of her dogs is maybe 2 lbs. Small dogs have small bladders, which means that they urinate more frequently than larger dogs. When she’s home the dogs don’t use the pee pad. Now, this system works for her for a few different reasons. One, when she’s gone, the dogs are kept in the bedroom with the pee pad. The second reason this works is because her house has wood floors with no rugs or carpet. So her dogs have learned to pee inside and to pee on cotton inside. The only cotton on the ground is the pee pad.
Potty training your dog takes time and patience. I recommend that you take one or two full days to focus only on potty training. This will give you and your dog a strong foundation to build upon. When need to leave you dog home alone for several hours use the fake grass instead of pee pads.
Happy Potty Training.
Sherry Nativo, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP
Sherry is a dog owner and professional dog trainer. She is determined to teach dog owners the best training techniques so they can enjoy walks, hikes, cafe visits and life with their dog. To get more tips visit the blog at www.allabouttrainingdogs.com/blog and sign up the newsletter.