One of the most trying times in any human-puppy relationship is when it comes to house training. While there are pups who take to it like the proverbial duck to water, some dogs can take a very long time indeed. It can be frustrating and disheartening when your pup is taking longer than expected to become fully toilet-trained.
The majority of owners will use puppy pads at some stage of their training journey. This is usually when the pup is first brought home. While some use them all over the house, others will keep them in restricted areas only. Though some think puppy pads are always necessary for toilet training, this is simply not true. Read on to learn more about puppy pads and to decide if they are right for you and your dog.
What Exactly Is a Puppy Pad?
A puppy pad is also known as a pee pad or a potty pad and is an absorbent pad made of layers of material that aims to trap both liquid and odor. Some will come scented, though this isn’t always appreciated by the dog, who can find artificial smells off-putting.
Puppy pads are used mainly by those who do not have the opportunity to bring their bundle of fur outside every time they need to pee.
When you think that a puppy can need a toilet break every 30 to 60 minutes, it is little surprise that people have found an alternative to having to go outside every time. This is especially useful for those who live in high-up apartment blocks, very cold or wet climates, or do not have access to a backyard.
How Do You Use Puppy Pads?
While you might assume your puppy will instinctively know how to use a puppy pad, this is rarely the case. Initially, you will need to take them to the pad. While you can carry them, it is best if they walk themselves as this can help stimulate their bowel. (and prevent any accidents when you put pressure on their little tummies)! Take them often: this can mean a few times an hour in a really young dog.
Try to learn the signs that your pup will show when they need to go. These may be subtle and can include: Sniffing the ground, circling, or standing very still. Some dogs may whine or bark. At the first hint of a sign, bring them directly to their pad. Waiting even 15 seconds can be the difference between a successful toileting event and an accident that you’ll end up having to clean.
Puppy pads go well with crates and crate training. Crate training offers many benefits, and it is useful to keep your pup in a crate for the short periods of time you won’t be around. Most pups will not want to have an accident within their crate. As soon as you get back in, let them out and straight onto their pad. Most will use the pad immediately. Remember, very small puppies cannot hold their poop and pee very long at all, so they should not be left alone for long periods.
Initially, you may have the pads all over the home. As the weeks go by, you should find you can streamline this, leaving the pads only in the most used areas. When working up to having your pup fully toilet trained, pads can then be moved to the door. Many owners find the transition to no puppy pads easiest when their dog uses a pad near the door. This way, they will go the door when they need to toilet, and you can simply let them out.
Do Puppy Pads Actually Work?
Puppy pads are very effective at encouraging your dog to toilet inside in a specific spot: on the pad, to be exact! Most dogs take well to them and find them easy to understand and use. If you are planning on using pads on an ongoing basis, go ahead and start from a young age. They are great at what they do.
However, owners should not rely too heavily on pee pads, especially if they ultimately want their dog to only go to the bathroom outdoors.
Potential problems with puppy pads:
Some dogs become lazy, using their puppy pad rather than going outside, even when they have the opportunity. In fact, some crafty canines will return from a walk during which they have held their bladder only to pass a large pee onto their pad!
This is not a desirable situation and will create extra landfill waste while adding to your weekly grocery store bill. It’s also not exactly pleasant to have to live with poop and pee being excreted within your living area.
Are Puppy Pads a Good Or Bad Idea For Potty Training?
Puppy pads have pros and cons and do serve a purpose.
Pros to puppy pads
- They are good at what they do and spills or leaks are rare; assuming your dog develops good aim. Odour is generally kept to a minimum and it is easy to clean up after they’ve been used.
- They prevent dogs holding their bowel or bladder when left alone for a prolonged period; something which can lead to dangerous medical conditions such as urinary tract infections and constipation.
- They offer a convenient place to toilet if it is temporarily tricky to get outdoors; perhaps during a hail or snow storm.
Cons to puppy pads
- Some dogs become over-reliant on puppy pads. They find them so convenient that they will choose them over all other options. This will inevitably delay toilet training.
- Some experts feel that encouraging toileting inside can ultimately make toilet training more confusing than it needs to be.
- As dogs feel comfortable toileting inside, you may find they continue to leave little ‘accidents’ indoors well into their adult life, even when no pad has been left down for them.
- Puppy pads aren’t cheap and the cost mounts up if using them for a long time.
Alternative Methods of Potty Training
Owners are often shocked when I let them in on this little secret; You don’t have to use puppy pads if you don’t want to! They are one of several options when it comes to toilet training. As they are so popular, many assume that they are a done deal.
Rather than using a pad, bring your dog to a certain spot outside every time you want them to go to the toilet. They should be brought out after every meal, drink, and nap. These are the times a dog is most likely to need the toilet. Initially, you will be bringing them out many (many!) times a day, but this will soon lessen as they mature. Using the same spot- perhaps a certain plant pot or patch of grass- helps your dog to create an association in their mind. Also, the odor that lingers will encourage them to go to that area. You can use a command if you like. A phrase such as ‘Get Busy’ each time you lead them to the toileting spot can encourage them to go.
After your dog has done their business in the desired spot, reward them heavily with lots of praise and perhaps a high-value treat or two. Little bits of cooked chicken or sausage work well. This reward creates a positive association in your pup’s brain and makes them more willing to go to the toilet in that spot each time. Once they are reliably using that spot as their toilet, we can cut down on the treats. Perhaps offer them at every second toilet outing for a few weeks, and then cut it down again. When fully trained, treats will no longer be needed.
Puppy pads are a good, temporary solution that works well in the early days of potty training. They are useful for times when it is difficult to bring your small puppy outdoors, especially for those who live in high-up apartment blocks. However, for most, they are just a stepping stone to be used on the way to becoming fully toilet-trained.
Remember, puppy pads are not a must. If you wish to skip them out completely, you may well find your puppy is toilet trained sooner. However, you will be doing more work initially as you bring your puppy outdoors regularly.