Dogs don’t always have easy access to outdoors. For those times that your dog can’t wait to do his business, dog potty pads are a great way to help. Birgit Walker, a dog trainer in Phoenix, Arizona, and co-author of “Keep Your Paws on the Road” recommends potty pads for a few different instances:
- Air Travel: If you’re traveling by plane in particular, you don’t always have the opportunity to take your dog outside of the airport to a designated dog relief area, says Walker. “With the potty pad, you can let the dog out of the crate in a secluded corner or area and let him go there.”
- Leaving Your Dog at Home: For smaller indoor dogs, Walker suggests using potty pads whenever you have to leave for an extended period of time. “If the dog doesn’t have a way to get out, you can teach him to have a certain area in the house where you want him to go,” she says.
- Crate Liners: If you need to leave your dog in a crate for a while—whether you’re away at work all day or if you’re sending him in a crate in the cargo section of a plane—Walker suggests lining the crate with potty pads in case he needs to go.
- House Training for Puppies: Owners with a new dog can use potty pads for house training. Puppies in particular are more susceptible to germs and diseases, says Walker, and they shouldn’t always go outside in public places. If your puppy hasn’t had all of his shots, you can use a potty pad inside before moving it outside to teach him to go in the yard.
- Training a Senior Dog to Go Inside: For a senior dog, you can use potty pads to teach him to use the bathroom inside instead of outside. This is particularly helpful for incontinent dogs.
3 Steps for Potty Pad Training
Training dogs to use a potty pad needs to happen in a few stages, says Walker. These steps work for both puppies and older dogs.
Step 1: Train Your Dog to Go to the Bathroom on Command
Training dogs to go on command is helpful for puppies, senior dogs and every age in between, says Walker. “If you’re in an area with new noises or commotions (such as an airport), he might forget about going to the bathroom,” she says.
To do this, use a single, strong command before the dog goes, such as, “Go potty.” How will you know when your dog is about to go? For dogs that have already been through house training, use the command before he goes to the bathroom every time you take him for a walk or let him outside. For new puppy training, look for other cues and times of day—especially right after the dog has woken up, after he’s played a lot, or after he’s eaten, says Walker.
After you’ve used the command and he’s gone to the bathroom, heap on the praise!
Step 2: Introduce the Potty Pad
Always put your dog on a leash before you start using the potty pad. “Many people will put the potty pad down somewhere and hope the dog finds it, but it’s important for behavior that we show the dog what to do,” says Walker. A leash is crucial for this.
Where you put the potty pad can help with dog training. For older dogs that have already been through house training, Walker suggests going to the area where you usually walk your dog or where he usually goes in your yard and putting the potty pad there. Use a leash to guide him onto the pad, then give your command. You’ll eventually be able to move the potty pad into the house and continue training there.
When you’re puppy training with a potty pad, try to confine the dog to a small area with the potty pad. This can be in a pet pen (consider the Frisco Dog Exercise Pen), or a small area of your home. Walker suggests using dog gates in a hallway or other secluded space so your puppy only has a small area in which he can go to the bathroom. Keep him on leash and watch him closely so you can guide him to the potty pad as soon as it’s time.
Step 3: Put It All Together—and Add Praise
Every time you give your command and your dog uses the pad, heap on the praise! “You want to form an association between, ‘This is where I go’ and, ‘This is the praise I hear,’” says Walker.
Common Mistakes When Potty Pad Training
- Lack of control: If you put the potty pad down and think your dog should somehow know that that’s where he’s supposed to go, you’ll be disappointed, says Walker. “Of course the dog doesn’t know that. And then owners wonder why the dog chooses to go behind the couch.” Using a leash means you can guide your dog to the potty pad when it’s time and show him the behavior you want him to do.
- Inconsistency: “Many owners don’t realize how often dogs—especially puppies—have to use the bathroom,” says Walker. She suggests near-constant supervision, especially at key times like right after he gets up in the morning and 20-30 minutes after your dog has eaten. At these times, either keep a very close eye on him or confine him to a small space until you can take him to the potty pad.
- Over-Excitement: Humans have a tendency to always want to talk. “We see owners who say the command over and over, which creates a lot of excitement for the dog and distracts him from what he needs to do,” says Walker. Instead, firmly give the command once and let your dog just be for a moment.
Products to Help
To get to potty pad bliss, you first need to find a good pad. These options have been both pet- and floor-tested:
- Disposable pads are easy to clean up and great for travel. Frisco Training & Potty Pads are lined and have five absorbent layers to protect your floors. They come in three sizes and feature a built-in attractant that’s good for house training puppies as well as potty pad training indoor dogs.
- Think your dog will prefer the natural texture and look of grass? Choose a reusable product like the Wee-Wee Patch Indoor Potty, which mimics the outdoors. The pads have a removable grass-like top layer and a durable tray underneath with a pour spout that makes cleanup easy.
Dog training aids such as scented sprays can help with regular house training as well as potty pad training. These sprays contain an attractant formula that tells dogs where you want them to go, whether that’s inside on a potty pad or outside in a specific area. Consider the Simple Solution Puppy Potty Training Aid or NaturVet Potty Here Training Aid.