How to house train with puppy pads, according to an expert dog trainer

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  • One thing you need to know about puppies is they pee – a lot! Sometimes 12–14 times in a day. This means that toilet training needs to commence from the moment you bring your puppy home, and learning how to puppy pad train is essential. Routine is key to establishing house training and using puppy pads will be really helpful until the dog can be considered house trained. 

    As a general rule, puppies can hold their bladder for one hour for each month of their age, plus one hour. So a two month old pup should be able to hold on for three hours as a maximum.

    The good news is, if you’ve got a puppy from a reputable breeder who has raised their litter as opposed to bred a litter, most of these pups will already be well on the way to being house trained when you pick them up. When my English mastiff had her two litters, not only was she an exceptional mum, but during the day, from the age of four weeks, I consistently took them outside to a sectioned off part of garden that we had especially for them. By the time they left to go to their new homes they were practically house trained.

    Benefits of using puppy pads

    Puppy pads are particularly helpful as they are easy to roll up and dispose of, they should be highly absorbent and save on washing endless towels. Some people use newspapers, but I find that unless you use several sheets, they fall apart when wet and become more of a hindrance to clean up.

    Puppy pads are particularly useful for lining crates and carriers, too, especially on those first outings to the vets or for car desensitisation. Not only do they catch wee and poo, but they are also brilliant for the car sick pups. Puppy pads can also be used to line puppy slings (like this one on Amazon) and I know a great number of my clients have been thankful they do.

    The best puppy pads are highly absorbent. You can get gel-filled pads (like these ones on Amazon) that retain odours as well as soak it all up. Some pads even come with an attractant to encourage your puppy to go, too (like these ones on Amazon). You can even get reusable puppy training pads (like these on Amazon), which prevents waste.

    Amazon Basics Puppy Training Pads at amazon.co.uk
    Available in a wide range of sizes, these pads are available in scented and unscented options, have a five-layer construction and a core that turns liquid into gel on contact.

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    Go Here Puppy Pads at amazon.co.uk
    These puppy pads have a liquid-to-gel core, odour control technology, and a built-in attractant to encourage your pup to hit the right spot.

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    Reusable Puppy Training Pads at amazon.co.uk
    These machine washable pads are available in a range of sizes. They can be use in a crate, on the sofa, in the car, on the floor or post-surgery.

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    Foldable Metal Playpen at amazon.co.uk
    Available in a wide range of sizes, this foldable playpen is a great option for sectioning off an area for puppy pad training.

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    How to puppy pad train

    The easiest way to get puppies to use a puppy pad is to start by covering the whole area that they are kept in with pads, and making this section smaller over time. Here’s how to puppy pad train step by step, starting with a good setup…

    1 Restrict your dog’s access inside the house by using a free-standing play pen or a sectioned off area of your home. If you allow the puppy to have free roam of the house and he’s not supervised, it’s easy for the him to slope off to a different room or place in the house and pee or poo, which results in house training mistakes, and he will return to those areas more and more.

    2 After 2–3 days, gradually start removing one pad at a time until you are left with only one by the door to the outside – this depends on the setup of your house. If your dog pees outside of the padded area, make it larger again – some dogs will take a little longer to pick it up.

    3 Once they start using the pads, you can put them around the house when your pup is having free time with you. Placing pads near doors is a good idea in case you’re not quick enough to realise they need to go out and toilet. Tip: look out for lots of sniffing about and circling, as this is a sign they’re about to go.

    4 Use a command, such as “toilet” or “go pee”, when you are outside with them or if you take them to a pad to pee or poo. If they oblige, give plenty of praise – and one of the best puppy training treats is always helpful to establish the connection quicker.

    Puppy on training pads

    One puppy pad won’t be enough to begin with – start with a larger area instead

    Puppy pad training tips

    • You can’t punish a dog at this age as they won’t understand – instead, pick them up and carry them to the pad or outside. Clean any soiled area with disinfectant and then white vinegar to get rid of the scent mark – or read our tips on how to get dog pee out of carpets here.
    • If you’re teaching them to use a pad in a specific area, leave a soiled one there – it sounds gross, but it helps your puppy know where to go.
    • Each time your puppy wakes up from a nap, has finished eating or playing with you, take them straight to the pad or outside.
    • Always use the same command.
    • While the puppy is young, stick to a feeding schedule as much as you can – this will help you learn whether they go straight after food or an hour or so later. All dogs are different. 
    • Don’t forget to praise your puppy when he does it in the right place.
    • You may find it useful to use a pee pad holder or a pee pan (like this one on Amazon), which is like a litter box but without litter, that put the pad in.

    Puppy Training Tray at amazon.co.uk
    This tray has a perforated grate that allows pee to flow down to the pads underneath, while the high sides prevent spatter.

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    Simple Solution Dog Stain & Odour Remover at amazon.co.uk
    Use this to eliminate and neutralise tough pet stains and odours, including urine, faeces, and vomit. It breaks down the odour-causing bacteria and prevents repeat marking, too.

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    How to stop puppy ripping up training pads

    Give the command “enough, thank you” and then redirect them to one of their favourite puppy toys or play a game with them. I keep doing this consistently until the dog has understood.

    All dogs love shredding paper and cardboard – it’s part of exploring and growing up. Give them an old cardboard box they can shred or a loo roll inner tube, but make sure you give them it and a yes command, so they start to learn that this is OK to shred and chew.

    My puppy pees next to the pad

    Expecting your puppy to know what to do and to know to pee on a pad is very a common mistake. If they are peeing next to the pad, it’s because they don’t understand. Put down more pads and then be vigilant in watching your dogs indicators for toileting – usually lots of sniffing about and circling. Put them on the pad and reward if you get the desired outcome. You may need to take them to a pad as often as every 45 minutes to begin with.

    My dog pees all over the house

    Restrict their access and make their area smaller. If you cannot supervise, then put the dog in a pen with puppy pads in it. Dogs do not rationalise like we do, so to them our home is one big kennel – and they can quite happily move away from their bed area to somewhere else, pee and poo and walk back again.

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