Pad-training a young puppy is all about consistency and will require nonstop, around-the-clock daily work for a while, so if you want to see results in a timely manner, you really need to commit to this. To summarize, puppies go to the bathroom after pretty much everything they do and you need to be ready for every single one of those potential training windows. First, decide on your training phrases – you’ll need one that you want to use throughout your dog’s life when you want them to go to the bathroom, another one to praise them for going to the bathroom, and one to scold them for going to the bathroom in the wrong place.
Phase 1 – Teaching Them What to Do:
Put a few potty pads out in your bathroom or another small space where you can close the door. I’ll say it again: puppies go to the bathroom after pretty much everything they do. As soon as your puppy wakes up in the morning, take her into the bathroom, close the doors, put her on the potty pad, and sit on the floor with her, repeating your training phrase until she goes to the bathroom. You might be in there for 10-20 minutes every session before your dog goes to the bathroom, but this is great bonding time for both of you! Every time your puppy goes potty correctly, with all 4 paws on a pad, you give extreme praise by showering your dog with positivity, like clapping, kissing, squealing, and lots of pets. Whenever she attempts to go correctly, with 2 front paws on a pad, but still misses the pad, verbally praise her for going potty, but don’t get too excited about it. If she misses the pads entirely, it’s important that you simply do nothing. Don’t praise her, but don’t scold her either. Just clean up after her and get ready to try again next time. Do not scold her for peeing in the bathroom, even if it’s not on the pad, but if you happen to catch the puppy while she is currently peeing somewhere else in the house, you can verbally scold her.
Basically, you’ll need to repeat all of the steps listed in the paragraph above several times throughout the day. Close the doors and sit in the bathroom with your puppy until he or she goes pee, about 0-5 minutes after each of the following events:
- When the puppy first wakes up, in the morning and after every nap
- After the puppy’s first meal of the day
- After each play and/or snuggle session
- Before bed time
- Every time the puppy wakes during the night
Stay consistent with this routine and your puppy will eventually catch onto the idea that they’re supposed to pee on the potty pad! I can’t tell you a timeline for this or anything because it depends on both the trainer and the dog being trained.
Phase 2 – Teaching Them Where to Go:
At some point, once your puppy has more or less mastered the idea that they’re supposed to pee with all 4 paws on the potty pad, you can start leaving the doors to the bathroom open. You should be able to lessen the amount pads on the floor as well of time you sit with them in the bathroom, transitioning to just bringing them to the bathroom, giving the command, and having them go pee, versus having to wait until they go on their own. Continue to be consistent with your training phrases and over-the-top praise whenever the dog pees 100% on the potty pad.
As your dog starts to get better at this whole process, your puppy should able to use just one potty pad instead of several of them all over the bathroom floor. At this point, you should leave that pad in the same place that you started training, so that your pet is now walking into the bathroom on their own to use the potty correctly. Once you both get comfortable with your dog knowing when, where, and how to use a potty pad, you should stay in that comfort zone for several weeks at a minimum without moving the pad from the place where you first starting training.
Phase 3 – Moving the Pad:
After several weeks of your dog correctly urinating on the potty pad in the bathroom where you originally started training, you can begin to relocate the pad if you need to. Depending on the size of your house and/or the size of the area your puppy has access to, you’ll probably need a pad in each main room or area. When moving your dog’s potty pad, baby steps are key. Imagine a line from the training bathroom to the place you want the potty area to be. Then, every other day, you move the pad a foot or two closer, along that imaginary line. If your dog keeps using the pad with accuracy as it moves, keep moving it. If your dog misses the pad (often by going where it used to be), don’t move it again until they get it right. Use praise to encourage your dog to use the pad as expected until you’ve moved it to the final spot.
When we first pad-trained Penny, we lived in a small-ish apartment, so we just left the pad in the bathroom we used for training. Once we moved to our first rental house, I experimented with several pad locations before settling on the best spot. At our current house, Penny only has one potty pad in the hallway by our bathroom because she knows that’s her designated pee area. If I forget to put a new pad down, there’s a high chance she will pee on the floor in the place where the pad should’ve been. It is probably worth noting that Penny still has the occasional pee accidents around the house, but it’s almost always on the same rug, which leads me to believe that there’s some scent in that specific rug that’s causing her to mark…
Phase 4 – Using the Pad in Public:
Once you feel like your dog has mastered peeing on the potty pads in the comfort of their own home, you can start bringing them with you and giving them the option to use it. When we’re out and about, Penny prefers to go potty in grassy spaces outside, but if we’re at someone’s house or in an airport, it’s so helpful to be able to whip out a pad and have her pee on it!