Skip to main content

4 wee-wee pad training mistakes to avoid with your puppy

One of the biggest challenges for first-time puppy parents is potty training. And while the best-case scenario is to have your dog learn to do his business outside, that’s not always possible. Young puppies need frequent pee breaks, and wee-wee pads offer a great option for senior pet parents, those who are physically challenged, or families living in high-rise apartments. Pee pads are also ideal when you want to avoid taking your puppy to public spaces to eliminate before he is fully vaccinated. Here are four mistakes to avoid when wee-wee pad training your puppy.

Not establishing a routine

To be successful at potty training, it’s crucial to stick to a routine. You’ll be teaching your newest family member that there’s a time to eat, a time to run and play, and a time to do his business. Here are some tips to help you stay on schedule:

  • Training experts at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)  say that feeding your pup at the same times each day will make it more likely that he’ll eliminate at consistent times as well, easing training for both of you.
  • Plan on taking your dog to the pee pad at least every two hours and immediately after he wakes up, during and after playing, and after eating or drinking. Your puppy won’t automatically know what the pee pad is for, so you’ll need to introduce him to the concept of using it. While your pup is relieving himself on the pad, say the command you plan to use to remind him why he’s there. “Go potty” or “be quick” are popular phrases.
  • As soon as your dog has finished doing his business, give lots of praise and a treat. You want him to associate eliminating on the pee pad with a positive response from you.
Dachshund puppy on leash.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Giving your puppy unsupervised freedom in the house

During potty training, you can’t let your pup roam around the house unsupervised. That gives him lots of opportunities to eliminate where he shouldn’t and prolongs the training process. Here are three options for restricting his movement:

  • Trainers recommend using a crate when housebreaking because most pups won’t soil where they sleep. Be sure to lead him to the pee pad as soon as you let him out of the crate. Puppies under 6 months of age shouldn’t be kept crated for more than three or four hours because they can’t control their bladders or bowels for that long, according to the HSUS.
  • If you prefer not to use a crate, you can confine your puppy to a small space in the home such as a mudroom or bathroom. It’s best to choose a room without a rug or carpet so puppies don’t get confused between using the rug and the pee pad.
  • It’s fine to allow your dog time with you in the house as long as you are always supervising him. Training experts recommend tethering your puppy to you or a nearby piece of furniture with a 6-foot leash so that he doesn’t wander off and eliminate around the house when you’re not watching.

Not learning to read your dog’s body language

To succeed at potty training, you have to learn to read your dog’s body language. Typical signals that he needs to do his business include:

  • Barking
  • Squatting
  • Restlessness
  • Whining
  • Sniffing the floor
  • Circling

Once you learn your pup’s signals, you can take him immediately to the pee pad and reward him for a job well done.

Getting angry when your puppy has an accident

Accidents are part of potty training. Chances are, your dog will have several soiling accidents around the house before he’s fully trained, say experts at PetMD. Your job as a responsible pet parent is not to overreact when it happens. Rubbing your puppy’s nose in the accident or taking him to the spot and scolding him is not only cruel, but it also ruins the bond between you and your dog. It will make your pup afraid of you and fearful of eliminating in your presence. Punishment will do more harm than good, according to HSUS experts. Here’s what to do instead:

  • If you catch your puppy in the act of eliminating, try to stop him by saying something like “Whoops!” or startle him with a sudden noise. The noise should only be loud enough to distract your dog and not to scare him. As soon as he pauses, take him immediately to the pee pad to finish eliminating and give him a treat.
  • If you do discover an accident around the house, just quietly clean it up. To avoid repeat accidents in that same spot, use a cleaning product specially formulated to remove odors such as Nature’s Miracle or Arm & Hammer.
Two girls playing with terrier pup.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How long it will take to potty-train your puppy depends on the individual dog and how consistent you are with your training. For some pups, it might take only a week or two before they are reliably using the pee pad. However, trainers say pet parents should continue following the frequent potty-break schedule and rewarding dogs for using the pads for at least six months. Your diligence and patience will be rewarded in the end, and you can relax as your buddy enjoys free run of the house.

Editors' Recommendations

Vera Lawlor
Contributor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
4 reasons why your dog might need a diaper (and which kind you should get)
When considering dog diapers, you need to think first about their purpose
Dog gets a green reusable diaper

Most dog owners luckily never need to reach for the diaper bag — we potty train our puppies and often enjoy the results for their whole lives. However, there are a few reasons why you might need to invest in dog diapers. Some of these are passing conditions, but as your pet ages, you may find that dog diapers become a part of your routine. It sounds a bit unpleasant, but with a little help, you can tackle it.
Why might my pet need them?
While most dogs will hopefully never have to wear any, they could wind up in doggie depends, temporarily or for life. Some pet parents use diapers when they know they won't be able to let their animal out to potty -- on a long plane ride for example. That's a good time for a one-off. Here are a few reasons you might need to stock your drawers with dog diapers.
They've gotten older
As pets age, sometimes incontinence sets in (and it could happen to you, too). This comes from the muscles of the bladder getting weaker and not performing as well, meaning a little bit of pee leaks through. It's much more common in female dogs, but can happen to any pooch.
She's in heat
Not totally unlike when a human has monthly bleeding, you might spot a bit of bloody discharge from a female dog in heat (fortunately, it doesn't happen as often, only a couple times per year). She also may urinate more frequently or even scent mark during this time.
He needs to be fixed
Before neutering, male dogs often mark, sometimes almost constantly, particularly if they can smell a female dog in heat nearby. If you're choosing not to neuter, you'll have to use a belly band a lot, though sometimes dogs can be trained out of this behavior with time and dedication.
They have a health condition
If your animal suddenly starts losing control of their wee, it's likely something simple, such as a urinary tract infection. Some long-term conditions like Cushing's disease, diabetes, and kidney problems could also be the issue. Work with your pet care team to ensure that a diaper won't interfere with topical medication or spread bacteria.

What kind of diaper should I get?
There are a few different kinds out there, depending on exactly what issue you're working on with your pet. Many male dogs, especially if they are really just scent marking, will require a

Read more
Why does my dog have the zoomies? Your pet’s crazy behavior, explained
The zoomies: Why dogs get them and if you should try to stop them
A white dog running

You’re just chilling in your home or backyard with your dog. Suddenly, they book it and start running around in circles. You would think they were trying out for the Kentucky Derby — that’s how fast they’re attempting to move — except they’re not a horse. The problem? You can’t figure out what’s going on or why they’re displaying this behavior. It can feel jolting and alarming for a first-time pet parent or one whose previous dogs never acted this way.

Your dog may have a case of the zoomies. The word sounds silly. However, it’s a real-deal dog behavior. Why do the dog zoomies happen? Should you be concerned? Here’s what to know about this often-seen, little-talked-about doggie phenomenon.
What are the zoomies, and what causes them?
Zoomies is a term used to describe a natural dog behavior that occurs when dogs get a sudden burst of energy. To get that energy out, the dogs dash around in circles (or figure eights) as if they’re doing laps around a racetrack. It’s like the Tasmanian Devil mixed with Allyson Felix.

Read more
Expert tips for taking your puppy on their first walk
Is it time for puppy's first walk? Prepare with this expert advice
A brown puppy wearing a neon orange harness looks up

Bringing home a new puppy can be one of the most exciting times in a person's life, but that doesn't mean you'll have picture-perfect moments every time. In fact, helping your four-legged bundle of joy reach their milestones can be downright frustrating at times! It happens to the best of us, but we're happy to tell you that some of those milestones -- like walking your puppy for the first time -- can be reached with a shortcut or two. And that's where Lorna Winter comes in.

Winter is a veteran dog trainer and the co-founder of Zigzag, which is a puppyhood training app that you can customize to help you and your dog succeed. Since she's such an expert when it comes to all of a puppy's "firsts," we asked her for her best advice when taking a puppy on their first walk. As you might have guessed, it's a lot more complicated than simply putting on a leash and going for a stroll!

Read more