8 Dog Potty Pad Training Mistakes to Avoid
The directions on your puppy or dog’s pee pads are simple and effective, yet some dogs require a little more attention to training on a pad. Here are the eight most common training mistakes to avoid when using or training with a dog pee pad:
1. Not using a “potty” phrase
Whether it’s “Hurry up,” or “Go potty,” or “Do your business,” dogs become housebroken more quickly when you associate a phrase with the potty process. And, as they get older, most dogs will actually “go” on command if you’ve taught them a phrase as a puppy. Think about that next time you’re dreading walking your dog at midnight in the rain or freezing temps. Being able to step outside and say, “Get busy,” (or whatever your designated phrase is) and have them immediately comply, is a dream come true for any dog owner. So use a consistent phrase and repeat it each time you take your dog out or place them on a pad.
2. Not introducing your dog to the potty pad
Yes, some dog pee pads, such as WizSmart, have an attractant that only your dog can smell, but they still need to be introduced to the pad in the beginning. It will take a few times for them to get familiar with the pad, so be patient and praise them when they get it right. To introduce your pup to the pad, put them on a leash so they don’t wander, and then lead them to the pad. Use your “go potty” phrase and keep them there until they use it. Make sure you take them to the pad immediately after eating, every 10-20 minutes after playing hard, and when they first wake up, and before they go into their crate at night.
3. Not paying attention to your puppy’s “gotta go” body language
Whether it’s a new human baby or a new puppy, all new parents have to learn their baby’s body language, cries, or how they communicate their needs. Puppy parents are no different. If you want to learn to potty train your puppy quickly, learn what cues they give off when they have to go. That’s your cue to put down a potty training pad or lead them to where the pad is.
4. Not tethering your puppy when they’re out of their crate
It might sound strange to have your puppy on a six-foot leash when they’re inside and out of their crate, but it’s not. Puppies are masters at slipping away and “having accidents.” By keeping your puppy on a leash when they’re inside, but out of their crate they learn:
- To bond with you!
- That they can’t just run away to explore or pee or poop at will
- That you’re the alpha dog in their pack and that what you say goes!
- It teaches you your dog’s “I gotta go mom/dad” signs and behaviors
- It forces you to focus on your dog, or put them back into the crate, reducing stress on you both
5. Not giving your dog enough potty breaks
Estimate your pup’s hold time by converting her age in months into hours she can hold her pee. For a sleeping puppy in a crate, that means that a 3-month old puppy can probably hold it for about three hours maximum. That rule doesn’t apply when your puppy is playing. Depending on your puppy’s age, an active puppy might have to go out as frequently as every 20 minutes. If you’re going to play with your dog for any length of time, try to play outside as much as possible. That way if they need to stop every 15-20 minutes to relieve themselves, they can. Remember to take your dog outside or put them on a pad immediately after eating or drinking.
6. Slacking off on training when your dog seems to be house trained
We get it. No one wants to keep buying puppy pee pads once they’re sure their dog is house-trained. If you’ve had a good week and your dog has gone outside, on schedule, with no mistakes or inside accidents and you’re down to your last box of pee pads, the tendency is to assume you don’t need another box of pads. Here’s the thing. It takes several months, not just weeks, for your dog to truly “get it” when it comes to house training. Things like weather, not feeling well, excitement (holidays, new people in the house) and just having an off day can mean your dog can relapse into puppyhood and have an accident indoors. Keep using pads until your dog hasn’t had an accident in several months. Then, keep a box around for times when they’re not feeling well, or are recuperating from surgery or illness.
7. Not praising your puppy’s efforts
Dogs are like people. They like to be noticed and praised for their efforts—including any time they’re learning a new skill. For puppies, this means going potty. Every time your puppy does what you want them to, like hitting the center of the potty pad, or holding it until they get outside, praise them and give them a small treat. This tells them that each time they comply, they’re rewarded with a snack and praise.
8. Punishing your dog for having accidents
Dogs, especially puppies, are not people and they don’t understand exactly what you want them to do. They may soil a puppy pad at the edge rather than relieve themselves. They may wander off and soil your carpet or wood flooring. They may go inside their crate. Don’t punish them. They have no idea what they’ve done wrong and will work extra hard not to get caught again. Spanking or hitting your pup, rubbing their nose in the mess, scolding or physically intimidating her will confuse and scare your dog. It might also make her afraid to eliminate near you when outside, especially on a leash!