Where would you like your dog to do their business? If you are pad-training your puppy, place a pad in their long-term confinement area and and another by the front door (or balcony door if you’re transitioning out there eventually). When it’s “time”, place your puppy in that spot and give your cue in a calm, gentle voice. Be patient. Sniffing and circling are normal – let them do it!
Some ideas for cues are “hurry up”, “be quick”, “go pee/go poo”, etc.
If your puppy does their business in that area, wait until they are completely finished, and follow the directions in Step 3: Rewards.
Now, keep in mind that many people pad-train their puppy for a few reasons:
- your puppy is very young and hasn’t had all their shots
- your puppy is tiny and it’s cold outside
- you live on the 37th floor of a building
- you want your dog to relieve themselves in an appropriate place indoors when they’re older because of crummy weather, illness (theirs or yours) or a longer than usual absence.
Let me address each point separately here, for clarity:
- Puppies 8 weeks and older should absolutely be getting outside for regular walks multiple times a day for socialisation purposes. Whoever said to keep your puppy indoors until they’ve had all their shots is sadly mistaken. Please do NOT do this!! Read this and this. I repeat: DO NOT KEEP YOUR DOG INDOORS UNTIL THEY HAVE HAD ALL THEIR SHOTS. Simply avoid heavily soiled areas and dog parks.
- Understandable. Invest in warm puppy clothing and get them out for short periods and continue to pad-train AND reinforce outdoor pottying. DO NOT KEEP THEM INDOORS UNTIL SPRINGTIME.
- Understandable. Get them out at least 3 times daily and continue to pad-train AND reinforce outdoor pottying. DO NOT KEEP THEM INDOORS INDEFINITELY.
- Very understandable, however, if a dog really has to go, they’ll go. Ideally the “longer than usual” absences can be remedied with a dog walker!
If your puppy starts to do their business in the same undesired location but you have not placed a pad there, place one there now to catch “accidents” and over time you can gradually move it closer to another pad where you prefer they go, or eliminate it all together when your dog is trained. Do not reward your dog on that specific pad and if you see them going for it, gently redirect them to a more desired location.
Should your dog do their business on a walk, react the same way as you would if they were doing it on the pad.
What if my puppy has an accident?
Roll up a newspaper, and smack yourself on the head, promising not to let it happen again!
But seriously, think about the word “accident”. Defined as “an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.” How can this be punished in a just-born creature? It cannot be punished and it must not be. If we punish our dog for doing their business in a place we don’t want them doing it, the dog does not understand that it’s the geographical location that is the problem; they become increasingly anxious about doing their business in front of you and over time they might even stop doing it in your presence (like on a walk or in the yard). Instead, they hide various places in the home to do it, or they even eat their own stool as a way to hide it from you and avoid the punishment.
If your puppy has an accident while you are watching, say “uh oh!!” in an urgent tone, pick them up (they will stop going temporarily) and get them to the pee pad, fast. Once you put them down, they will finish and you can reward that part heavily.
If your puppy has an accident and you find it after the fact, don’t even make a peep. Simply clean it up with a pet enzyme cleaner (do not use regular household cleaners!) and promise to watch more closely next time.
Consider the fact that dogs don’t often differentiate between a pee pad and a comfy couch or duvet cover. Tight management is required before you can trust your dog to go to the appropriate location 100% of the time.