Help! My puppy won’t use the pee pads!

In January, Petfinder held a live Q&A on Facebook with pet trainers Andrea Arden and Mychelle Blake. Over the coming weeks we'll be posting some of our favorite questions and answers here on the blog. Have a pet question? Check back regularly for news about our next live Q&A!


Q: I have a 13-week-old toy Poodle. At first, she used her pee pee pad, but now she is going on my rugs in the kitchen and in the bathroom.

I washed them, told her "no" and put her on the pad, but she has continued not to use the pad for a week. So my question is how to train my puppy to use a pee pee pad? -- Ashley

A: At 13 weeks, your pup hasn't had much time to develop a reliable habit of eliminating in the right spot (i.e. of your choosing).

One of the most common mistakes pet parents make is assuming that once they see a behavior happening, it means it is set in stone. Just like building physical muscles, learning muscles take time and lots of repetitions to grow strong.

I would suggest the following:

  • Give your puppy a pee pad-covered area when you're not around. When you can't watch your pup, confine her to a bathroom or exercise pen with all or almost all of the floor covered in pads. This way you are setting her up to succeed by making the intended target large.
  • Slowly remove one pee pad at a time. Over the course of a few weeks, gradually taper down the area covered. But if at any point she misses the pads, add another one or two to make the area larger again.
  • Watch closely when your puppy's in the rest of the house. Only allow her access to the rest of the home when you have just seen (and rewarded) her for going in the right spot. This way you know she is empty and not likely to eliminate.
  • Have her on leash to give you better supervision. When she's out of the confined areas, have her on a leash as an added safety precaution so she can't wander about and make hard-to-detect piddles in hidden spots. On-leash supervision also serves to protect her from danger, such as chewing an electrical cord.
  • Use crate training to teach bladder control. Teach her to rest calmly in her crate for short periods of time (starting with mealtimes) and gradually increasing to no more than four hours or so. This way she is building bladder and bowel muscle control and you can predict elimination when you take her out of the crate. 
  • Schedule access to food and water. Lastly, have her on a food and watering schedule. If you plan five-minute watering times throughout the day, you can better predict when she will need to go and make sure she is in the right spot.

Andrea Arden, CPDT
Andrea Arden Dog Training
New York, NY


Tell us: What pet-training question would you like to see on our blog?