Are Puppy Potty Pads A Good Idea?

Puppy potty pads – good or bad? When to use them?

I am not a fan of puppy pads or fake grass for dogs. At all.

This post is about some potential problems with puppy pads and some possible alternatives.

I realize tons of dog owners do use puppy pads already. The final part of this post includes examples of why people use them, regardless of what I think. We can’t all be the same, for crying out loud.

Problems with puppy potty pads and why puppy pads are a bad idea

Are puppy potty pads a good idea?

1. Puppy pads create housebreaking problems.
Puppy pads can create a few problems.

The goal of potty training a puppy is to get the puppy to go potty outside. Some people make the mistake of using puppy potty pads temporarily, as part of the “potty training.” Their goal is to transition the puppy from going potty indoors on the pads to going potty outside. This is similar to putting down newspapers for the puppy to pee on. While this can work, it creates an unnecessary step and potential confusion for the puppy. Why not just train the puppy to go potty outside right from the start?

2. Dogs don’t always pee right on the pads.

One of the problems with puppy potty pads is that sometimes the puppies miss the pads. Sometimes they go potty next to the pad. Sometimes some of the pee makes it onto the pad and some doesn’t. Some puppies eventually start lifting their legs, and therefore missing the pad. Some puppies eventually do the “squat and walk” while they pee as a form of marking (mostly females). Some dogs will walk as they poop (right, Ace?). Some dogs will kick their back legs after eliminating. Some dogs will begin to pee on rugs, pillows towels or anything that resembles the pee pad.

If your dog doesn’t do these things, then you’re in luck!

3. You have to train the dog to use the pee pads.

Some dog owners think their dogs will automatically know how to use the potty pads or dog grass pads. This is not true. You have to train the puppy to go potty on the pad, just as you would train the puppy to go potty outside.

4. Potty pads encourage the dog owner to be gone for too long.

I know how tempting it would be to stay out later or to work longer if I knew I didn’t have to come home to let my dog out. Ace stays home for a maximum of about six hours during the day (usually just 1 or 2, he’s spoiled). With the pee pads, I’m sure some owners stay away for 10+ hours when they wouldn’t have to. While I think people who work long hours can still provide good homes for dogs, I think the pee pads make it too easy to stay away. Do you agree?

5. Dog pee pads make it too easy to skip walking the dog.

Are puppy pee pads a bad idea?

While certain products or services are very convenient, they do tend to make us lazy. As an example, sometimes I use a Gentle Leader collar to walk my dog. This makes walking him much easier, which makes me less likely to work on his loose-leash walking skills. I can “check out” a bit, which is nice. Does this make me lazy at times? You bet it does! So, while I can see how these potty pads are convenient, I do know that most people are going to be less likely to get out and walk their dogs if they regularly use these products. Not every dog owner, but quite a few. That’s human nature.

What are some alternatives to puppy potty pads?

  • Using a kennel to potty train your dog
  • Keeping your dog on a regular feeding and walking schedule
  • Coming home during your lunchbreak to let you dog out
  • Hiring a dog walker (a professional or a trusted friend)
  • Taking the dog to daycare
  • Installing a doggy door to the yard
  • Installing an indoor/outdoor kennel to the garage

When to use puppy pee pads or fake grass pee pads

I do not recommend puppy potty pads, but some dog owners insist on using them. Here are some examples of when you might consider puppy potty pads.

Puppy Potty Pee Pads1. When potty training a puppy in a multi-level apartment.

If you have an eight-week-old puppy and you live on the 12th floor of an apartment, I can understand why potty training would be difficult. The puppy pads could help, but the goal should be to wean the puppy off those pads as soon as possible.

2. When you work long hours and can’t afford a dog walker.

Some dog owners work 14-hour shifts, and the puppy pee pads might be the best option. Hiring a dog walker is out of the question for some people due to cost or the dog’s aggression or whatever it might be. Dog daycare is also expensive and sometimes breed selective.

3. When your senior dog or sick dog is having trouble holding it.

I fostered an elderly, 80-pound Lab named Dora who had to be carried down the stairs. This was awkward for me and painful for her. She would try to avoid being lifted and would yelp in pain.

Luckily, I live on a ground floor and there are no stairs to get in or out. But what would I have done if I’d lived on a second floor apartment? I probably would’ve found her a different foster home, but I can’t expect dog owners to give up their elderly dogs for this reason. It’s also not possible for every one of them to move to a different unit because of their dogs. So what is best? Probably some sort of set up with the dog pee pads or indoor grass.

The reverse could also be true. Perhaps the human is the one who is sick or injured and just can’t take the dog out as often as needed. Indoor potty pads might be the best option.

4. When it’s too dangerous to walk your dog after dark.

This is a reality for some people. They just can’t be outside safely after dark. If that is the case, then pee pads or indoor grass for dogs to pee on might be the best option.

Puppy potty pads - good or bad?

Now I want to hear from you. What are your thoughts on puppy potty pads or fake indoor grass for dogs?

Good? Bad? Love’m? Hate’m? They’re here to stay, I think.

31 thoughts on “Are Puppy Potty Pads A Good Idea?”

  1. I used to think like this, but after going to Ian Dunbar’s seminars in early 2012, I kinda adopted his approach… Which is: Most people are stupid and so having a puppy pen with a toilet area makes for less mistakes. However, Dunbar wants people to use for their inside toilet the same substrate as their outside toilet, so the puppies get a substrate preference.

    I use the ‘get puppies to toilet outside ASAP’ approach, but I often recommend the puppy pen method for some puppy buyers who I think may be too lazy/too distractible to properly supervise a puppy inside… Especially young families.

    I agree with all your points, really, I just think that most pet people have trouble exercising this method well, and so an inside legal toilet is a help for them.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I think you make some good points. Interesting to hear your take since obviously you have a ton of experience with puppies and a variety of puppy owners.

    2. I agree. There may be some circumstances where a legal “inside” potty area is helpful. This is especially true if you have a tiny dog. I have a 3 pound Pomeranian. It is hard for him to “hold it” sometimes. However, like the author, I am a strong believer in early outdoor potty training. It sends the message to the dog right off the bat that outdoor is the BEST option. We started outdoor training our Pom baby immediately at 7 weeks of age when we brought him home. Thus, outdoors is what he prefers even on wet grass! However, he is also trained to go to a legal indoor grass area when we can’t get home. We use a litter box with artificial grass pads (instead of litter) that we bought at the hardware store, and we place it at one end of his large confinement area (opposite end of his bed). We spray the turf grass with attractant and it works like a charm. Some people use sod or hydroponically grown grass as an alternative. We don’t use the blue/white potty pads anymore. Our puppy thinks they are a joke. He destroys them.

      1. Sometimes dogs have to be flexible. For example, service dogs may have to be trained to be trained to go outdoors as well as designated indoor areas in some situations. However, I still agree with the author that outdoor training is the priority.

  2. I can see how the puppy pads are handy if you have a small dog and live in an apartment building. I don’t really see how they’re much different from using newspapers, so you could use them just as easily – if you’re one of the few who still gets a newspaper that is.

  3. Elizabeth Kleweno

    We have a bunch of left over potty pads that I used as a couch and dog bed protector after Belle’s stomach surgery. Mainly used to help with any leaking at the surgery sight and when I brought her home she had a couple cases of uncontrolable diariha. Poor Girl. But I agree, they shouldn’t be a cop out. I know a 13 year old miniture poodle who has a doggy door and goes outside when it’s 20 below in Alaska. I also know some people who use them in the winter only so their dogs don’t have to go out. Laziness is not the answer.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Poor Belle 🙁

      Yes, I’ve heard people use the “it’s too cold” excuse. Just an excuse if you ask me.

  4. I am absolutely not a fan of puppy pads…I think they’re a lazy person’s answer to the not-very-difficult chore of training your dog to go outside…I can maybe see them being used in the extreme circumstances you mention, but overall i think they’re wrong

  5. My boyfriend and I were very green when we brought home Sydney and Rodrigo. I had the feeding and crate training down. He taught them “shake” and handled the potty training.

    We had a huge, Costco sized package of potty pads that we ended up giving away, because he put 2 by a door and taught the dogs to go to that potty pad. When we noticed them going to the door, we took them outside. We also did the potty breaks after naps, play, eating, etc – but my boyfriend’s idea was purely genius and it worked.

    Rodrigo was trained in no time and people were stunned – we were told boys were harder. In our experience, our girl was harder; she just wasn’t convinced that she needed to go outside – she would go to the door, but if you didn’t let her right out, she’d pee right there. She got it thought and we haven’t had an accident in our house since Blue was a puppy.

    Long story short, I don’t think potty pads are a great idea either. Great article. Thanks for breaking it down so well for dog parents.

  6. I got puppy pads when I first got Chip and I used them once and exactly as you described it above I thought, why train her to pee on the pad when I can just train her to pee outside! I just watched Chip very carefully when she was a pup and as soon as she started showing signs she needed to pee, she got thrown outside! Now she is fantastic! She has only pee’d on the floor once or twice since the day I got her (she is two now). I think im just blessed. Chip is a very smart dog and when she wants to play, she will bring her toy over and nudge at my hand. But when she wants to go out, she goes to jump like she is going to jump on my lap but doesnt (so basically just pushes her two front paws off me) and I know this means she wants to go out! I dont know where she learned that but it makes it very easy for me and my boyfriend to know if she wants to play or actually wants to go out. It works for us anyway! 🙂

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      When I was growing up we would put newspapers down for our puppies, but now the thought just doesn’t make any sense. Why bother with that step?

  7. I considered puppy pads once when I first got Maya. I’ve never had trouble potty training a dog until I got Maya. Since my usual methods of training weren’t working, I thought I would give puppy pads a try. They didn’t work either. The only thing that has worked is letting her outside regularly.

  8. Good alternatives listed, however, I have found that even after installing a doggy door my dog will sometimes potty in the house. Before I got my second dog the first one would use the doggy door only if I were downstairs with him. If it was night time he would go downstairs and potty in the hall instead of going the extra few feet to use the door. I thought it was because he was in the dark so I put a nightlight up so he could see down the hall and the doggy door. Still wouldn’t use the door unless I was down there with him. Then I got my other dog (female). She learned to use the door within a day of arriving at my house and was pretty good about pottying outside. Now I can’t seem to get her to go out side to potty. She’ll go outside when my other dog is out there and watch him or bark at the neighbors dogs, but won’t do her business. We is constantly peeing and pooping in the house and now even the other dog has started doing it (backtracked in training). Any tips or helpful hints would be great!

  9. My problem is this,my two miniature pinscher/chihauhau pups are pretty good, the female never misses the pad(we use a crate with a toilet area),it is too cold for these little pups outside in winter,they shake and shiver and won’t go out,and if hey have to go,I have to put the sweaters on,harnesses,but that time…to late,so too cold is not just an excuse,i do believe in teaching your dog to go outside,but this is a problem for my pups,What do you suggest?

    1. Personally, I’d still take them outside. I lived in one of the coldest areas and little Chihuahuas and min pins still went potty outside.

      But if the pads are working for your dogs, and you don’t see it as a problem, then by all means keep using them. If you need an indoor bathroom for them, the pads are an easy and affordable solution. I’d maybe make a point to keep rewarding them for when they go right on the pads. It seems pretty common for the dogs to start peeing off the pads so maybe you can stay on top of if and prevent that from happening.

  10. I have a 7 week old dachshund and it’s 20-0 degrees outside, 5 plus inches of snow and snowing almost every day where I live. I’m using the potty pads simply because I don’t want to risk getting my puppy sick because I didn’t want to be proceeded as ‘lazy’. I want to take him outside and the couple times I’ve taken him outside he’s pottied fast ‘unlike inside where he just lays on the pad then potties on the carpet. Help me out. How should I keep my puppy from getting sick but teach him to go outside?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      When I lived in Fargo, N.D., my neighbors actually got an 8 week old dachshund puppy in January. It was so cold, but they shoveled an area for her and they actually ended up putting a pee pad on the ground for her outside. She stood on it and peed on that. They never used the pads inside – only outside.

      This really seemed to work for them. They took her out often, like every hour, and gave her treats. She learned to go potty real quick, get her treat and rush inside.

      That may work for you. Something to consider I guess.

  11. I recently adopted a 2yr old cavalier spaniel and he doesn’t pee when the grass is wet. I use pee pads indoors during wet days and it eventually works, but problem is he only pees on the pad but never poop on it. Either he holds the poop till he’s happy with the grass outside, or he makes a mistake in the house. Can you give a tip on overcoming this?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh gosh. What is his normal routine when the grass is dry? Do you have a yard you just let him out into? Or do you walk him on a leash for potty breaks? When the grass is wet, you could try walking him on a leash a bit longer/further. This might not help, but I’m thinking if he has more time he might decide to go after all. Or, if you’re out on a walk, he might find a spot that he thinks is “good enough.” Worth a shot.

      My dog is slightly the same way. He will not step on the woodchips that he normally pees on if it’s rained. Thankfully, he will still go on the grass. So maybe you can find a difference surface outside? Dirt? Sand? Shorter grass?

  12. The grass at my apartment complex doesn’t get enough water, and the few times I’ve taken my pup outside to relieve herself or take walks, she’s gotten multiple stickers/burrs in each paw after only a few steps. Is this a common thing? Whats the best solution? I take her to a park nearby to play but that’s out of the question for every potty break.

  13. I was neutral about this issue until I adopted a sweet little Havanese rescue from a puppy mill down south. Her foster mother worked long hrs. & used the pads which I can understand,however it’s a yr later & she still has no problem pooping on the rug,although rare now. Never goes on the bare floor. We take her out at least 6x day,rain snow sleet shine. We’re not going to Give up but I think going from being a breeder kennel dog to using wee wee pads didn’t help. She’s great in the am,goes straight to the door,the rest of the day it’s a crap shoot (pun intended). Very frustrating!

  14. Pamela Robinson

    I have a mini Doxie and live alone out in the country. Coyotes are not uncommon. I also live in the Pacific Northwest where rain is the norm. Doxie’s avoid the rain like the plaque and in the past I’ve had them hide to potty indoors rather than face the elements. This time with my third little girl I choose to pad train her rather than force her out, stand outside trying to protect her from wildlife, and keep myself safe. It’s worked quite well…

  15. I have a big problem with a puppy I got several weeks ago and who was trained (!) to do his business on these pads. I had dogs my entire life and all (!) of them were house trained after a max of 3 weeks. This one though refuses to go outside and prefers to pee on the carpet or in the dogbed. Whatever reminds him of the cloth pad he knows from the breeder. I really have to say that this a catastrophe! All my other puppies I got in the last 35 years basically refused to do their business inside – this one comes back inside after a walk of 30 minutes and pees right again on the carpet. So I put him into a crate with a towel – and again… After only 2 hours (he is 14 weeks old) the towels are wet. He is healthy, has no bladder infection, he was just trained the wrong way. And it is really starting to go on my nerves. And I do NOT think that all the other dogs I own or owned were “highly intelligent”. They just got trained right from the beginning. How can a puppy seperate a pad from a carpet? He thinks my carpet is a “big pad” and this is a problem. Same with the dog bed. Never in my entire life have I had a puppy or an adult dog who was peeing at the place him or her was sleeping. NEVER EVER USE THESE PADS!

  16. My pup had to start life using pee pads. Things are ok now and she has the ok to go outside. I will walk her and sometimes she will go outside. But most of the time she waits and goes on her pad as soon as we come in. Would love for her to go outside. Suggestion will be appreciated.

  17. Pads are good for old dogs and sick dogs. The first year if you can not give your dog lots of your time (training etc),maybe you should hold off on getting a dog. Every person I know that uses pads are lazy.I wont tell them that but they are.I aint saying everybody that uses pads are lazy just the lazy people I know that use pads. My brother-in-law has a 1-1/2 year old dog that still is not potty trained. He takes the dog to peoples homes and brings pads with him. No I am not a big fan of the pads. Padsjust make training take longer by adding an extra step. Puppy pads are great for a bunch of other ways to use them.Painting, working on your car, bottom of the rat cage, ETC.

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