How to potty train a puppy on pads

It’s exciting times when you have a new puppy, but not so exciting when they pee and poop everywhere. The house starts to smell, and carpet stains begin to make an appearance. I know this too well, and you’re not alone! I had a Jack Russell Terrier many years ago, and she would pee on […]
Dapple Dachshund Puppy
Dextor the pup ready for training

It’s exciting times when you have a new puppy, but not so exciting when they pee and poop everywhere. The house starts to smell, and carpet stains begin to make an appearance. I know this too well, and you’re not alone! I had a Jack Russell Terrier many years ago, and she would pee on the laminate flooring, and after a time, the pee caused the laminate flooring to buckle, and eventually, I had to replace it. I learnt the technique’s below, and I have gone on to successfully train my puppies and friends puppies to go potty on a pad with the same method. This guide will help you prepare and direct your Puppy to go on the puppy pad each time, and it’s relatively straightforward. The key to success is to be consistent and have a very watchful eye.

Whether you have a miniature or a toy Puppy and want to have them permanently using a pad, maybe you live in a flat or have communal gardens this is fine. You have a standard size Puppy, and eventually, you want them to go outside, or a mixture of the two, this will benefit you also. 

Having a watchful eye

The first bit of important advice I can give you is to watch them closely like a Hawk. The aim is that you need to catch them before they pee or poop. By having a constant eye on them, you can quickly pick them up and put them on a pad. Its that simple! Catch them before they commit the act. You can tell when a puppy needs to go potty.

Recognising your Puppy’s body language

Some of the telltale signs are they tend to get low to the ground and start to circle, and often head off to the corners of the room or sniff around and whin. The more you get to know your Puppy, the easier it will become for you to understand their body language and recognise that they need to go potty.

If toilet time can’t wait

However, sometimes this isn’t always possible to catch them before they show the signs, you could turn your back for two minutes, and they have started their business, this is impossible to avoid sometimes. Even if they are halfway through, don’t wait for them to finish. Carry them over to the pad asap and if they have done most it on the puppy pad, still praise!

Did you know puppies can go toilet every 15 minutes? If you miss it entirely and even if it’s just a little pee, it will put training back. That is why it’s so crucial to dedicate some time. Have you ever heard of the saying I have eyes in the back of my head? That is what you need to have!

When they have finished on the pad

When your Puppy has gone potty on the pad, regardless if you have popped them on it, or they managed to find it themselves—praise, praise and praise. Your Puppy loves praise. Puppies understand that praise from an early age is a good thing, and they would like to continue getting it, by being good. Obviously, after time you won’t need to keep praising them, but it doesn’t hurt to do so. Helps to avoid any relapses as well.

Be patient

At times I know it can be frustrating, especially if you missed the chance to pop them on the pad, or you have done the placing on the puppy pad over and over, and they still aren’t getting it. Trust me it will eventually sink in. Be patient and consistent. Puppies are all different; some take two weeks, and some take as long as two or four months. I would suggest when you leave the room take him or her with you or get someone else to take over the duty of watching your Puppy.

Don’t tell them off.

Telling them off only confuses your Puppy, they might think that going to the toilet is generally a bad thing and will only teach him or her not to go in front of you. It doesn’t work as well as praise. Puppies respond much better to being praised rather than aggression towards them. Some puppies for instance, like the Poodle, they are sensitive dogs and telling the likes of a poodle off can be quite damaging to them.

Consistent Language

Pick and choose the words you want to say in different scenarios, make sure everyone in your household or any visitors knows the language, and this will help no end. Your Puppy will be in a much better position to pick up the training more comfortable. Please keep it simple! some suggestions below

Suggested Languages to use

  • Good Boy
  • Good Girl
  • Well Done
  • Clever Boy
  • Clever Girl
  • On your pad – You can say this when you’re in the process of poping them on the pad.

When you get confident, and you start to notice that they are looking around heading to the corners, you can say “On your pad”. They will begin to make their way to the puppy pad; some may need help along the way to get their quicker. However This is the all-time success! and you should not only praise your Puppy but praise you as well.

Important reminders

  • You must train yourself to watch them like a hawk, and it’s key to successful potty training, be proactive.
  • Understand your puppies body language and learn when they are about to go toilet.
  • Never tell them off, if you have missed the moment still pick them up and pop them on the pad, don’t show affection or aggressive, stay emotionless. Clear up the mess and next time make sure you catch your Puppy before the act.

Going potty outside

a Puppy pooping outside
Puppy pooping outside

If you want your dog to go potty outside, maybe permanently or a mixture of both, all you need to do is slowly move the puppy pad after they are familiar with going on it towards the backdoor and then into the garden. When the puppy pad is finally out the door, you can cut it in half then a quarter the following day. Pick a day that’s not raining to start the training. Don’t forget to praise, you can use a treat, or just your voice can often be enough.

Bladder control

Your Puppy can’t control their bladder till they are 16 weeks of age, so making sure a pad is always available for them is a must.

A puppy can hold its bladder roughly 1 hr to each month old. See chart below

Puppy Age/time

  • 3 Months old = 3 Hours
  • 4 Months old = 4 Hours
  • 5 Months old = 5 Hours
  • 6 Months old = 6 Hours
  • 7 Months old = 7 Hours

Additional times to place a Puppy on a pad

  • First thing in the morning
  • After each meal
  • Before you go bed
  • If they haven’t been to the toilet for over an hr

What about during the night time?

During the night you have a few options, the first option is to put your Puppy in a crate, the good thing about a crate is that puppies and dogs generally don’t pee or poop where they sleep. Altho, depending on their age, they will more than likely going to need to go potty. So set your alarm clock nice and early to let them out to go potty is a good idea. You can always go back to bed after. Or you could opt for a playpen; playpens are generally bigger. If your a person that sleeps in the bed with their Puppy, taking up a puppy pad with you might help, however, it will be harder to keep an eye on them whilst your sleeping or having full control over them, and you may want to wait until they are fully toilet trained first.

Plummer Terrier puppy in a playpen
Plummer Terrier puppy called Max in a playpen

But what about when I’m out of the house?

During the initial stages of potty training, it’s best not to leave your puppy alone for too long until you have fully trained them. The options you have is similar to when you go to bed. Use a crate or use a playpen with a puppy pad inside. 

How to clean after your Puppy

  • Before you start cleaning, make sure you put some gloves on, there are many harmful bacterias to humans found in animal poo and pee.
  • Soak up any pee with paper towels, and scoop any poo up in a poop bag like you would do when your outside.
  • Use a bio-based pet odour neutraliser spray, and this will then stop your Puppy thinking he or she can go back to the same area.
  • Don’t use any products that contain bleach, as these cause your Puppy to go back to that same area.
  • Once you’ve fully neutralised the odour, you can get to work with the disinfectant.


Training your Puppy to go potty can be frustrating at times. Still, with the above, I am confident you will be able to achieve your goal so you and your Puppy can get on enjoying your time together and creating many happy memories. Just remember to be patient and watch them like a hawk is vital. Be proactive and never tell them off.

About the Author

Teresa loves animals and travelling around the UK! She currently has two dogs and two cats. She loves caring for and sharing her knowledge of pets. She is a qualified dog groomer and currently studying canine behaviour. She has been part of the Dog Friendly Team since 2016.

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