“To potty pad or not to potty pad?” That is the question.

To continue our blogs on potty training, here are a few thoughts on potty pads.

(from the desk of Wendi, your friendly client coordinator!)

At first, the idea of using potty pads seems like a great idea.
Don’t do it.

When a puppy has to go every 10 to 20 minutes while they are awake and playing it is difficult to get them out as often as they need to go! Potty pads seem like a great option!
Don’t do it.

It sounds great in theory because training dogs to potty pads is relatively easy.
Most are infused with scents to encourage elimination, and some of the scents can even be purchased in a spray bottle so you can freshen the potty pad elimination scent with each fresh pad you set out.
Don’t do it.

Pads can be easily set in great locations so instead of having your pup have an accident on the couch or an expensive rug they can go on the pad!
Don’t do it.

OK, with all these great reasons, you are asking, WHY NOT?”

First, it will teach your dog that eliminating in the house on something soft is OK. This will send confusing messages to your dog during training.
This, in turn, prolongs potty training due to many issues:
First you’d have to train them to the pad,
then you’d have to train them to go potty outside,
then you must teach them to stop going indoors on the potty pad and to only eliminate outside.

It is much easier for the dog to simply learn to go outside from start,
and going outside from the start cuts training time almost in half.  See our previous blog posts on potty training to help with successful puppy and new adult potty training.

Another potential problem associated with a few dogs who learn to go on potty pads is that they will spontaneously get the urge to void on soft textures throughout their lives.
Potty pads do not feel like your floor, they are soft, like a throw rug, towel, or sheet. For some dogs, their training takes much longer if they learn texture voiding, as they are programmed to think that soft spots are the spots to go. This behavior can manifest in dogs not potty pad trained, however the incidence of soft texture preference is slightly higher in dogs who were trained to go on soft items like potty pads and even newspapers.
For all the great reasons potty pads give us to use them, we do not recommend using them as a training aid for housebreaking. There are uses for wee wee pads, and we’ll be covering them in another blog.

There may be times where dogs MUST be trained to use potty pad like systems, but I still don’t recommend the pads.
For example, some healthy dogs who love walks and who have no health issues that would prevent them from being potty trained may need to learn to void indoors. This is the case for those on the top floor of an apartment or condo building. Getting successfully down twenty flights with a slow elevator isn’t possible before they have an accident, especially if they are very young or very old, or are on medications that increase urination.
There are probably hundreds of reasons dogs will need to be taught to void indoors.

Dog Grass Systems: 

For those that must learn to go on pad like systems, I suggest doggy grass or litter systems.
The dog grass systems are excellent. The only downside I can see is some brands run on the smaller side. A solution would be to get two units and put them close together to increase the size for larger dogs. The best way to tell if the grass patch system is big enough for your pet is to ensure they can easily turn around on it. You certainly don’t want their front feet on the grass patch and their back feet on the floor!

Litter Systems:

The litter systems for dogs are very good as well,  but I’ve found it is hard to find a large size that will accommodate large breed dogs. A litter box the size of a bathtub or larger is not feasible but would be needed for a mastiff; however, several grass patch system’s single units  close together might do the trick.

As far as litter, dogs cannot use cat litter at all, they specifically need dog litter. Dog litter is usually compressed paper pellets, unscented or only very lightly scented with no dust. Dogs sniff a lot when they are finding a good spot to go. If they sniff litter that has a strong scent or dust it will be unpleasant for them. Another issue with dogs is that they will attempt to eat litter, so the crystal litters like those used for cats simply aren’t safe to use for dogs. So, when you pick out your dog litter, pick out the canine litter.
You will also notice the sides of the litter boxes for dogs are much lower than cat boxes, and the boxes are wider. This allows for the dogs to turn around. The sides don’t need to be high because dogs don’t bury their excrement. Unfortunately the dog litter systems I’ve investigated for research for this blog all seem designed around small dogs. And I mean really small dogs. I personally have three dogs under five pounds, and the largest box would just accomodate them, and most I’ve viewed would never do for a pet over ten pounds. The larger the litter system, the more litter needed, and dog litter is heavy, so if you have a larger pooch, I’d go for the grass systems.

Kilo is learning about the sights and sounds of the outdoors as he learns to void outside on the grass

Overall, the best method to train your dog to go outside is to simply start them right away to going outside. The next best option would be the grass patch, as it will be an easier transition to train them from grass indoors to using the grass out of doors. The grass patch is also the best option for pets who cannot go outside to relieve themselves. For pets with allergies to grass, there is the fake grass variety that of grass patch potty system. The fake grass systems need a bit more maintenance than I would like as a pet owner, but they still may be of great benefit for a pet with grass allergies.

In a later blog we’ll cover separately issues concerning incontinence in pets, and will give more ideas to help you keep your house and furniture clean.

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