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Once upon a time, old newspapers were the go-to material for puppy housetraining. They were readily available and practically free. Everyone had at least one daily paper delivered, and if there were puppies needing more than the usual amount, people were happy to save and share their old papers with breeder friends. But luckily, there are now several better and more readily available alternatives. Keep reading for information to help you decide which one is best for you!



Litter, in the form of paper pellets or pine pellets, has become a very popular choice. Use it in a tray deep enough to hold at least an inch or so but not too deep for the puppies to climb into and out of. Do not use cat litter – some are okay, but clay can be tempting to eat, and the clumping types are dusty. Avoid any litter with scent or deodorant added. Paper or pine pellets work well for puppies.

  • Pros: Does not resemble other household textiles so pups won’t get it confused with rugs and bedding. Can remove just the soiled litter daily, replace with fresh. Paper pellets are available in most pet and big box stores. Pine pellets disintegrate when wet and absorbs moisture quickly. Affordable.

Cons: Bags are heavy; pellets can get scattered around when puppies play in it. Keep a broom handy!


Disposable Pads

Disposable “pee” pads are also very popular. They are easy to use and pick up when soiled. Owners of toy breeds, living in apartments, may use them throughout their dogs’ lives. They are handy to have when the weather is bad or owners don’t want to change out of their pajamas to take the dog out late at night or early morning.

  • Pros: Convenient, easy to store and dispose of when used. They come in different sizes.
  • Cons: Puppies often enjoy shredding them. Other items like towels, rugs, beds can seem the same to a puppy and therefore just as tempting to eliminate on. Can be expensive.


Reusable & Washable Cloth Pads

These come in several sizes. You can buy what are called hospital pads made for humans, and there are also cloth pads made especially for puppies and dogs. Both have leakproof backing and are easy to wash and sanitize. For training puppies, these can be better than disposable pads as they are durable and not tempting to tear up.

  • Pros: Sturdy, with leakproof backing, machine washable, not easy to shred. Save money by not having to continually buy disposables.
  • Cons: As with disposable pads, to a puppy they may resemble rugs and other cloth items. Must be laundered regularly.


Artificial Turf

Artificial turf works very well for many puppies and dogs and using it can help them make the connection to real grass outside.

  • Pros: Can be hosed off; reusable.
  • Cons: Not always convenient to clean for owners who don’t have access to a hose. Best to own more than one so that you have a spare while one is drying after being hosed off.



Sod can be a good vehicle for getting puppies transitioned to eliminating outdoors. It might not be the best choice for the first thing you put in the litterbox, as it does come with real soil that cannot be sterilized; it’s something that is farmed and comes from outdoors. But it can be a good thing to use when the puppies have moved out of the whelping box into a larger exercise pen. You might have one pan with the litter or pads that were used in the whelping box and another with sod.

  • Pros: It’s real grass; puppies will already be familiar with it when they go outdoors for the first time.
  • Cons: In most parts of the country, not available year-round. Cannot be sterilized. Needs maintenance and watering (puppy urine will eventually kill it). Heavy; disposal can be an issue.


Unprinted Newsprint

If you really want to know what it was like in the old days, newsprint is available in sheets sold as packing paper and can be found where moving supplies are sold. It’s clean to start with (no smudgy ink), easy to dispose of, but can be messy as puppies may like to shred it.

  • Pros: Easy to dispose of and biodegradable. Easy to store.
  • Cons: Sizes irregular, sometimes expensive. Tempting for puppies to shred. If not cleaned up quickly can get messy, not as absorbent as other materials.


Tips for Introducing and Using All Materials

When your puppies are 3 weeks old, it’s time to introduce the substrate you want them to eliminate on. At this age they are quickly becoming mobile, and you need to take advantage of their instinct to leave their “den” to eliminate. The bed and the potty tray should be the same height so that the puppies can go back and forth easily. Arrange the whelping box so that they have two choices: bed or potty area. Nothing in between! Don’t worry if they play in the potty area. The important thing is that they are leaving the sleeping section when they need to potty. Of course, you’ll need to clean up often, or change the pads – it depends on what you are using.

In a week or two, when the puppies outgrow the whelping box and you have moved them to a larger pen, they will be accustomed to the pottying material. You can put in the pen a bed, leaving room to play, and the potty tray that was used in the whelping box. If it’s a large litter and a big enough pen, you might want to have two potty areas. You’ll find that the puppies are making a very good effort to use whatever type of potty substrate that you chose, though sometimes they may not get all four feet on it. Don’t worry, they still get an ‘A’ for effort! After a few weeks of using this area in the pen, they will know what to do when it’s offered to them by their new owners who will appreciate the effort you put into raising puppies that are well on their way to housetraining success.