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Miniature Poodle wrapped in toilet paper

House training your new puppy can sometimes be a stressful time, but it doesn’t always have to be!  In this article AKC GoodDog! Helpline trainer Erin Rakosky discusses the use of indoor potty pads.  She will not only cover how to train your puppy to use them but also how to train your puppy to stop using them.

Potty Pad Training

For some people, including city dwellers and people with mobility issues, taking your puppy outside to go to the bathroom is not easy.  In these cases it may be easiest to train your puppy to use a potty pad inside the house.   Below are some helpful tips to help your puppy be successful in learning to go in the right spot.

  • The most important part of house training is making sure that your puppy does not have any time that they are unsupervised when out of their crate.  This can give them the opportunity to sneak away and have an accident. If your puppy is out then they need to have a responsible set of eyes on them at all times. If you cannot watch your puppy we recommend using an appropriately sized crate to help keep them safe and prevent them from having unwanted accidents. If you are having a hard time keeping an eye on your puppy when they are out you can place a long leash on them and always have your hand on the end of it so they cannot go too far.
  • Make sure to place the potty pad in an area that is easily accessible to your puppy and try not to move it while they are learning.
  • While your puppy is out playing you should plan to make frequent trips to the potty pad to ask them to relieve themselves.  Depending on the age of your puppy and their bladder strength, this time will vary. I recommend bringing them to the pad 5 minutes earlier then you think they may need to go.  Sometimes it helps to set a timer to remind you. With young puppies you may need to visit the pad every 15 minutes while they are playing, gradually increasing this time.
  • When you bring your puppy to the pad use a word such as “go potty” or “get busy” while they are relieving themselves.  This is useful so that you can train them to urinate/defecate on command.
  • Remember to reward immediately after they are finished relieving themselves.  It can be helpful to leave a bag of treats close to the potty area.
  • Most puppies need to relieve themselves once they wake up from a nap, come out of their crate and about 10-15 minutes after they eat. So make sure to bring your puppy to the pad after each of these events.
  • If you bring your puppy to the potty pad because you know they need to relieve themselves and they decide not to go, give them about 5 minutes. If they still do not go, put them in their crate for 10-15 minutes. Then take them out and immediately back to the potty pad.
  • If your puppy has an accident in the house, don’t punish them; just try harder to watch them next time.  If you catch your puppy in the middle of an accident make a noise to startle them. Then pick them up and take them to their potty pad to let them finish, making sure to reward them for going in the correct location.

Switching from Potty Pad to Outside

Some owners decide to start their puppies out by using potty pads but then later decide they want to switch them to go to the bathroom outside instead.  This can take a little time but can be successfully done.  The process is pretty simple.  We recommend that you start by moving the potty pad from its original location a small distance each day to the eventual location that you wish your puppy to use to relieve themselves.  Once you get to the door that leads outside, you can move the pad just to the outside of the door.  Then slowly move the pad to the grass.  Once on the grass, most dogs will start to associate the outdoors with relieving themselves.  If your puppy is struggling with understanding this, you can slowly start to decrease the size of the pad until it is completely gone. Good luck and happy house training!

For more tips on housebreaking your puppy, make sure to watch our video below!


The AKC GoodDog! Helpline is a seven-day-a-week telephone support service staffed by experienced dog trainers. For information on enrolling and talking to a trainer about your dog’s training needs, go to:

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