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Indoor Potty Training - Papers, Pee Pads, Litter Boxes and more

Although most dogs are trained to relieve themselves outdoors, it sometimes makes sense to teach your dog to have an indoor potty area (newspapers, pee pee pads, litter box or turf box). This method is most commonly used by people with very small dogs, people who are unable to get outside easily due to health issues or living in a high-rise, and people who work such long hours that their dog can't reasonably be expected to hold it and wait to go outside.

Generally, I recommend indoor potty training only for owners whose dogs will permanently be trained to go indoors, since it can be difficult to train your dog to go outside once he's been taught that he's supposed to go indoors. If you work all day and can't get home to let your young puppy out, you may be forced to do temporary indoor potty training - or at least partial indoor potty training - until your puppy is old enough to hold it for the full day. We don't want to force him to have an accident, so we'll give him an indoor option he can use while you're at work, but be sure to work diligently on his outdoor housebreaking program at all times when you're at home and able to get him outside.

There are several options for creating an indoor potty area for your dog. The old standby is just several sheets of newspaper laid out on the floor, or you can use absorbent potty pads (also known as puppy pads or pee pee pads) from the pet store. You can also use a dog litter box or a tray lined with artificial turf. The pros and cons of each are discussed in the article Indoor Potty Options. The general rules for training using any of these options are the same, so in the instructions I'll use terms like newspapers, potty pads, litter box and turf pad interchangeably.

When teaching indoor potty training, you need to be very consistent and clear with your puppy to prevent confusion about what area of the house is his bathroom. Outdoor potty training tends to be clearer to dogs because of the obvious differences between indoors - where they shouldn't potty - and outdoors, where they should. But with indoor potty training, the distinctions aren't as clear. Your dog may have trouble distinguishing your floor from his newspapers or potty pads, so don't expect your dog to just get to his potty area and know that he's supposed to relieve himself there. Occasionally you'll get lucky and your dog will figure it out right away, but in most cases you'll need to use scheduling, confinement and lots of encouragement to teach your puppy what the newspapers or potty pad are for.

When training your dog to use an indoor potty area, you must supervise him as outlined in Commandment #7, and you may want to use Umbilical Cord Training in the early phases of your training.

Choosing an Indoor Potty Area

Before you start training, decide where you want your puppy's potty area to be. If at all possible, set up your dog's papers, pee pads, turf tray or litter box where you want them to be long-term. Although not impossible, training him to use a new indoor area - and to stop going in the original area he was trained to use - is tricky, so avoid having to change the location of his papers, litter box, or training pads if at all possible. Putting your dog's potty area in a room with linoleum, tile or other hard flooring is better than putting it on carpet, since there may be occasional overflow or misses. In the early phases of training, if your dog's potty area has to be in a carpeted area, you may want to buy a linoleum remnant or waterproof plastic tarp to put under his papers or litter box, to prevent any overflow from getting to the carpet.

Since your puppy will be relieving himself in the house, also consider the ick factor when choosing a location. Many people choose the kitchen for the dog's papers, pee pads, litterbox, or turf tray, since the flooring makes training easy and it can be an easy place to create a confinement area. However, they later realize that cooking and eating right next to dog poo and pee is less than pleasant. This can work for some owners, especially those with large kitchens, but you'll have to be extra-vigilant about keeping the pads or litterbox clean or nobody will ever want to come to your house for dinner again! Other icky areas that should be avoided if possible include right next to your bed (you'll be awakened by the "stink alarm"), a small child's play room, a pantry or other food storage area, and right inside the door where you greet your guests. Laundry rooms and bathrooms (especially if there's one that isn't frequently used by humans) are usually great spots for a dog's potty training pads, litter box, or artificial grass potty tray.

Another very important note on choosing a potty area: Don't let the dog choose his own potty area unless it's the same one you would choose. It's not unusual to see a potty pad right in the middle of an expensive rug in the living room or to see several all over the house. When asked why the pads are there, the dog owner inevitably says, "That's where he always goes, so we put potty pads down for him." That's not potty training, that's giving up!

Getting Started

There are two basic methods for teaching indoor potty training. Read the brief descriptions below and pick the method you think will suit you and your dog.

Indoor Potty Training Method #1 - Using a Small Confinement Area

This is the easiest indoor potty training method for most puppies and dogs. You'll create a confinement area where your dog can be left when he is unsupervised. The area will have a bed, food and water dishes, toys or chewies, and an area for your dog's potty pads or other potty area. As your puppy becomes reliable about using his potty pads, you'll gradually increase his area of confinement until he's loose in the house and reliable about taking himself to his potty pads when he needs to go.

Indoor Potty Training, Method #1

Indoor Potty Training Method #2 - Crate Training

The crate training method is a good choice for dog and puppy owners who don't have an appropriate space for creating a confinement area, and for those whose dogs escape from their confinement areas. This method is also helpful for those whose dogs are not responding well to the small confinement area - for instance, they're being destructive when confined or pottying in the bed or food area instead of the potty area. It'll only work for owners who are able to take their dogs out frequently for potty breaks.

Indoor Potty Training, Method #2

Purchase Products Related to This Article

Porch Potty

The Porch Potty is a nice-looking potty area for indoor or outdoor use. It's a nice size for bigger dogs, but I recommend it for smaller dogs, too, if you have the space. Can be used with the included fake grass, or even better, replacement REAL grass... or sod from the home-improvement store!

Potty Pads

Wee-Wee Pads are basic potty pads for puppies or smaller dogs. The built-in attractant scent will help your pup figure out what the pads are for!

Extra Large Potty Pads

These BIG potty pads are essential if you're pad training a larger dog, but they're also nice for smaller dogs, since they give them more room to sniff around and choose a spot and the pads won't get "full" as quickly!

UgoDog Potty Tray

If your dog chews up potty pads, the UgoDog potty pad holder will help to keep your playful pup from shredding his pads before he has a chance to use them!

Dog Litter Box

This is a great litter box for tiny dogs or puppies. Can be used with dog litter, newspaper or potty pads. I recommend getting the larger size, even if you have a teeny dog!

Nature's Miracle Stain and Odor Remover

Nature's Miracle is everyone's favorite stain and odor neutralizer. Be sure to use this product to clean up all accidents... regular floor cleaner won't fully eliminate the odor!

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Shouldn't I papertrain my puppy before I teach him to go outside?

Cute dog

Contrary to popular belief, paper training should not be used as the first step in your housebreaking program except under two circumstances. Paper training should be done only if :

  1. 1. You intend to permanently paper train your dog (usually done with small dogs) OR
  2. 2. You have a young puppy that must be left alone with no access to the outdoors for several hours a day

There's no getting around it. When you paper train your dog, you are teaching him the opposite of what we want him to learn in his housebreaking... you're teaching him to go potty in the house. If your goal is to have a dog who goes potty only outside, start in the housebreaking section to get off on the right foot.

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