Why Do Puppies Pee Next to the Pee Pad?

Puppies pee next to the pee pads for a simple reason: they haven't entirely grasped the concept of pee pads. Let's face it: puppies could care less about pee pads, they are just there for human convenience. Helping puppies understand the concept of human convenience is out of question, but at least we can help them make good choices with clear feedback.

Let's face it: many puppies pee next to the pee pads, and behind such puppies are often frustrated puppy owners who are desperate for solutions. How can the puppy be taught to pee on top of the pee pad and not all around it? Why do puppies seem not to grasp the idea? Is it so difficult to understand? 

Well, for starters, we must admit that pee pads are there for human convenience. Most puppies can care less where they pee, as long as the area is away from the area where they eat and sleep.  Some puppies may even care less about that, especially when they come from pet stores or from breeders who haven't taken much time to train them the ABCs of potty training. 

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Good breeders provide puppies with sleeping and eating areas that are separate from the potty area

Pee Pads from a Puppy's Perspective

For many puppies and dogs, pee pads are just pieces of paper that you have casually left laying around and serve no purpose.

On the other hand though, in some particularly frustrating cases, they seem to have a purpose: they are fun to play with! Indeed, countless dogs and puppies shred pee pads because they find them irresistible. 

Now, there are of course, exceptions to the rule. Conscientious, ethical dog breeders often spend a lot of time helping puppies learn to keep their "den areas" clean before their pups are sent off to their new homes. They often do this by providing the puppies with areas for eating, drinking, sleeping and playing and a distinct, separate area for the mere act of going potty. 

When puppies are provided with such settings, they often instinctively know to keep their sleeping, eating and playing areas clean and move away to their designated potty area to pee and poop. Although dogs are not den animals by definition, they do have a "denning instinct" which helps them keep their main living areas clean and free of waste. 

Those fortunate to have gotten their pups from a good breeder, will likely have an easier time in potty training their puppies. The breeder can share important tips and inform the new puppy owner what material was used to cover the designated potty area so that the new puppy owner can decide to use that, or transition the puppy to a new surface with some gradual introductions.

Why Do Puppies Pee Next to the Pee Pad?

Now as if grasping the concept of what puppy pee pads are for isn't hard enough, imagine expecting the puppy to pee in the middle of a 20x20 inch pee pad!

Now, to us humans pee is something that is nasty, something that should be removed as soon as possible and that evokes "ewwww' and "yuk" or other types of dramatic emotional responses. 

To dogs, pee instead is something that is fascinating. Dogs do not hide pee in the toilet and readily flush it away as humans do, nor do they hide it under a pile of dirt as secretive cats do. Instead, from a dog's perspective, pee is a form of advertisement that should be readily displayed. 

 If you visit any dog park or other place where dogs aggregate, you'll see how dogs readily urinate on tree trunks and bushes and other favorite vertical surfaces. This is called "urine marking" and the urine left around is meant for other dogs to sniff so to learn more about each other, in a similar fashion as business cards left on a big bulletin board. 

Now, urine marking is something that a young puppy may not be interested yet in doing until he is older, however, puppies instinctively know that urine can be used for communication. Indeed, when they meet an older dog or person, they may roll on their backs and piddle some urine to inform that they are just puppies and mean no harm. 

This tells us that, from a puppy's perspective, pee is not something that should be hidden from the world and readily absorbed so not to leave any residual odors. Unless set for success and trained, most puppies will therefore fail to pee on pee pads and many will miss the mark. 

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Puppies may have a hard time grasping the concept of peeing on a pee pad

Now That You Know...

As seen, puppies will find it difficult to grasp the concept of pee pads as humans perceive them. Unless you got your a puppy from a good breeder and have the time to train him, your puppy may have no clue on what is expected from him. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make peeing on those pee pads more likely. Following are some tips:

  • Set your dog for success. Rather than placing the pee pad in the farthest corner of the house, make it easy-peasy to find. To a small puppy, an average room is quite large and by the time he realizes he has to go potty, he may pee on himself. The smaller his confinement area, the more salient his pee pad will be and the easier it will be to reach.
  • Consider that puppies can't hold it much until they are at least 14-16 weeks old.
  • Make going potty in other areas difficult, boring and close to impossible with the help of management and supervision.
  • For instance, if you must leave for the day or you are unable to supervise you puppy, keep your pup contained in a small enclosed pen with the pad strategically located at the opposite side from his bed, water bowl and toys. 
  • Always keep the pee pads' location the same. If you really must change location, make sure to do so gradually inch-by-inch over the course of several days.
  •  Make sure the location of the pee pad is quiet and with not many distractions going on.
  • Never scold your puppy for missing the pad. Scolding potentially associates your presence with punishment causing the puppy to want to potty secretly out of sight perhaps behind a chair or under a bed.
  • Always praise and reward your puppy for using the pee pads as he should.
  • Clean up your puppy's accidents with an enzyme-based cleaner which removes traces of residual odors. Consider that to dogs, any residual odors from previous accidents potentially triggers them to soil on them once again. 
  • If your puppy won't potty on the pad, placing a little drop of urine from a previous mess can help  your puppy identify the pee pads as the place to potty. 
  • Larger pee pads may help your pup succeed as there is a larger surface area leaving a smaller margin for error. You can also attach two pee pads together to increase surface area. Some pups like to pee on one pad and poop on another.
  • Consider that pee pad training may take time and many pups struggle with it. Many dog owners have more success taking their pups to potty directly outside.
  • Once your puppy learns to reliably use the pads in his enclosure, you can gradually increase his confinement area (keeping the pads always in the same place) until he graduates to being left loose in the house and remembering where to go.
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