Apartment dwellers, people who own small dogs, and pet-owners with demanding work schedules all benefit from providing their pup with an indoor relief option. Having a designated “potty pad” or a “pee-pee patch” of grass in on the porch or balcony can be a very helpful tool if the dog is correctly trained on how to use it.   While training a dog to use one such patch, it is important to remember that there will be accidents while the dog puts his house-training skills to practice. Be patient and consistent, and with time your dog will learn all the ropes!

Designate a “potty” zone. This should be an area of hardwood floors, tile, vinyl or some non-carpeted surface that is easy to clean up. Make sure the linen or grass patch is neither too close to the dog food bowl or his sleeping or play area. Whatever place you choose, it will have to stay the same to help your pet get the best results.

Establish a routine. Dogs thrive when they have consistent routines. Depending on what age dog you have, keep an eye to see about how often he needs to be let out, and start planning your routine around his natural urges. For example, most puppies can only control their bladders for one hour of every month of their age. These can also be a bit manipulated based on when you feed the dog, or when he has a big drink. For example, if you put your leash on your dog, and walk him immediately to the pee-pee patch in the morning (as you would take the pup outside for his morning walk), he will get the picture that it is time to go. The routine patch-visits should occur after meals, after play time and before bed.

Decide on a command. This will be the word and signal you use to instruct your dog that is time to “go.” Receiving a command when the dog arrives at the pee-patch will help the dog understand that something is expected of him every time he is there. When it is time to go, snap on the leash, walk to the patch, and command the dog “go potty” with whatever motion signal you decide to indicate your wish. If the dog does not go, and has been standing there for a few minutes, take him off the patch and off the leash for a little while.

Watch for “need-to-potty” signs. Usually if the owner is watchful, he will see that it is about that time. If the dog is ambling about, sniffing at the ground, pawing, then go put on his leash and walk him to the cloth patch so that he will relieve himself there. Try to keep track of the last time he eliminated so you can be aware when the time may come for round 2 (or 3 or 4!).

Reward and praise: Whenever your dog does urinate on the patch, immediately pet and praise him. Take one puppy treat per day, and cut it up into 3-4 pieces, so that you can reward your dog with a treat every time he goes. This will give him an incentive to urinate on the patch, while only giving him one treat’s worth, instead of filling him up with many.

Interrupt accidents. If your puppy gets forgetful and you catch him squatting somewhere other than the patch, clap your hand and say “No!” or jingle a can of coins to get the dog’s attention. Then take the dog to the pad to finish his business. The key here is to startle, but not scare.

Tip From the Human Society

If your accommodations can afford the space, make the designated pee area a confined place like the laundry room or a penned-off area. While the pup is training, keep him in this confined space with his food, water, and bed in one place. Cover the entire floor of the penned area with potty pads. After three days, take one pad away. After two days, take another pad away. Continue with this pattern until there is one pad remaining (choose the one as far from the food bowls as possible). Very likely the dog will continue to make this place his go-to elimination zone.   However, the Humane Society does advise that should the dog urinate or defecate off the potty patch, to start again from the beginning. Note: This only works well in confined areas.

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