The sight of a shredded pee pad and an excited puppy is a scenario many may be too familiar with. 8 out of every 10 puppies display this behavioural destruction that renders their owners frustrated and sourcing for alternative potty-training options as the pee pad training is hindered. Although shredding of pee pads is very common and an understandable behaviour for a teething puppy, it should not be swept under the carpet as your puppy may grow up with undesirable habits, potentially progressing to destroy household items. Furthermore, pieces of pee pads, when swallowed, may congest the digestive tract, making the situation dire. Prevention is always the key.

Shredding of a pee pad, mouthing an arm and biting furniture all comes down to the same issue - the puppy does not understand limitations. Limitations in a dog’s perspective, are what they can and what they can’t do. Contrary to popular belief, the issue of shredding pee pads can be very easily discouraged with the right understanding of canine behaviour.

Ways to address this issue

1.   Lack of mental stimulation

Dogs commonly relieve boredom in the form of biting. Shredding of pee pads is commonly observed when owners lead a busy lifestyle, leading to reduced socialisation opportunities, exercise and mental stimulation. If you have a dog that follows a routine of eating, sleeping, walking and playing, this may be why. A dog should be up for challenges, which is both a mentally enriching and bonding activity. Possible challenges include playing hide and seek with you, finding their favourite toy hidden around the house, sniffing the hidden treat under several cups, going through agility obstacle should space permit or getting your dog to solve a puzzle toy. In general, be creative! Basic commands, KONG® toy, tug and fetch are all good, but your dog’s mind can be stimulated on a greater level, especially if you are facing boredom-based behaviours such as chewing, destruction and digging.

2.   Attention

Interestingly enough, some dogs have figured the perfect way to get their owner’s attention through shredding of pee pads. Many times, owners tend to squat down and verbally negotiate with their dogs. This is an example of a reward since attention is provided when your dog displays an undesirable behaviour. Thus, many owners have unknowingly reinforced this behaviour because your dog associates it with a positive outcome. Always remember that dogs do not understand sentences; they only understand words or commands. To desensitize this behaviour, avoid giving in to your dog’s desired outcome. Instead, alter the situation to produce your desired outcome, placing you in control of situations.

3.   Pee pad holder

Locking the pee pad in place and avoiding exposed edges can be the fastest method in preventing your puppy from chewing the pee pad, simply because he is unable to. There are several choices available on the shelves of pet stores to meet your needs. One option is pee trays with an accompanying plastic mesh locking in place over the pee pad, covering the edges and preventing your puppy from chewing it. Some brands of pee pads have peripheral adhesive stickers on the underside, securing the edges to the ground. Alternatively, some had success with sticking the edges down with masking tape. Do note that this prevents your dog from shredding objects and does not address the unwanted behaviour which may lead to shredding of other items within reach. Teaching limitations from a young age is hence important.

4.   Providing attractive alternatives

Giving your dog a variety of toys to choose from allows the attention to be diverted away from the pee pad when boredom kicks in. This highlights the need to engage with your dog by playing with toys, encouraging chewing of toys than pee pads when in a playful state.

5.   Temporarily keeping your puppy in a fenced area

This may be a convenient option especially at night or when you are unable to supervise your dog, provided that you do not intend your dog to potty in the fenced area.  It is important that prior to this, your dog associates being inside the fenced area with relaxation to avoid excessive barking . Additionally, making sure that your dog has eliminated both urine and faeces before entering the fenced area, which eliminates the possibility of any potty accidents in the fenced area. Click here to view the article on crate training.

6.   Teething phase

Puppies commonly reach a stage when their set of sharp puppy teeth fall out, making way for their newer, permanent ones. This teething stage renders the gums of your puppy swollen and itchy. And what better way to relieve the itch than shredding pee pads and furniture? This points out the importance of providing objects that relieve the itching gums. Rope toys are considered a good investment to save possibly large amounts of furniture and pee pad damage.

Finding the suitability of a chew toy to soothe the gums should be centered around the understanding that the surfaces of both the toy and itching gums need to be in contact. After all, why get a chew toy if it doesn’t soothe the itching gums? The chew toy must have a surface that allows your puppy’s teeth to be sunk into, without creating an indentation during the biting. Dental chews, bones, rawhide and hard rubber toys are deemed suitable for playtime but not meant for relieving itching gums.

7.   Lack of boundaries

Teaching your dog to ignore items on the ground can prevent possible poisoning and ingestion of objects. This also means that your furniture and pee pads are saved from being ripped apart. Ideally, your dog should know not to pick up or bite any objects even if within reach – this is known as limitations. Learning not to bite objects without the presence of a human is crucial, as shredding of the pee pad often happens when the owners are unaware. Constant long-term supervision is also unpractical as puppies are known to shred pee pads at night. It is therefore important to point out that the “leave it” command is of little help in this case, which depends on someone intervening. Get your dog to not shred pee pads by setting the rule of ignoring items on the floor. This can be done by having your dog on a training leash and walking past objects like food and pee pads on the ground. Always reward with praise or treats when the objects are completely ignored. Note that you should not train your dog to ignore toys, as we would want to encourage diverting the attention on toys on the ground as mentioned above.

8.   Avoid chewing deterrents

Commercially sold chewing deterrents should not be sprayed on pee pads. The application of the product is intended to discourage going near the object with the deterrent, associating it with a nasty outcome. That should not be the message associated with pee pads. Using these deterrents may contradict your intentions and produce undesirable results.

9.   Avoiding negativity

If your dog has an accident or shreds the pee pad, avoid any form of punishment. Punishment may set your dog back, relating being near the pee pad with a lack of relaxation and even causing fear, especially when you are present. This can then lead to your dog toileting anywhere as long as you are not present and straining the dog-owner relationship. Instead, replace a new pee pad and closely supervise to encourage eliminating at the ideal location, avoiding any instances of accidents or shredding of the pee pad altogether.

10.   Consider grass training

If your puppy keeps ripping up pee pads despite a period of training attempts, you may want to explore other options such as engaging a dog trainer or potty training your dog outdoors on grass. It is an ideal solution for many adult dogs, without the frequent purchase of pee pads. This alternative is however unsuitable for puppies who have yet to complete their puppy vaccinations and are unable to set their paws on public ground. Click here to read up on the pros and cons of each potty-training option.

To train this, immediately take your dog out to the grass when signs of urination/defecation are observed. Upon eliminating on the grass, reward your dog heavily. Repeat this consistently for 1-2 weeks.