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Hotels, airports, airplanes: Teaching Chloe to use pee pads

When Chloe arrived in our home, we skipped the pee pad part of house-training. We have a (very small) side yard, so when the moment seemed right (and yes, often just after the right moment), we’d whisk her outside. I never regretted that approach until the day we were flying from Seattle to Florida with Chloe and didn’t have a sufficiently long layover to go out to the airport’s pet relief area. Taking my own advice, I blanketed the floor of the big bathroom stall with pee pads, let Chloe out of her carrier, and urged her to proceed. She looked at me like I had three heads, and sat down.

Happily, she managed to hold out for five more hours, but the experience taught me that even the most sweet-natured dog won’t know what to do with a pee pad if she’s never seen one before. There are times, though — like that one — when a pee pad is the answer to all your problems. On a very long flight, too, you can put a couple of pee pads on the floor of your airplane’s bathroom, and give your dog a needed break. And if you’re staying at a hotel in an intensely urban environment, you might well prefer for your dog’s last, late-night bathroom break to happen indoors — no need to change back out of your jammies to take the pup for a walk, no long schlep down to the ground floor, no need to keep your city radar up while you’re waiting for your pup to choose the patch of sidewalk that really speaks to her.

We turned to Ahimsa Dog Training, the same Seattle group that gave Chloe her first obedience lessons and taught us how to teach her to use Poochie Bells. Here’s what they told us: Put a pee pad down in the outside spot she most favors, stand next to it, shorten her leash until she’s restricted to peeing either on the pad or darned near it, and shower her with treats and praise when she does the deed. The goal, of course, is to get her to pee on the pad every time she sees it (extra credit if she poops on the pad). Then you gradually move the pad nearer and nearer the door. Then you move the pad into a bathroom. The hope is that she will form a strong association between the pad and eliminating, such that she will pee or poop indoors only if the pad is present, and only on the pad.

We started the process about a month before leaving for Paris, which I’ll tell you right now is not enough time. By the time we left, Chloe was beginning to pee consistently on or next to the pee pad placed in her preferred outdoor spot, but heaven help us if we moved the pee pad nearer the house at all (and the one time I just, heck, put a pee pad down in one of our bathrooms, she gave me The Look and sat down). Now, between you and me, Chloe’s not one of those quick learners when it comes to house-training. Your dog will likely catch on much faster. But give yourself some time, and be patient with your pup. You really don’t want her to associate the pee pad with shrieking, leash yanking, or other indicia of Crazed Owner Frustration.

I let the process slide a bit after we returned from Paris (and thanks to Chloe’s bladder control and Dulles’ air-side pet relief area, that trip went well), but I’m going to start again. I look forward to the day when I can add pee pads (and a pee pad frame, for hotel room use — the frame keeps the pee pads from bunching up or slipping) to Chloe’s packing list.

Amazon link:
Iris XL Floor Protection Tray for Pet Training Pads


  • Wiggs

    This is going to sound a little gross, but if you’re trying to get her to go on the pee pad when you move it, it reeeeeally helps to use one that already has pee on it. Baxter has been pad trained since we got him (though he’s still not 100% house trained…ugh) and the fastest way to get him to go in a new environment is to use a, well, used pad. The first couple of times we flew with him, I brought one in a plastic bag so I didn’t have to touch/smell it when not in use. He’s good enough about pads now that he goes immediately when I take him in a family bathroom or large stall.

    Also! I wanted to tell you that we tried our Sturdibag/Sleepypod strategy from Midway to Vegas this last weekend (had the Sleepypod flat in our rolling carry-on in case we got harrassed about the Sturdibag). Nobody said a word about the Sturdibag, though (we were on Southwest). Of course, the Sturdibag fit perfectly under the middle and window seats. The aisle was a biti tight-looking and we didn’t even try it. However! He got weighed at check-in AND they checked his medical papers. Then, as we were getting on the plane, they checked the tag on his bag to make sure it was for the correct date. I have friends who don’t tell the airline they’re carrying pets on board, and while none of them have gotten caught, after last weekend I would NEVER try it. I hope one day we’ll just find a way for the airlines to stop charging us such high prices to bring our little guys with us. I’m flying Alaska this weekend and we’re bringing the Sleepypod, but if we don’t get any trouble from them, I’ll probably stop bringing it after this trip.

  • Thanks so much for your comment, Elizabeth! Both parts are super-helpful. I’ll try the pre-moistened approach on Chloe, and I think I’m going to do a post soon about your belt-and-suspenders strategy — I know the Sleepypod Air takes up precious room in your carry-on, but it must give you tremendous peace of mind.

  • Wiggs

    Yeah, it’s so nice to not worry about the size issue. Sleepypod does take up a lot of room, but we just use that suitcase as Baxter’s food/treat/supply bag along with our running shoes and other less-delicate stuff. It’s surprising how much you can cram in there. But it doesn’t fit in every carry-on bag – one of ours wasn’t big enough, but the other worked.

  • Amy@GoPetFriendly

    What a great idea for those people that travel with smaller dogs. I’m afraid this method won’t work for Buster (whose aim isn’t good anyway), but I can definitely appreciate how it would be much more convenient!

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