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My Pet World: How to encourage a dog to use a pee pad, not the rug

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I have a two-year-old female Havanese/Coton de Tulear mix. I live in Tucson, where many in my community have lost little dogs and cats to coyotes. So, I have had her use a potty pad since she was eight weeks old. She never goes on the floor. But, if there is a rug, she will go on it. I've removed all my area rugs but would like to put them back. I have no idea how to break her of this habit. I think she just thinks of them as "luxurious potty pads!" Any suggestions?

— Joan, Tucson, Arizona

Dear Joan,

Pee pads can be confusing to some dogs. If she has never relieved herself outside, then she only knows to go on something on the floor of your home. In this instance, she sees the rugs as a viable alternative to potty pads.

The only way to address this is to re-train her. This involves catching her relieving herself on the pee pad, using a clicker or a marker/reward word when she does to let her know she did something right, and follow-up with a treat. You need to do this every day, as often as possible, for the next few weeks. Treat her like an eight-week-old puppy who is just learning the rules of the home.


After a few weeks, re-introduce one rug into your home and spritz it with Bitter Apple (available at pet stores and online). This scent should help discourage her from relieving herself on the rug. Also, be sure the pee pads are nowhere near any rugs or even in the same room with any rugs, as this could confuse her. When she successfully ignores that one rug and is consistent with the pee pads, then pull out the second rug, and repeat the process. Over time and with training, she should be able to differentiate between the two and understand which is the one she needs to be using.

Dear Cathy,

My husband and I had to put to rest our 13-year-old male cat in April 2020. That same June, my husband agreed to host a five-year-old all-black male short-hair for one year while his human went on active reservist duty outside of the country.

Due to life circumstances, he's still our house guest going into year three. When he arrived, he had a small, matted area of fur near his hind quarters. Over the first year, it grew. Concerned about his health, we took him to a local vet who stated that the issue wasn't one of health but grooming and that we should make an appointment with a groomer.


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