Our 7 puppies were trained, at 3 weeks, to pee and poo in a cat litter box (introduced into their whelping pool.) In week 4, we moved them to a kennel with a small, fenced yard.

Outside the kennel, we added a litter mat and a larger litter box. The mat cleaned litter from puppy feet, but a few puppies would stop to pee on the mat. To solve that, we put the small litter box in the back of the kennel. Indoor bathroom plus outdoor bathroom. Things were good for a week.

Now, at 5 weeks, we opened up a big play space, with the litter boxes farther away. The litter mat catches litter at the entrance(exit) to the boxes.

All the puppies are able to walk in and out, but the big ones pee on the litter mat even more. It's no longer working to contain the litter. Pee and litter makes mud, and puppies track mud everywhere.

How do we solve the problem of puppies peeing on the litter mat? It's never poo--they all go in the box for that. We spray after they pee on the mat, but they are not deterred.

layout of puppy land

P.S. These are foster dogs from a shelter. Momma and 7 puppies will be spayed/neutered before they are adopted.

  • 2
    How are you cleaning the mat?
    – Allison C
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 14:35
  • 1
    In addition to Allison C's question, have you tried putting a different mat, that has not yet been peed on?
    – SerenaT
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 12:04
  • @AllisonC I run warm soapy water until debris gone, then soapy again, then rinse. When a puppy pees, paper towel, then spray Odor Remover. We have 2 mats, so one is always clean and ready to put in.
    – Erik Olson
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 5:34
  • The puppy pad underneath gets washed daily: 2 short cycles with 1c vinegar, then normal cycle with detergent.
    – Erik Olson
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 5:43

2 Answers 2


The answer isn't terribly complicated: You have a "mat" that smells like a toilet, therefore, the puppies use it as a toilet.

In comments, you described the cleaning for the litter mat as "warm soapy water" and "odor remover." These can both mute and/or mask the odor sufficiently for you to stop noticing it, but the puppies have more sensitive noses that are still picking up the urine smell, leading them to continue urinating in the location that already smells of puppy pee.

At this point, the existing mats may be too thoroughly steeped in the urine smell to salvage, so I'd recommend the following steps:

  1. Discard the existing mats
  2. Purchase new mats, as well as an enzymatic cleaner designed specifically to break down pet urine and a UV light designed to detect pet waste
  3. Using the enzymatic cleaner and UV light, thoroughly clean the area around the litter boxes and mat location, to ensure all traces of urine are removed from that area
  4. Whenever a puppy urinates on the mat, clean the mat and surface below it immediately with enzymatic cleaner. Use the UV light to ensure the area is fully cleaned
  • +1 for showing the puppy's point of view. But we didn't succeed. Maybe the mat is the wrong approach. For next time, we'll search for other ways to keep the pen clean of litter.
    – Erik Olson
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 15:23

At that age probably the best thing to do is to teach them where they're supposed to pee.

Please keep in mind that punishing bad behavior at that age is very counter productive. In the worst case, the puppy would think that it's being punished for peeing at all, which leads to life long behavior issues.

Instead, you should tell them where to pee in a language they can understand: by showing them. Keep an eye on them and every time one goes to the mat and starts squatting down to pee, quickly lift them into the litter box. You can do that by grabbing them by the scruff of their neck and supporting them at the same time with a hand right behind their front legs. Stay with the puppy. If it walks out of the box again and moves to pee, lift it back into the box.

If the puppy did pee in the box, you can praise it or give it a few pets for a job well done.

  • Yep, this is how we taught them in week 3 to go in the litter box. We correct them when possible, but they keep going for the mat.
    – Erik Olson
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 5:41

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