The 7 Best Eco-Friendly Puppy Training Pads of 2021

Potty train your puppy sustainably.

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Puppies are incredibly cute, but they can also be awfully messy. That’s why one of the first goals of puppy training is potty training. You want to get your puppy convinced that outside is the best place for potty breaks. But until that happens, you’re going to need a plan.

Regular puppy training pads (also called pee pads or potty pads) aren’t great for the environment. They typically have plastic backing, often have fragrance to lure a puppy to the spot, and are made with non-recycled, bleached materials. Depending on how old your puppy is and how often you take him outside, but you can end up using a lot of puppy pads. That’s not only dumping a lot on the landfill, it can also get very expensive.

Not all puppies can go outside right away. Young puppies that haven’t been fully vaccinated shouldn’t go out in public areas. If you don’t have access to a private yard, you might have to depend on indoor bathroom breaks to keep your puppy safe. 

We researched the best eco-friendly puppy training pads.

The Rundown
Large, durable, washable pads from a company that donates to rescue groups.
Best (Somewhat) Recycled:
Wee-Wee Eco Dog Training Pads at Walmart
This leak-proof liner is made from 50 percent recycled materials.
Best Plant-Based:
Pogi's Training Pads at Amazon
Three sizes of pads made with 25 percent plant-based materials.
Pads use bamboo and charcoal for absorbency and odors.
A box of sod easily weans puppies to go outside.
Best Earth-Friendly:
Bark Potty at Barkpotty.com
Recyclable box of bark chips with nice earthy smells.
Pine shavings can work like a litter box for cats.

Best Washable: Max & Neo Washable Reusable Dog Pee Pads

Max & Neo Washable Reusable Dog Pee Pads

Washable pee pads are a great option if your pup has occasional accidents or you can stock up. They work great in crates or with an older puppy who mostly has the hang of going outside. The Max & Neo pads are larger than most at 30 x 36 inches and are waterproof and leakproof. We've found you can wash them over and over again and they show no signs of being less effective.

However, they aren’t really practical if you have three young puppies who go potty a billion times a day, and you have to change the pads hourly. Washable pads also aren’t the best choice if you have young puppies that often battle some sort of intestinal crud. But they come in handy beyond puppies and are great to have on hand for messy eaters, giving medicine, senior dogs, and post-surgery. Plus, we really like this company because for every product you buy, they donate a product to a rescue group.

Best (Somewhat) Recycled: Wee-Wee Eco Dog Training Pads

Wee-Wee Eco Dog Training Pads

It’s hard to find any type of puppy pad without plastic. After all, something has to keep the liquids from seeping out. The leak-proof liner on the Eco-Pads from Wee Wee Paws is made from 50 percent recycled material, so at least you can feel a little less guilty when using them.

In addition, the quilted top layers are made with bleach-free and dye-free tissue. There’s an added fragrance to attract dogs to the pads. It’s made of lavender and chamomile, which is a little more natural than many added smells. These pads are 22 x 33 inches and cost about $19 for a 50-pack.

Best Plant-Based: Pogi's Plant-Based Training Pads

Pogi's Plant-Based Training Pads

The bottom liner on these pads is made of 25 percent plant-based renewable materials, so at least it’s not solid plastic. This bio-hybrid layer is leakproof to protect your floors from accidents. There are five layers of quilted tissue to absorb liquids. This “fluff-pulp” comes from certified sustainable pine, and the soft top layer is made from renewable bamboo fiber.

There’s a honey-based attractant to lure your pet to potty here and peel-and-stick spots on the bottom to help keep pads in place. Pads come in three sizes: 18 x 24 inches, 24 x 24 inches, and 24 x 35 inches.

Best Bamboo: The Green Pet Shop Bamboo Training Pads

The Green Pet Shop Bamboo Training Pads

These pads don’t have artificial fragrances or chemicals. Instead, they use bamboo and charcoal for absorbency and to disguise odors. The pads are black, which many people find attractive (no unsightly yellow spots!) The company says that each pad can hold three cups of liquid without leaking.

Pets seem to be drawn immediately to the pads to do their business. However, these pads are relatively small—only 22 x 23 inches—so they work best for small dogs.

Best DIY: Harmony 2.6 sq. ft. Platinum Bermuda Sod

Harmony 2.6 sq. ft. Platinum Bermuda Sod

If the goal is to get your dog used to pottying on the grass, why not bring the grass inside? To make a DIY mini lawn, use either a shallow box or a sturdy plastic tray that was going to be thrown away (you may be able to get them for free from a local home improvement store). Line them with a garbage bag then plop down a piece of sod. Put it in the corner of the puppy’s exercise pen and they quickly learn to associate going potty inside and outside on the grass.

The key is to remember to scoop up any solids quickly and to water the grass. Extra points for keeping it by a window. The only negative (other than dead grass) is if puppies start to think it’s fun to play in the dirt. But then almost all puppies think it’s fun to tear up regular potty pads too.

There are companies that will do this for you, in the form of a natural grass kit. They’ll send you a container for a piece of turf and then a subscription for new sod every month. But think of the costs to the environment and your wallet as you’re paying to ship a heavy piece of sod regularly.

"My vet gave me this idea a couple years ago when I was fostering young puppies. I now do this often depending on the age and personalities of the puppies I’m fostering. Because puppies typically get potty trained pretty quickly around here, I don’t often have to replace a piece of sod before they learn to go outside, but if I did, I think it’s smarter to run to a nearby store to get a piece of sod than it is to ship one from far away." — Mary Jo DiLonardo

Best Earth-Friendly: Bark Potty

Bark Potty

This is basically a nicely packaged box of bark chips. The earthy smells should lure your dog over, urging them to do this business, but you may need to do some training to help get them started. Natural bacteria breaks down odors so you’re just left (ideally) with the woodsy smell of the great outdoors. Liquids are drawn to the bottom of the leak-proof tray and solids can be scooped up and discarded. A tray typically lasts about a month and replaces as many as 60 pee pads, according to the manufacturer, but that depends on how often your dog uses it.

There’s a screen on the top so your dog can’t easily kick up chips. (Note: One tester’s puppy was so attracted to the bark that she easily ripped off the screen to get to the chips.) All plastic and cardboard parts are recyclable and the bark can be compostable if you have a setup that can handle pet waste. Bark doesn’t die like grass so there’s no upkeep. You can find it in some pet stores or buy it by subscription, so you always have a new box on hand about every month.

Best Budget: Tractor Supply Flake Premium Pine Shavings

Tractor Supply Flake Premium Pine Shavings

Some owners raise mother dogs with litters of puppies, and they potty train the babies using shavings. They put a litter box or other shallow container in one end of the pen where the puppies play. Puppies naturally want to keep their sleeping area clean (for the most part), so they’ll potty in one spot and play and sleep in the rest. When you start training them to go potty outside, you just take some shavings and put them in the grass, and they’ll immediately recognize that this is where they’re supposed to go.

Make sure to look for pine shavings. Vets and other puppy-raising experts caution not to use cedar shavings because of potential issues with cedar oil, such as contact allergies and breathing problems. Others have tried this and warned that you’ll have shavings everywhere! That’s good motivation to get those puppies potty trained quickly.

Final Verdict

The most eco-friendly way to potty train a puppy is with cloth pee pads that you can reuse over and over again. We like Max & Neo Washable Pee Pads (view at Amazon) because they’re large, durable, and leakproof. However, if you need a disposable option, consider Pogi's Puppy Pee Pads (view at Amazon).

Why Trust Treehugger?

The proud mom of a rescue dog, Mary Jo DiLonardo has fostered about three dozen puppies and dogs, some as young as just five weeks old. She always try to get them outside after they eat, drink, play, and wake up from naps so they associate the outdoors with pottying. She's tested out all kinds of ways to give them an indoor potty space. We'll continue to be on the lookout for more sustainable potty pads for your best friend, and will update this list as we find them.

For more than 25 years, Mary Jo has covered a wide range of topics focused on nature, pets, health, science, and anything that helps make the world a better place. She has spent more than six years with Treehugger, formerly under the Mother Nature Network brand.