How to prevent playing with potty pad while away?

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Hey everyone,

I've searched a lot for similar issues, but haven't found anything where it happens only when we are not home.

We have two golden retriever puppies that are about 9 weeks old. So far they are very well behaved and well potty-trained.

While away at work they have an open crate and a small enclosed play area that includes a water dish and an astroturf pee-pad inside of a plastic tray. There are also plenty of toys and each other to keep them occupied.

However, recently they have found a fascination of playing and chewing on this pee-pad while we are away. Going as far as eating little bits of the plastic (this hazard was removed and I took the day off to be with them while they passed it). Typically I would try to correct this behavior and divert it to something they could / should play with, but it only happens while we are not home. Note – they are only alone for a few hours at a time as we are able to visit throughout the day to check in & play.

Any tips on what we can do to help stop this behavior? It's annoying having to clean it up several times a day, but I'm mostly concerned of them eating the fake grass / plastic while we are away. Would using a bitter anti-chewing spray make them not want to use this spot to eliminate?

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