The Synthetic Grass is Always Greener … Grass for Dogs in Apartments
Not everyone who owns a dog lives in suburbia, and because of this, potty training can look like synthetic grass for dogs in apartments. There are also some dogs that HATE and refuse to go outside in different types of extreme or inclement weather and prefer to stay indoors all the time. For these situations there is the option for indoor potty training.
These urban dogs have to hold it through the many hallways, elevators, stairs and common areas before ever making it to an appropriate spot to go potty – which means these dogs need predictable patterns to learn how to eliminate on the right spot.
They also have to learn to pee on concrete, which is not half as fun as marking trees and natural grass.
Although dogs tend to like smelly things, believe it or not, they prefer to avoid their own waste.
If Rover refuses to go potty outside during cold or rainy weather, can you really blame him? Cold weather creates its own set of stress for dogs, but now more than at almost any other time of the year, your weather sensitive canine companion needs your undivided attention.
Many dogs can be very stubborn about going outside in inclement weather to do their business, causing accidents in the house. To avoid this, and the frustration that is sure to follow, the solution may be bringing his potty spot indoors so your canine companion can still go regardless of the bad weather.
Indoor potty training for dogs is even recommended occasionally when dogs (especially small dogs) are having a particularly difficult time housebreaking. Sometimes it is simply easier to embrace the problem and work towards a common goal together; it is like a give and take between you and your small dog.
This can be particularly difficult due to the fact that apartment buildings, townhouses and condos don’t always have a balcony, yard or patio for Rover to do his business.
My First Piece of Advice
Be certain that indoor potty training is right for you before you get started!
It is easier to teach a dog to discriminate and learn to potty outdoors first, and then learn to use an indoor tool, than it is to reverse this training.
Why it is Difficult for Your Dog to Discriminate
Obviously, people who are house training their dogs or puppies have indoor dogs and therefore being indoors is normal and can be boring.
You know what is exciting for your puppy?
- Going outside and playing with leaves, butterflies, stink bugs, lizards, rocks…well, you get the idea.
So it makes more sense for your puppy (in his mind) to potty indoors where they normally spend all their time and get bored than it is to potty outside where it is exciting, new, and constantly changing.
This is the case no matter whether you are potty training exclusively outside or not; but when you add the ability and reinforcement of your dog to potty indoors this becomes even more true!
Dogs that are trained using paper and potty pads often pull down laundry, towels, and urinate and defecate on bath mats and other like items simply because they have been conditioned early on in their development to potty indoors.
First, you have to decide; do you want your dog to go potty outside or go potty inside?
Accepting your dog going potty inside sometimes and not others can be extremely confusing for your dog and frustrating for you, since it can be difficult to train your dog to go outside once he’s been taught that he’s supposed to go indoors. Once you’ve committed to the idea that teaching your dog to go inside is what will be best for you and your dog, indoor dog housebreaking can be fairly easy.
When you’re teaching your puppy indoor potty training, you need to be very consistent and proactive order to prevent confusion about what area of the house is okay for your puppy to use the bathroom. Where outdoor potty training tends to be easier for dogs to figure out because of the obvious differences between indoors – where they shouldn’t potty – and outdoors, where they should. Where with indoor potty training, the distinctions aren’t nearly as clear.
Don’t be surprised if your dog has trouble distinguishing your floor from his potty spot, so as with everything else, be patient and don’t expect him to get to his potty area and just know that he’s supposed to relieve himself there. You are going to need to use scheduling, confinement and lots of encouragement to teach your little guy what the litter box is for.
Constant supervision while the puppy is out of his crate or exercise pen guarantees that if Mr. Puppy is about to have an accident, you’ll be able to catch him, correct him, and guide him to eliminating on the right spot. Constant supervision is more than just keeping your puppy in the same room with you; he can still manage to have an accident. You need to have your eyes on your dog or have physical contact with him at all times. I find tethering him to you with his leash is very effective; and it helps him learn good leash manners... Double win!
Choosing an Indoor Potty Area
The next step before you begin the actual indoor potty training process is to decide where you want your puppy to go potty. If you can, try to set up your dog’s toilet where you want them to be long-term.
Putting your dog’s potty area in a room with linoleum, tile or other hard flooring is better than putting it on carpet.
Be mindful of the places you choose to place your indoor dog toilets.
Many people choose the kitchen for their dog’s potty spot, since the floors hard surface and extra room makes potty training easy for clean-up and it can be an easy place to create a more confined area.
But keep in mind… you are cooking and eating right next to dog poo and pee. Pleasant thought, right?
A good place to put your indoor dog toilets are in laundry rooms and bathrooms.
Another very important note for choosing a potty area: Make sure that you have more than one area set up so your dog can relieve himself. You may, later, restrict this to one area but during training it is best to have a few places when your dog has to go.
There are several options that you can use, or even a combination of items you can try to help you in your quest toward better dog potty training.
I mention indoor dog toilets throughout this article, but that is only one of several options, and can be used interchangeably with other methods I mention below.
It is also worth noting – don’t let your dog choose where he goes potty unless it’s the same one you would choose.
I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to a client’s home to find a potty pad right in the middle of an expensive rug in the living room and several others all over the house. When I ask why there are potty pads all over the place, the reply is the same; “That’s where he has his accidents, so that’s where I put the potty pad.” That’s not potty training, friends. That’s you giving up and your puppy winning!
Just say no to Potty Pads! Potty Pads are usually marketed to dog owners with new puppies or for puppy training, but I do not recommend their use for your dog, it is often hard to distinguish a potty pad from your other things.Think about it; potty pads are soft and plush and smell like ammonia.
The carpet in your house is soft and plush. Bathroom rugs are also plush and soft and smell like our human (ammonia scent). Human sweat and urine often smells like ammonia (even to us in some circumstances).
Now remember that your dog’s nose is thousands of times more powerful and sensitive than your own nose.
No wonder these dogs pull down bath towels, and pee on your laundry piles and carpet; because of course by using ammonia scented potty pads we are in fact teaching him to do so! Interesting thought right?
I mean, most people don’t realize how stinky we are (to our dogs) and how our own odor can increase the likelihood of our dogs using our things as a place to mark or put their own scent and relieve himself. Heck, he figures you did! We can alleviate this problem when we teach our dog that he has a potty spot and that spot is the only place he can use to relieve himself.
I am a big fan of the “Potty Patch” and similar items. because it is synthetic grass for dogs in apartments and does not resemble blankets, laundry, or carpets. I once taught a Service Dog to potty using this method because he was going on a cruise with his owner. We got “artificial turf” and taught him to potty in the shower so it was easier cleanup for his owner.
This was years before the inception of the potty patch! And, we cut the size of the synthetic grass down smaller and smaller so that we could accurately determine where he would go.
The crate training method is a good choice for pet owners who are able to take their dogs out frequently for potty breaks. Just like training your dog to go potty outside, you must take your dog to the designated area and allow him time to get comfortable and do his duty.
When you are thinking about crate training and purchasing a crate I recommend getting a crate that will be big enough for your adult dog.
Unless you have oodles of money laying around, I would not necessarily get a crate the size of your puppy and then continue to get bigger crates as he ages.
And, don’t think you aren’t going to need a crate when your dog is full grown, because crate training has its benefits throughout the lifetime of your dog!
Instead I would recommend getting a crate big enough for your adult dog and partitioning it off to be smaller depending on the size of your puppy. If the crate is TOOOO big, chances are your puppy can have an accident at one end of the crate and lay at the other end, which mostly defeats the purpose of crate training.
Wire or Plastic is up to you… however most of the time I like plastic crates because they feel more like a den and most dogs seem to like them better because they are less visually stimulating. However each dog is different!
Be patient, and use the designated areas throughout the house so that your dog is familiar with each locale. Quietly praise him and reward him with a treat for a correct decision and soon indoor potty training will be a thing of the past!
Confinement Training This is the best indoor potty training method for dog owners who are away from the house for extended periods of time. You’ll create a confinement area where your dog can be left when he is unsupervised. The area should have a bed, food and water, toys, and an area for your dog’s potty area. As your puppy becomes reliable about using his potty pads, you’ll gradually increase his area of confinement until he’s loose in the house and reliable about taking himself to his potty spots when he needs to go.
Setting up the confinement area. The ideal confinement area is easy to clean and easy to close off with a door or baby gate.
It should be mostly free of furniture and non-puppy related objects.
The best places for a confinement area are the kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, or an empty spare room.
If he does have an accident on your bare floor, use a solution of 50% vinegar and water, or an enzyme cleaner to fully remove the scent. If he peed on your carpet, he will most certainly repeat on the same spot unless it is professionally cleaned.
If at all possible, it’s best to keep your puppy off the carpet until he is fully potty trained as he will be drawn to the scent of his own urine.
~~ Keep a consistent schedule for your housebreaking routine. This will allow your dog to anticipate the time, and for you to predict his needs. To start, the more often, the better– for example, morning, afternoon, evening, and right before going to bed. The younger your puppy is, the more he will need to go out until he has full bladder control.
~~ Feed him at the same time every day– ideally, twice a day. Leave the food out for 15 minutes and feed him only in one area to reinforce cleanliness.
~~ Supervise your puppy while he is out of his crate or confinement area with a leash or a tether attached to you at all times. Allowing your puppy to roam freely in the house will compel him to find a hiding spot to pee in the house.
~~ If he has an accident, don’t reprimand him if you did not catch him in the act.
~~ If you catch him in the act of peeing or pooping in front of you in the incorrect spot, firmly startle him with a quick clap or a noise like OH OH OH and take him to the correct spot.
~~ When he eliminates, praise him profusely! Provide him with his favorite treats which is reserved specifically for potty breaks. Play with me and celebrate his accomplishment.
Most importantly, be patient, show consistency and predictability, and you will have indoor potty training mastered in no time.
This is What the Potty Training Process Comes Down To
Yes, I do think it is important early in the training of your puppy to decide are you an indoor or outdoor potty person and stick with it until you have your first goal (later you can get your pet dog ready for a cruise).
But it doesn’t matter, indoor or outdoor, what does matter is YOUR consistency and YOUR willingness to not take your eyes off of a learning pet dog or puppy (use a crate when you can’t) and not accept any exceptions.
After all, your dog’s life might just depend on it one day!
For more on potty training click these articles
For indoor potty training, The Grass is Always Greener INSIDE the House
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.