The Synthetic Grass is Always Greener … Grass for Dogs in Apartments

grass for dogs in apartmentsNot 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.  potty training

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. 


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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 Discriminatehave clear potty training goals

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. 

puppy indoor accidentsWhen 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 potty pads

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

potty pad trainingI 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).

living with dogsNow 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.

Crate Training 

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 crate training

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. indoor potty

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. potty training schedule 

  ~~  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. 


positive reinforcment


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

I Used to Teach to Pee and Poop in the Bathtub

My 9 week Old Puppy is Potty Trained  

For indoor potty training, The Grass is Always Greener INSIDE the House

Teaching Your Pet Dog or Puppy to Ring a Bell for More Successful Potty Training



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  1. Sharon says:

    Is it possible to retrain a 5 year old dog that has beenpotty pad trained since 8 weels of age to go outside while we have a new puppy that was gotten at 6 weeks we realize mistake now but figure this can be fixed.we also have the problem mentioned above of biting the older dog and chasing the cat the leash idea was amazing to me,


    Minette Reply:

    Thank you ! You will have a well adjusted dog that has learned good manners if you use a tie down!

    As far as your older dog, it is going to take lots of work and patience since he has been conditioned to going on a potty pad.

    Go back to square one and keep him in a smaller space and keep an eye on him getting him outside every few hours.

    It is possible but it may take you a long time.

    Read this article about conditioning so that you understand 😉


  2. Meredith says:

    I have a 14 week old poodle we are training to go outside – he is an indoor/outdoor dog and can use a doggy door. He’s doing very well on the whole with only the odd accident when over-excited provided he is kept to the floored areas of the house. If he gets into the carpeted area he seems to think that it’s grass and will even poo (which he otherwise NEVER does inside). We have put in a gate but the other dog and two cats have free run of the house so it’s a bit of a hassle. How do I teach him (and at what stage of the process) that carpet is not grass!


    Minette Reply:

    You must control him and be with him when he is on carpet.

    I leash my dogs to potty train them.

    I don’t like a doggy door until my dog is fully potty trained… I think it is confusing to the dog.


  3. Michelle says:

    Hi Minette, 2 days ago, I adopted a 4 year old unspayed Papillon who was all along kept in a cage the whole day and brought out twice daily to do her business. I have a piece of newspaper in the kitchen where I would lead her to every now and then but she refused to pee on it. She’d do it everywhere around the paper except on it. I tried putting a kitchen towel soaked with her pee on the newspaper but I realized she doesn’t smell the area at all before she goes, so I’m worried the scent of her pee is not going to help in her knowing the correct place. And when I startle her while she’s peeing, she would just stare at me and continue peeing, so I can’t actually carry her to the correct place.

    I know I’m doing it wrong and I’m eager to start correcting myself and her before it’s too late. Can you guide me?


    Minette Reply:

    It is going to take a long time with a 4 year old to recondition how she does something so natural to her.

    You also have to keep her with you so you can take her to her spot. I would get one of those indoor doggy pads with the grass if you insist on having her inside.


  4. peggy says:



  5. Dina says:

    I have a 11 yr old Labrador that is an indoor dog (live in apartment) and has been trained to relieve herself outside since puppy. She is well trained and recently had accident inside on dog bed during a UTI. I built an outdoor potty patch (4×7) on the balcony using real sod (gorgeous!) and associating it with ‘outside peepee’. She used it once and now wants to lay in it. Any suggestions on training would be helpful! She is getting older, I live on 3rd floor (becoming safety issue), and I’m unable to let her out during the day due to long commute to work. I need her to use the gorgeous grass!!

    Any suggestions would be helpful!

    Thank you,



    Minette Reply:

    First I would make sure the UTI is gone for sure and have her urine tested again (these come back very easily).

    Next, she is probably laying in the grass because it is cool. I would make sure she has something cool to lay on and also a variety of theraputic dog beds so that she can lay somewhere else that is more comfortable.

    Dogs, like people can get dementia when they get older… so if nothing helps this may be a sign of old age and you can ask your vet about related medications that can help her be clearer headed.


  6. Priya says:

    I have a 10 week old Jack Russell who I am trying to train on Potty Patch as ,where I live, the weather conditions are too adverse at times to take him out to toilet. Whenever he has to toilet, I put him on the patch but he runs away from it and pees on the floor or carpet. He has peed a few times on the Potty Patch but rarely enjoys going on it. I even feed him a nice treat and praise him when he has done his business on the Potty Patch. Any advise on how I can make him like going to Potty Patch?
    Thank you.


  7. Annette says:

    Great Doggie site…good advice-please if you have any on doggie problems of eating their own feces it would be appreciated. Mia is only 4 mos. she is doing well with Potty Patches in the house. Have to and have been giving her Copophagia for a month now but problem continues maybe slightly better but not as it should be!
    Thank you for your site info for puppies!!


    Wendy Reply:

    I am having success dealing with my dogs’ copophagia by mixing pineapples into their food. It takes about a week or two to work. Also, on the days I am too busy to cut up fresh or canned pineapples I use a product called Solid gold Seameal from to mix into their food. I believe it’s because of the digestive enzymes that’s lacking in their diet or that the pineapples makes their own poo taste bad.


  8. Terra says:

    I have 11 year old York shire mixed toy poodle named coffee and trained her to go on pads when I am not at home. I moved recently now she refused to go on her pads. How can I teach her to go on her pads again?


    Minette Reply:

    If you read the article it has step by step advice


  9. kasey says:

    I have an 11 month old Shihtzu (Zues) I just bought from a friend. Hes outdoor trained.I’ve had him for 3 weeks and hes only had one mistake in the house (poo). I also have a 3 year old chihuahua who is fully pad trained. Anyway back to Zues..I want to train him to use the potty patch. Since my boyfriend and I are at work most of the day during the week, and can’t let him out as often as he would like. I feel as though it is torture to make him hold it if we are gone long periods of time. So far this has been very difficult task. He goes to the door to let me know he needs to potty. I pick him up, place him on the potty patch, tell him to potty and he just stares at me for a bit, then tries to walk off the patch. He won’t even sniff it. He heads right back over to the door that leads outside. I seriously need help with this. Also he chews everything. He has squeek toys and dog bones laying every where! Yet he always chooses shoes, carpet, and well, pretty much anything but what should be chewed. This is a huge problem due to the fact that I rent my home. And I do not have money for all the repairs he is causing. Usually when I catch him in the act he lowers his head and tries to hide. So obviously he kbows he doing wrong. How do I get him to A- use potty patch. And B- stop chewing everything in sight? Thanks in advance 🙂


    Minette Reply:

    A crate is going to solve most of your problems.

    an 11 month old dog should be able to hold it for 8 hours or more; I would stick with having him go outside. If you are worried; pay a dog walker to come in and walk him in the afternoon and then you will all be happy.


  10. Sheryl says:

    Hi we have a very well-trained 5 year old echnoodlr who has always been trained to go outside. The challenge is that we’ve just moved to NYC in a high tide and would like to teach her now to use potty pads. She seems very confused by them- even when we try to bring them outside with us – I think she’s too used to going in nature. Any suggestions, because she won’t have access to an outdoor potty like she used to when we’re not home? Thanks.


    Minette Reply:

    Read the article and use the indoor grass as lined out in the article.


  11. Andrea says:

    I have a 14 week old french bulldog puppy, and because we got him before he had all of his vaccines he couldnt go potty outside so we potty trained him with pee pads, and he is pretty consistent, using the pads about 85% of the time. We are trying to transition him to going potty outside but all he does when he gets out is play in the grass, I assume its because he doenst associate the grass with the potty. We live in an apartment so getting him out quickly when he shows signs of wanting to potty is a little complicated. I also got him a potty patch with fresh grass but he doesnt know how to use that either. Do you have any advice for potty training puppies to go outside and/or switch to potty grass in apartments?
    Thank you!


    Minette Reply:

    Read and follow this article


  12. Mary says:

    Just got a 8 week old Portuguese water dog. Doing crate training and outside to potty every 4 hours and also after food and water. Going well. I take her out at midnight and 4am and it is really dark and I feel a little unsafe. Can I take the dog on a grassy patch outside on my deck only at night and then on the real grass all the other times. I always take her on the leash. I would so appreciate your advice.


    Minette Reply:

    That is a personal question. I guess if I lived in downtown Baltimore I wouldn’t want to go out… but the more consistency with potty training the better a puppy learns.

    Also I don’t take my puppies out at night unless I hear them getting up in their crates. So I wouldn’t go out every 4 hours unless that is when the puppy is getting up.


  13. ELLEN KANE says:

    why retrain your dog to go backwards????Would you have a toilet trained 4 yr old child pee and poop in his pants. he was so proud when he got rid of his diapers……you are CONFUSING this dog. Please just take him outside as he has been taught to do


    Minette Reply:

    Not everyone can, some people are home bound, live in apartments, live in NYC or work long hours there has to be a way to train a dog to go inside. And with all due respect it is nothing like pooping your pants..


  14. Nell says:

    Soon we’ll be adopting a 10 week old lab/pointer mix. Our family will be home with her the first week, but back to work the following week. We’re typically gone betwee. 7:29 and 4:00 and have arranged for a dog walker to come between 11-1 each day (they schedule in two hour blocks). I’m concerned that initially, that may may be too long for her to wait. Should I arrange for twice a day walk/playtime at first? And at what age can be switch to once a day?

    In the evenings she’ll get a lot of enthusiastic play with our 8 year old and there’s an off-leash park Just a few blocks away!


    Minette Reply:

    It may be too long and each puppy is different! Gauge it on how the puppy does when you leave at other times.


  15. Jessica Lundy says:

    Hi! I adopted a dog that is very well trained to pee outside, but I want her to feel free to pee on the pee pads. I don’t know what to do because if I don’t take her outside she holds it for HOURS. Sometimes the entire day if I’m not at home. I want her to be able to pee inside so she can feel more comfortable and I’m sure it’s better for her health too. Any suggestions of what I should do? Thank you in advance!


  16. Denise Lund says:

    My dog is 9 years old, and I just purchased a strip of real grass, for her to use on my patio.
    How can I get her to use it?
    She never goes pee in the house!j


    Minette Reply:

    take her out to it on leash and prevent her from making other choices


  17. Maria Bueso says:

    I have a 16 weeks english setter. Last month, when she came to our house the vet didn’t allow her to go outside because she didn’t have all vaccines. So we started to teach her to use a specific place at home to potty with potty pads. She learned really fast and in 3 weeks almost never failed. Now she has all vaccines and we started to take her outside and really want her to potty outside while we take her. The problem is that while outside (even for 2 hours ina row) she doesn’t do anything at all. How can I teach her to go outside if she doesn’t even do anything outside?
    Do you have any advice for me?
    Regards, Maria


    Minette Reply:

    This is why I don’t like potty pads; it is confusing to teach a dog to go potty inside and then try and convince them to go outside. It will take much time and patience on your part to fix this problem.


  18. Michael Kornfeld says:

    Zara our rescued 3 year old spayed Belgian Shepherd has adapted very well and is happy in our home which is a large sailing catamaran boat. her recall is great and just wants to please – a fast easy learner – except for one thing: will not train to a fake grass mat to toilet despite frequent trips on a lead. she will go both on and off a lead when at the beach, but only off the lead on the boat deck if she cant go to the beach. we have been trying to train her to go on cue with rewards, but she is not picking this up. please help – otherwise she is an excellent boat dog.


    Minette Reply:

    Then keep her on leash and take the option away, sometimes this is what is needed for them to learn.


  19. Minette says:

    read this article


  20. Hala says:

    I have a 5 month old puppy, I had since she was 12 weeks old.
    I trained her to use pads since I live in an appartment and unable to run down the stairs every time she needs to potty. Plus she sometimes can pee every 1-1 1/2 hours in the evening.
    But I noticed every time she leaves the pad there are urine marks on the floor. So I thought I might put the pads just outside the door, leash her up when she needs to go, so I can control where she goes after peeing and minimize the area getting wet.
    I removed the pads from inside, put a bell on the door and I am trying to train her to ring the bell when she needs to go. A couple of times she got it right but then she went and pooped inside where the pads were present.
    If I am planning to move the pad a little bit further should I do it from the start or should I wait untill she gets used to going outside the door first?
    Plus I leave to work more than 5 hours. So, can I leave her pads while I am gone and remove them when I am back or is this too confusing for her?
    If not, what can I do?
    Any advice is much appreciated. Thanks.


  21. Iva says:

    That is such a cool way to use fake grass! I love the idea of not resembling carpet, towels, or clothes like potty pads usually do. When you use those, then your dog will get confused and pee anywhere. With this potty patch, it looks like grass, so there’s no confusion. Great idea! Keep up the good work.


  22. Elizabeth Turnbull says:


    I have a 1 year old rescue that we got at 6 months and have been finding it hard to potty train him in our apartment. He lived on the street since he was a baby with a homeless man, so he’s never been inside a home until us. We have him crate trained, and we take him out every couple of hours. He will go potty outside, 2 times he’ll pee and then poop 3 times. We’ll bring him in and he’ll go into his crate even though he can be anywhere and proceed to potty in there after being outside. He’ll also immediately go after eating his meals and we always walk him prior to his meals.

    He’ll eat training pads and doesn’t avoid the “no go sprays” for training.

    Is there a way we can work with him to have him understand that the crate is for bedtime only and how he can let us know when he needs to go?

    He also doesn’t seem to understand a morning routine and will go to the bathroom right after we wake up and get our morning routine done. Can you give us some tips on how to get him to be in a routine as well?


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