Beyond wee-wee pads: 4 easy indoor pottying options for city dogs

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Why would anyone want a dog to do their “business” inside their apartment? Sometimes it’s because a puppy hasn’t gotten vet approval to go outside, or because weather is nasty. Other times, it’s a matter of a dog’s health issues, or simply the reality that it can be hard to get a dog outside frequently enough if you live in an eight-floor walkup. As trainers, there are times when we see anxiety or aggression that is so severe on the street that we advise dog owners to go a period of time when they only take their dogs on walks when they’re with a trainer, if at all. Whatever the reason, the fact is that teaching a dog to eliminate inside in an appropriate place can often be a solution that goes unconsidered. Wee-wee pads, which soak up urine and keep excrement from getting on your floor, are the go-to for most puppy owners. But dogs sometimes learn that peeing on one soft thing on the floor means that it is okay to pee on all soft things, and that’s bad news for your rugs. Others simply don’t like the aesthetic of devoting part of their precious square-footage to what is basically a spread-open diaper. In the long term, other options may be easier to use and more environmentally friendly. Here are some products that may make at-home bathrooming a less stressful option possible for you and your dog.


 fresh patch dog grass
The Fresh Patch is fresh grass shipped to you by subscription. That’s it! Dogs like to go on soft things, and many learn quickly to go on grass. If your dog has previously enjoyed going on grass outside, it should be an easy transition. If your dog hasn’t yet had that particular pleasure, the Fresh Patch may help him transition to going outside–if you can find grass outdoors, that is! Even if your dog doesn’t catch on, it’s a purchase that he might enjoy simply as a lounging place. What a luxury for a city dog to have his own personal plot of grass delivered semi-monthly!


A litter box or litter pan is a staple in most cat owners’ homes, but dogs can use them too! Dog litter is usually made of specially-engineered wood chips. The litter soaks up the odor so that it doesn’t bother humans, but it retains enough smell to help your dog understand that it’s a swell place to go. Because dog litter does not need to be changed daily, a litter box can produce less waste than wee-wee pads. What’s more, moisture will never hit your floor as it’ll all be contained in the box. The clearly defined box or pan can help a dog learn to be specific when aiming; when using a wee-wee pad, some dogs tend to go when they’re only half on it, without necessarily realizing it.


It might not be the most popular method, but for some dog owners, dog diapers can be a life saver. Surprisingly, most dogs tolerate them well. Next to being hyper vigilant in teaching your dog to be in a crate (or otherwise confined) unless you are sure he is “empty,” diaper-training may be the best way to be completely certain your oriental rugs will not be sullied. If a dog is getting trained to go both inside and outside, the mild discomfort some dogs likely experience when wearing a dirty diaper can be enough to teach him that he is better off waiting for an outing than going in his “pants,” and then having to wait for a human to give him a fresh nappy.


4) Cinder blocks
NYC trainer Jay Andors has come up with a clever idea to help teach city-dwelling dogs to go inside in such a way that they will naturally transition to outdoor elimination. It only involves a trip to Home Depot to get cinder blocks or paving stones. You want enough of them put together so that your dog can stand on them fully. Select a quiet area of your home and place them on top of a spread-out trash bag or a folded-up tarp to protect your floor. Instead of bringing him outside, put him on a leash and take him for a “walk” in this area of your home. Dogs who already know how to go outside may quickly make the connection that this is an indoor potty spot, since it’ll feel familiar on their paws. For a dog who may learn to go outside in the future, the blocks can begin to help him understand that the texture of pavement is a cue to eliminate.


(With help from our intern, Tiffany Wu)

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