Dogs adapting to apartment life

Apartment living is becoming more and more popular, especially in big cities. It’s predicted that the number of people living in units will hit fifty per cent in Australia’s major cities over the next few years.

So what does this mean for our furry family members?

Adapting to a grassless environment can be a bit confusing at first for dogs, especially if they’re used to having a back yard. If you have a puppy, the good news is that when they are finally toilet trained, they become superstars at doing their business on a schedule. The bad news of course is that potty training puppies is a lot harder in an apartment – especially because they have small bladders and will need to go more frequently. Don’t fret. Dogs are very adaptable and tend to learn very quickly. Here are some ways to teach them:

Take them outside as much as possible.

Take your dog to a grassy patch near your house at least twice a day to do their business. This will also give them a chance to get out of the apartment, sniff around and get a bit of fresh air.

Feed and take them out at the same time every day.

For adult dogs:

If you feed your dog in the morning and the evening, taking them out early in the mornings and late in the afternoons should be enough. If you are home, you may also like to take them out in the middle of the day as well, just in case.

For puppies:

According to the Humane Society, puppies can only hold their bladders for a maximum of two hours. This is even less for newborn puppies under eight weeks old. If you have a puppy, take them out as often as possible to minimise mistakes inside and the big clean-ups that come with them.

Always take them to the same spot.

Pick a patch of grass near your apartment and go there every time you take your dog outside to use the toilet. This helps them develop a sense of routine and comfort. Be sure to reinforce positive behaviour by giving them a treat when they go in this spot and not anywhere else. They’ll soon come to see it as their own toilet.

What if I’m not home?

Life is busy. People work and have things to do. Naturally we can’t always be there to take them out when we want to. Thankfully there are a few ways to keep your dog from leaving a mess in your house while you’re not there:

  • Buy a pet potty.

Yes, these exist! A pet potty is an elevated box with a layer of synthetic grass on top. When your dog does their business, any liquids go through into a waste container that is easy to remove and clean. Some even come with a scent spray designed to make the potty and attractive toilet spot. You can keep it your balcony for use while your out or during the night. The prices range between about $150-$350.

Pet potties usually work best for adult dogs that are already used to going on grass, but a puppy can also be trained to use one. Make sure you clean it at least once a week to avoid a build-up of bacteria and nasty smells.

  • Keep them in a certain section of the apartment while you’re out.

You can gate off certain areas using a child safe fence. By keeping your dog in one spot where they feel comfortable, like the laundry or kitchen, you can reduce the amount of mess on the carpet and other areas of the house. Not only does this make it easy to spot and clean up accidents, but according to PetMD, dogs are also much less likely to go to the toilet in a place where they eat or sleep.

With that said, leave any dog in one spot long enough and they will not be able to hold it in after a certain number of hours. Where possible, try to not to leave them alone for too long if you can avoid it.

Never scold them for having an accident.

Dogs respond much better to positive reinforcement. Shouting, hitting or rubbing their nose in their accident will only make them feel afraid and confused. Rather, give them a treat when they do the right thing.