Potty Training Tips: Using a Doggy Diaper

Sometimes people are hesitant to adopt older dogs because they think they will be impossible to train, they won’t bond, or they won’t have much energy. After fostering more than 30 Boston Terriers, most older and never puppies, I can tell you this is categorically untrue, but today I’m just going to focus on the potty-training part.

One of my favorite fosters, Zoye, languished in a chicken wire cage at a puppy mill for 7 1/2 years. She came to me after a failed adoption, where they kept her in a kitchen for six months, claiming she bit their daughter, bit their other dog, couldn’t possibly be potty trained, and was going deaf and blind.

When the woman handed me Zoye in her carrier, I though, “Oh, crap. Now I’ve got an old, aggressive dog who probably can’t be rehabilitated and may need to be euthanized. Why me?”

The first thing Zoye did, as if to solidify my fears, was walk into the door of my car. However, once I got her home, I quickly realized that these failed adopters just weren’t properly informed about adopting older or puppy mill dogs, both of whom generally need special love and care.

The first piece of special care I gave Zoye was to take her for a vet visit, at which time we discovered she had six mammary tumors. As we waited for her appointment to get them removed, we worked on potty training at home. She didn’t mind wearing a diaper at all, which was a blessing (if you haven’t seen a doggie diaper, it’s cloth or some sort of waterproof material, into which you simply insert a Maxi Pad, and when it’s wet, you just replace the pad).

Here’s the thing about using a diaper: With a dog who can be potty trained, it’s simply a tool to save your carpet, not the place you should be expecting them to potty for the rest of their lives. When used with a “zero tolerance” potty training policy, a diaper can be very effective. What I mean by zero-tolerance is that I take responsibly for preventing ANY mistakes in the house. Dogs go out every one to two hours (don’t forget to remove the diaper!), and they are always in the room with me where I can see them at other times.

Pottying in the diaper is NOT okay, and the dog should receive a firm “No!” and be put gently out on to the grass. This also goes for any other sort of indoor pottying. As the dog learns the rules, the diaper can be removed for longer and longer periods of time, until you no longer need to use it.

Within two weeks, I had Zoye potty-trained using this method, and you can do it, too, with a good diaper, a consistent schedule, a little patience, and minimal cleaning supplies. Good luck!

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8 Responses to Potty Training Tips: Using a Doggy Diaper

  1. Km says:

    Hi,
    I was just wondering if a you could use a diaper on a puppy for potty training and I think this answered my questions. In October I will be having a 8-9wk old Boston terrier puppy join our home, I’ve potty trained other dogs quickly and without problem. However I am reading bostons for the most part are a little more hard headed in that department and our house is only 1 1/2yrs old. I of course am going into this realistically knowing I will more than likely have some chewing, accidents etc,.. And am completely prepared for that. BUT if I could spare my new carpet even a few accidents then great.
    What should I expect sticking a 8-9wk old Boston puppy in a diaper though?
    I will of course follow my potty training regimen and I will let him know going in his diaper is not appropriate. Which raises another question, putting a puppy in a diaper this young could it confuse him when I take It off? Is it just another step added to potty training getting him away from diapers? I’m trying to figure out if it’s worth a shot or not. Love any other details and suggestions you can give.

    Thanks! :)

    • I’ve found Bostons to be very easy to potty train. It usually takes me a week or two of letting them out every hour or two and not allowing them out of my sight, but then we don’t have problems anymore. Regarding diapers, I sometimes use them for older dogs or if I just can’t watch them every second. Really it’s just to save my rugs. However, the key to quickly potty training a dog is catching them when they make a mistake, so you can tell them that what they’re doing is wrong, and they need to go outside. This is not accomplished by screaming and rubbing their noses in it. It’s best done with a firm “no” and then getting them right outside to the grass where they can smell previous urine. When they go outside, make a huge deal about it and give them a treat.

      So, the short answer is that you can use a diaper, for sure, but you’ll probably achieve quicker results by just keeping the dog in your sight and getting him or her outside right away. Good luck!

    • Me says:

      It’s not at all about being “hard headed”. Dogs aren’t out to spite us. A dog that is having trouble being potty trained is due to their not understanding. If pottying outside is worth their while and they understand that they should only potty outside and not inside, they will only potty outside.

  2. Me says:

    I don’t think the “No” is particularly necessary. You could use a kinder interrupter or just the unpleasantness of not being able to walk away from their mess and having to carry it with them would seem to be punishment enough.

    I’m not a fan of +P or -R but I have a puppy mill ex-breeder foster and I’ve been potty training her now for 10 months. I’ve tried every humane suggestion there is. Enough is enough and now she’ll be wearing a diaper to help the process.

    I agree with you that shutting a dog away in a pen for the rest of their life because they can’t be house trained is hardly quality of life. Especially since many of these puppy mill dogs need to learn how to LIVE IN the house. Something that can’t be accomplished if they’re tied to you (which can be quite cruel for a human fearful dog) or penned 24/7. And I’m not super woman. Of course I can’t keep an eye on her every second. No one could.

  3. Barbara says:

    I trained my puppy with a training pad on the kitchen floor. Now she pees on that spot where there is NO LONGER a pad. She only does this in the early evening even though I have let her out just an hour or so before.
    I am going to have to use diapers. It’s not her fault that she resort to that same spot to pee. And, the reason is that I cannot let her ruin the grout in the tile. I trained her to do it and she doesn’t understand it is not okay.
    It is interesting that most of the ads for doggie diapers are for incontinence, not training.

  4. Anne says:

    I have been training my dog to go pee on a training pad when I used to live in an apartment, I didnt care as much when he would pee in the wrong place because I didnt have carpet. But now we’ve moved to a new house and he goes pee everywhere and I try to watch him but the moment I look away he goes and pees somewhere. and the worst part is he knows he is wrong because when I call him he comes with his head lowered. Does anyone have a suggestion to help me train him to go pee outside?

    • The only way that we know to get a dog like this to understand about peeing outside is to tether him to you at all times when you’re in the house, and when you can’t have him with you, put him in a crate. By having him attached to you at the hip (literally…put his leash on and tie it to your belt), you’ll be able to catch him immediately when he tries to pee in the house. When he does, give him a firm “No” and take him outside. When he does pee outside, shower him with praise. Within a month or so, you should see significant results.

  5. Carole Waslick says:

    I feel much relieved after reading your training with pads. I adopted two small pups (a Mom and her daughter) who, I have since found out, were in a puppy mill. They had been soiling all over my very large house.
    I finally put training diapers on them and crate at night. I now only feed once a day (at dinner time) using dry food only with a little water. How can they have loose bowels with this diet? I don’t remember it being this loose when I was adding a T. of wet food. They are adorable, sweet and love everyone they see. We walk at least twice (if not 3) times daily and the 1 year old pees every 25 yards. What? As I mentioned they are both females, but I never experienced this frequency.
    I’m trying to be patient — had them since Jule 25, 2014, but only using diapers recently. They are both smart and have picked up on going outside and walking and peeing in the grass now. They of course love to be on cement on brikes b/c that’s what they know. It’s a work in progress and I’m hoping I’m able to train them fully.

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