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Apartment Life with Dogs: That Midnight Potty Break

Apartment Life with Dogs: That Midnight Potty Break

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When you live in an apartment, those late night potty breaks can be a real pain in the tail. Getting up, getting dressed and leashed up, going outside in the dark. It’s inconvenient and maybe even dangerous, if you live in the ‘hood like I do. Luckily,we have a solution.

* * *

We’re loving our new apartment.

There’s a lot to be said for apartment living. There’s no giant yard to mow. No ‘garden of good intentions and poor execution‘ to wrangle. No maintenance. Little upkeep. I could get used to this!  We don’t love everything though. It’s been a huge adjustment for me and for the dogs. Learning to be a bit quieter, not to bark as much and most importantly, that the people in the hallways aren’t trying to kill us, do you hear me Felix? One of the biggest adjustments has been getting Kolchak and Felix on a solid potty schedule. I’m starting to feel like Sheldon when he interviewed Leonard as his roommate.

When we lived in the house, I just opened the back door any time a dog had the urge to go. It’s a bit more of a production when you live in an apartment. Leashes, collars, harnesses, pick up bags. You need so much stuff! Then we trek down four stories and head out. It’s an ordeal and while I love my dogs and obviously don’t want them to have any accidents, I also don’t want to be traipsing in and out every 10 minutes all day. Not to mention, every now and again, Kolchak or Felix has a sudden urge to pee super late at night. Casa de Kolchak isn’t exactly in the ghetto, but it’s not the safest either. There are far too many middle class spoiled kids around here who think they be thugz. I feel like a wimpy girl and two small dogs aren’t much of a match for things that go bump in the night. The idea of late potty breaks kind of freaked me out a little.

I decided that I wanted a potty area on our deck.

You guys know me, I don’t enter into anything lightly, so I carefully researched my options before I chose a dog potty. Pee pads were disposable, but they felt really wasteful and not very Earth friendly, plus I had a sneaking suspicion Felix would chew them. A friend offered to make me a flat planter to grow real grass, but I didn’t want to deal with keeping it alive and clean. I have a brown thumb and just how do you clean real grass?! I started to look at faux grass patches. I looked at a lot of units trying to pick the perfect one. Some were way too big and others ridiculously small. Some of them seemed really hard to keep clean and almost all of them seemed near impossible to empty. I hated the idea of kitty litter ones, since we tend to get a lot of rain here and there’s a good chance our potty will get soaked often. There were lots that had an open bowl to collect urine, but the idea of carrying a bowl of dog pee across the beige carpet in my living room to empty it in the bathroom gave me heart palpitations. I was super excited when I found the perfect one for me. (Bummer for you guys? They’ve since stopped making them.)

urban potty for dogs

This model gets major points for the fully enclosed collection container.

I knew a deck potty was the right solution, but the dogs? They needed more convincing.

You expect me to pee on this? That's weird. Feels like a trick.

You expect me to pee on this? That’s weird. Feels like a trick.

The thing is that back at the house, we put a lot of work into teaching the dogs they couldn’t pee on the deck. Felix hates getting wet and in the Winter, he would hide behind the BBQ and pee, rather than venture out into the yard. We worked hard to not only teach them to pee only on the grass, I even taught them to pee on a specific area in the yard. * FACEPALM * What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time. In order to convince the dogs to use the Urban Potty I was going to have to do some training. The only trouble was that I didn’t know where to start.

  • I tried taking them out there at potty time and they would just sit there, looking pained and whining with urgency.
  • I tried using Jenny Jugg’s magical urine collection tip. Armed with a ladle, which I later threw away, I collected a bit of my dog’s urine. I soaked a cotton pad in the pee and put it on the potty. You’ve heard the theory that dog’s will pee in places they already smell their urine, right? NOT MY DOGS. Kolchak looked at me like I was nuts and Fe just shook his head and went inside.
  • I tried taking the faux grass out on a walk with us and sneakily tucked it under the dogs when they went to relieve themselves. I don’t think that achieved anything other than showing my new neighbours that I am, in fact, a crazy dog lady.

I had almost given up hope when I realized what the solution was. (I swear, it was so sudden that had you been with me, you would have seen the light bulb go on over my head.) My dogs don’t pee in open fields. They don’t squat. They don’t pee into nowhere. My dog’s pee on things. Trees, bushes, patches of weeds and areas of tall grass. Could it be that maybe my dogs didn’t want to use  our dog deck potty because they didn’t have anything to go on?! I headed to the local garden centre to get a couple potted plants to put behind the potty. My goal was to get plants would hang over the potty, so I could ensure the dogs were peeing into a spot that would drain into the reservoir and not onto the porch. This is what I got:

It's a tall, swooshy grass that looks like weeds. Kol thinks it's perfect.

It’s a tall, swooshy grass that looks like weeds. Kol thinks it’s perfect.

It works like a charm.

As soon as I positioned the plant pots and sprayed them with a bit of those sprays designed to encourage good potty habits {insert link}, Kolchak walked over and peed on them. Not to be outdone, Felix went and peed over his spot. Eureka! We had success.

Oh...I get it. You pee on this thing, eh? Why didn't you say so Mama?

Oh…I get it. You pee on this thing, eh? Why didn’t you say so Mama?

I won’t pretend that teaching my dogs to use a deck dog potty was easy. It took a lot of patience and dedication on my part. I took them out there every time they wanted to go out, gave our potty command and waited. The first time, Felix laid on it like I had brought him a new grass bed! Kolchak would jump up, sit on it, then look at me like “where’s my treat?”. Some days, I wanted to scream, but like any training, be it good leash skills, cute tricks or not to chew things, great behaviours come from hard work. You can’t just expect your dog to “get it” right off.

I can honestly say that a deck dog potty fixed a huge challenge for us.

Thanks to this little patch of faux grass, I can feel safe knowing I don’t have to venture out at all hours and that if my dogs gotta go, they can. It’s a small price to pay for that kind of peace of mind. I’ve already recommend it to a couple single ladies and an elderly couple in my building. Safety first you guys! It would also be great if you (or your dog) was recovering from an injury (like a torn ACL, Felix) where you weren’t allowed to walk much or if you had an illness that kept you close to home.

I rather like this Urban Potty, Mama. Good call.

I rather like this Potty, Mama. Good call.

It’s not a replacement for a good walk. All dogs still deserve to get out and smell the neighbourhood, but it’s a great choice for when that walk just isn’t an option.

Have you ever tried an indoor or a deck potty? Do you think one would be useful for your life?

Kol’s Note: Urban Potty provided us with one of their potty units in exchange for sharing our experience and our honest opinions. As always, our commitment to you is that we will only endorse products we love and believe in. All opinions expressed are our own.

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Saturday 12th of November 2022

Brilliant advice re adding grass around the turf potty. I bought 3x pots of ornamental grass and put them along the side of the box yesterday. My dog did his first pee in there about 20 minutes later! Number 2's had never been a problem, but no pees. Thank you!!


Thursday 7th of November 2019

Just moved to apartment. Charlie is used to big back yard. Have tried artificial and now real sod and he will not go on either. Have used spray And have tried every suggestion and nothing works. I made him hold it so long he was barking until I took him down three flights of stairs to go. Did I say he is 13 year old maltese. I have sat on the deck for hours with him hoping he would go. No luck. Also he now has separation anxiety since our move and barks non stop if I leave him HELP I am 80 years old and had him since puppy. Having hard time dealing with him


Thursday 7th of November 2019

Have you tried getting some bushy real grass style plants to go on the sod? That was the game changer for us. As soon as it had some big bushy plants around it, they started using it within a couple days. Good luck!


Friday 17th of May 2019

Hi there! We have a 14 week old bulldog that is frightened of EVERYTHING outside. He can’t focus on going pee or poop because there’s an airplane in the sky to be afraid,,,then the wind blew. No joke, 1 hour outside and he does nothing. The second he’s inside, he does his biz. Our first bulldog was a breeze. I have about 20 steps going up to the front door and between taking out 2 dogs at 2 separate times, it’s exhausting..mostly because the puppy is taken out a dozen times a day. So, I wanted to attempt using the deck with him to see if he would feel less vulnerable to the world. However, this thing seems awfully small knowing dogs like to circle for just the right spot. Do they make larger ones?? Also, did you try spraying anything on it to encourage going potty on the “grass?” I’m hoping to find a baby step solution such as this until he becomes brave enough to squat in public.


Sunday 19th of May 2019

Awww poor little guy. For us, the key to getting my dogs to use it was putting plants on it so there was something to pee on eliminating the need to circle a lot. We did try spraying an attractant spray on it, but we didn't find it made much of a difference. Good luck with your sweet boy.

I would really encourage you to work with a trainer on your little one's fears. I hope he can overcome them with your help!

Top 5 Best Indoor Dog Potty Systems | Daily Dog Stuff

Tuesday 6th of November 2018

[…] systems give your dog a chance to go whenever they need to. Many owners place the system outside on a deck or balcony. This helps to keep the odor out of the house and gives your dog some fresh […]


Tuesday 8th of May 2018

When you would take your pups out to the grass pad and give the "potty" command, how long do you wait? Before we go on all our walks, I take my dog to the patio near the grass pad and give him the potty command, and he just sits on the pad. I'm not sure how long to wait out there with him, since I know he does have to go.


Saturday 12th of May 2018

Do you use the potty command on real grass too? If not, I'd start there. I'd also consider using an attractant spray that makes pets want to mark that spot. There isn't really a "time limit" since every dog is an individual, but from what you describe, it sounds to me like your dog doesn't realize they *should* potty in this spot. That's the problem I would try to solve.

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