The Pros and Cons of Using a Puppy Apartment for Potty Training
"Puppy apartments" have recently received rave reviews to help with a well-known challenge: potty-training puppies. It is a well-known fact that a great number of puppies are surrendered to shelters and put to sleep simply because the owners found potty-training too challenging. The so-called puppy apartment is built in such a way as to make the process easier.
But do they work? As a certified dog trainer I have observed pros and cons to using a puppy apartment to train dogs. I'll discuss them both here, as well as how the method is meant to work.
What Is a Puppy Apartment?
First, some definitions.The puppy apartment is basically a one bedroom apartment with a bathroom. If you purchase a puppy from a reputable dog breeder, the puppy will have started the potty training process. They will recognize a puppy apartment as similar to the whelping or nesting box that they were born and nursed in. Both spaces work because they rely on innate instincts, offering areas that separate soiling from sleeping, eating, and drinking. Puppies understand the two distinct areas because they have an instinct to not soil the areas where they eat/drink/sleep. Unlike a whelping box, a puppy apartment has many entryways.
Advantages of Using a Puppy Apartment
Here's what I like about puppy apartments.
- When the puppy is inside and the door is closed, they are set up for success. They have two choices: to soil as far away as possible from their bed/water/food, or to soil their favorite sleeping/feeding area. Most puppies (unless they were crated all day and learn to sleep in their messes) will soil away from their sleeping area. This is their innate instinct.
- It makes potty training easier for puppy owners. Many owners would love to train their dogs to go outside to potty, but there are always those idle times when the puppy needs an indoor option. Unlike a snug crate, where the puppy would be forced to soil in its sleeping area or painfully hold it for many minutes, the puppy apartment offers separate soiling space. A puppy apartment can save owners the hassle of waking up every two hours to take the puppy outdoors.
- This makes it unnecessary to limit water intake. Some dog owners limit water in order to eliminate night-time pee outings.
- There is less chance of puppies being scolded for soiling their snug crate in the night or when left alone. It is astounding the number of people who still get mad at puppies for not being able to hold their bladders and bowels.
Disadvantages of Puppy Apartments
Here are some things I do not like about puppy apartments:
- Commercials for puppy apartments makes them look really easy to use. They show puppies who have the whole run of a room repeatedly returning to the puppy apartment to go potty. This looks too easy to be true. It is!
- It's wrong to assume that a new puppy will use the apartment in such a way. It may work once the puppy is conditioned to use it and has developed bladder control, but there are other potential problems with using this method.
- A puppy that gets used to a puppy apartment may be overwhelmed when she is let out. Once outside the apartment, a big world unveils itself. She no longer has a guideline or a choice. Rather, she can soil virtually anywhere without worrying about soiling her favorite sleeping or feeding area. This sets the pup up for failure.
- As any dog owner knows, once a puppy soils an area, the smell may linger if not cleaned promptly with the right products. When the puppy smells a previously soiled area, it may soil there again. The apartment method does not potty train puppies. It trains them only when they are in the apartment, but that is not practical.
- Some dog owners rely too heavily on the puppy apartment to avoid taking their dog out on walk for deserved exercise and socialization.
Why Apartments Fail as Potty-Train Tools
A helpful guide on potty training puppies that every new puppy owner should have. When it comes to potty training puppies, it's important to follow specific guidelines so to increase the chances for success.
I have had clients for whom the puppy apartment failed. Here are some of the reasons:
- The puppy smelled his potty area but just doesn't make it there on time. For a puppy under 12 weeks old, the moment he thinks he has to go potty, the pee or poop is already coming out!
- The puppy smelled his potty area but did not want to go inside the crate because he disliked being closed in it. If your puppy is reluctant to go inside, has associated being closed in it while you are gone, or is kept in there for a very long time, he may have negative associations with it. Dogs like enclosed spaces, for an appropriate amount of time.
- The puppy could not figure out the way back to the apartment. The world is very big for a puppy and he may not make it in time. To identify the apartment's sleeping area for them, try putting treats there every now and then. He will visit it often for pleasant surprises! Visiting on a more frequent basis may help him learn how to get in it and what's inside. It is also a good idea to invest in puppy pads with odor attractants to further grab the pup's attention.
- The puppy did not have sufficient time to learn to use the "bathroom area." If you got your puppy when he was eight weeks old, a week may not be enough for him to learn where his bathroom is when he is outside the apartment. This takes time. Make sure to always reward your puppy promptly when he uses the apartment to potty!
The Famous "Puppy Apartment"
Can a Crate Be Converted Into a Puppy Apartment?
Technically yes, but there are some drawbacks.
- You need a way to divide the bedroom and bathroom areas so the puppy can see the boundaries and yet easily access both. Real puppy apartments have openings on most sides to make it easy for the puppy to access the bathroom area.
- If you are using a regular crate with only one door, your puppy may not make it all the way inside in time. His nose may know where the pad is, but his mind still has to figure out the fastest way to get there. The lack of sufficient doors may hinder the process and a puppy apartment may be a better choice.