Housetraining a puppy is hard work. But what about retraining an older dog (mine is 7 y.o.) to go on fake grass you’ve set up indoors or on your balcony? I’d say it can be harder, but it’s doable! Here’s what I did to train my girl to pee on a patch of fake grass I placed on my balcony. I wanted her to have the option of going potty if I’m out at work all day, plus I wanted the convenience of not having to travel down 17 floors for a quickie before bed.
Pick a Spot
I introduced the patch of fake grass to Maddie in the exact location I wanted it to be at on my balcony. Moving it around everywhere can confuse dogs, as they remember location just as much as scent.
Stick to Routines
I typically take my dog out on longer walks twice a day, before breakfast and dinner. Then once again at night before bedtime on weekdays where I’m at work all day. On the weekends, she gets to go potty throughout the day as well. During the first week of training, I consistently took her out to the fake grass whenever it was time for her walks. I even put her collar and leash on to take her out onto the balcony.
Use a Command
Dogs listen for words. Using a specific command to encourage your desired action can make this retraining easier. My dog has always associated “do you want to go outside?” or “do you need to pee?” as indicators that I’m about to let her out to go potty. So whenever she went potty on walks, I constantly said “go pee.” That was the command I used to get her to associate potty with that fake grass.
Add Real Grass and Sticks
There are these wood chips and sticks on the lawn in front of my building that she always peed on. I grabbed a handful as well as some real grass to sprinkle over the fake patch. Gives it an au naturale feel.
Utilize a Pee Pad
Beneath the patch of fake grass I lined a sheet of pee pad. I took the pad out with me on a walk and made sure to catch some of Maddie’s pee on it and placed the pad under the fake grass so that she can smell her own scent there. It might help to use other dogs’ pee too.
Encircle the Patch of Fake Grass with Kibble
When dogs are looking for their spot to mark, they do a ton of sniffing and usually round in circles. (This is especially the case when they want to poop.) Placing kibble around the patch of fake grass and some on top makes your pup do that familiar encircling and gets them sniffing on the fake grass. Eventually she’ll sniff her own scent there just by looking for her kibble.
Praise Praise Praise!
This is an obvious one – Praise your pup like you’ve never done before! Even after the first time using the fake grass, your dog might not exactly catch on immediately. So keep praising whenever she does and have patience.
It took Maddie until the 4th morning of using the steps above to finally go potty on the fake grass. Granted, she had been holding in her pee for nearly 12 hours from the previous night. I wouldn’t recommend forcing your dog to wait much longer than what she’s used to but I do think that helped push her to potty. That evening, Maddie refused to pee on the fake grass. She would sit there politely and confused at what I want, so I took her out for her normal walk. But that night before bedtime, she went again for the second time!
It’s been about 6 months since I first introduced the fake grass to Maddie. I found that the fake grass is hard to clean in my bathtub and it really stinks up the air outside my balcony door. We’ve actually graduated to going potty without the fake grass, by just laying pee pads on the black tray that the grass came with. And then a month later, Maddie can now successfully go potty on a pee pad lying on the balcony floor.
I have not been successful in getting her to go outside on her own when I’m away, but that’s the end goal. I want her to feel comfortable going out and using the pee pad when she needs it. So far, she dislikes going on the balcony so her peeing on the pee pads is only by command. If that’s what you’re looking to achieve, then these steps will still help you get there. Otherwise, I’ll update this post if and when the day comes that Maddie goes potty outside on her own 🙂