Needless to say, dogs are our babies.
But we never expect to actually change their diapers.
And yet, diapers for dogs exist.
Can You Use Diapers for Potty-Training Your Dog?
No, diapers are generally not recommended to manage messes while potty-training a puppy.
But why not?
Like babies, puppies are believed to not yet be developmentally mature enough to have full control over their bladder and bowels.
Or… are they?
In some regions in Asia and Africa, elimination communication is common practice.
If you haven’t heard of elimination communication (EC), allow me to blow your mind.
Some babies don’t wear diapers.
In many parts of the world, disposable diapers are not readily available, nor are washing machines for reusable cloth diapers.
Instead, mothers and other caretakers wear their babies for most of the day.
That constant closeness allows them to pick up on all of their baby’s little grunts, whines, and whimpers.
When they sense their baby needs to “go,” they take the baby out of their carrier sling and hold them over the ground, a toilet, wherever. Holding the kiddo with the baby’s knees to their chest, the parent makes a sound like “psssh,” to communicate to the baby that it’s time to pee or poop.
And, from birth, the babies can control their bladder and bowels to avoid peeing and pooping on their parent.
Yet, our western babies may be in diapers for up to three years.
It’s not to say that either way is right or wrong, or that I have a particular opinion on human parenting. While EC has started to catch on, especially with naturalist-style child rearers in the United States, it probably isn’t practical or possible for everyone.
But it goes to show that even human babies are capable of communicating, understanding, and controlling their bodily functions if given the chance.
My point is that puppies, too, need the closeness, the communication, and the opportunities to eliminate appropriately.
And we don’t have to wear our puppies for that to happen.
How Does Elimination Communication Relate to Puppies?
When you’re home, your puppy should be in the same room as you, under constant supervision, so you can read their cues and take them out when needed.
You’ll also take your puppy outside after meals, after playing, and upon waking.
When you’re unable to closely supervise your puppy, you may put them in a crate.
While crated, your puppy will communicate by whining and barking, and they’ll become restless when they need to go out. Crate-training might be a central part of your puppy’s potty-training, or you may not use it as much.
For example, at nighttime, you might prefer to have your puppy sleep in your bed, rather than in a crate. If you’re a light sleeper and likely to wake up when they stir, you might not use their crate as much.
You might use a tool like potty bells to aid communication. That way, your puppy will learn to look to you, ring their bells, or otherwise let you know when they need to pee and poop, rather than looking for a spot to do it on the floor.
You may use umbilical cord training as an alternative to alongside crate training, which is when your puppy is attached to you with a leash so you’ll quickly pick up on their cues.
Using diapers would make the potty-training process much more difficult, messy, and confusing for you and your puppy. So, it’s no wonder diapers for puppies have never taken off.
So, Why Do Diapers For Dogs Exist?
Diapers for dogs are really not designed for puppies.
They’re made for three purposes:
- For hygiene when a female dog is in heat. A female dog goes into heat about once every six months. Dogs are in heat for about three weeks, over the course of which they will be receptive to mating and able to become pregnant. They will have blood-tinged discharge. It’s difficult to keep a diaper on a dog while she’s in heat. Personally, I found it easier to cover furniture and rugs with old towels, as it seems more natural and more comfortable for a dog to keep herself clean, rather than to wear a diaper.
- To prevent marking from male dogs. Male dogs will sometimes lift their leg to urinate on vertical surfaces indoors to mark their territory. Dogs do not mark when they have to “go,” instead triggered by new environments, stress, or insecurity. Marking can become an endless cycle, as a dog will often repeatedly mark a spot that he’s already marked with his scent. “Belly bands” are diapers for male dogs. They’re good to have on-hand when a dog is likely to mark, for example, while guests are over or when visiting a public space.
- To care for an incontinent dog. Illnesses and disabilities can cause incontinence in dogs, making diapers necessary. This is something I have experienced – my childhood dog, a Westie named Nicky, would often have urinary accidents after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was prescribed steroids to help control the tumor’s growth, and these caused excessive thirst and frequent urination. Even as his mobility declined, though, the diapers were difficult to keep on. Lining the floor with puppy pads was more helpful in his final months. For other incontinent dogs, though, diapers can be essential for maintaining cleanliness. Younger dogs with disabilities may wear diapers for years. And for senior dogs in decline, changing diapers may be one of those final acts of love before saying goodbye.