All You Need to Know About Doggy Diapers

doggie diapers

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One thing that a lot of dog owners end up struggling with at some point in their lives is largely non-behavioral issues in housebreaking. Things like incontinence and submissive urination can leave messes in the home, even when the dog already understands the boundaries of house training.

One of the options in these sorts of situations is dog wraps and diapers. These are in essence exactly what they sound like: diapers for dogs that catch messes before they can be deposited on your floors, drapes, and unfortunate guests. Doggie diapers and male wraps are a reality for many dogs with incontinence issues, but can also come in handy as a band-aid solution during training for excitement, fear, and marking.

However, there are also some drawbacks to using doggie diapers that can negatively impact some training situations, and some issues that can arise from their use. Read on below for details on how diapers for dogs function, how we recommend them to be used, and when it is best to avoid them.

Is It OK to Put Diapers on a Dog?

There are many situations that a doggie diaper may prove helpful, and with the right precautions most of them are perfectly fine for dogs to wear.

Doggie diapers function in the same manner and serve the same purpose as human diapers do, from checking incontinence to providing a safeguard during training to providing a barrier for menstruation. They can be used for a number of purpose and we sometimes recommend them for managing behavioral urinary issues while training is under way, for the sanity of the dog owner.

It is perfectly OK to put diapers on a dog, provided that the ones you choose are a safe option for your pet. More on the best doggie diapers below.

Can Dogs Pee in Diapers?

Doggie diapers are specifically built to catch urine, be that in small amounts or a full bladder’s worth. Depending on the product, there will be varying levels of absorption and hold capacity; but for any type, it’s best to replace the diaper as soon as it’s been soiled.

They even have male-specific “wraps” for dogs that are specifically designed for urine only. These can be really helpful in males that are excessive markers, even in inappropriate places.

However, dog diapers are intended more as a solution to less trainable urinary problems, such as incontinence or excitement urination. They are not necessarily intended as a primary solution for house training. This is because dog diapers are not typically meant to catch a full bladder’s worth of urine when a dog eliminates, and should be changed immediately in cases where a dog does fully relieve themselves in a dog diaper due to risks of rash or infection.

For issues like excitement, submissive, and fear urination, as well as issues arising from incontinence or marking behaviors can all be alleviated or managed through the use of male wraps and doggy diapers.

Can Dogs Poop in Doggie Diapers?

Some doggie diapers are intended to be able to catch feces as well as urine. While male wraps that go around the dog’s belly can only catch urine, a full-coverage doggy diaper can usually sufficiently catch feces in the case of emergencies.

However, similarly to the intended purpose with urine, doggy diapers should not be a first solution to house training when it comes to defecation. This is because poop will be held in the diaper until you are able to replace the diaper, and if left can be uncomfortable for your dog or even cause issues like rashes.

When it comes to managing poop, doggie diapers are best saved for issues of incontinence or to catch problems arising from digestive system upset such as diarrhea that may be difficult for the dog to control. In these cases, you should be checking your dog regularly to ensure that the dog’s diaper is clean. When dealing with these issues, you should also be bathing and spot-cleaning your dog as needed to ensure that their body stays clean and healthy.

Are Doggie Diapers a Good Idea?

There are a number of situations in which doggie diapers are a good idea. Some that come to mind are incontinence especially in older dogs, uncontrollable urination that arises from excitement, submission, or fear, and management for marking during a training period.

However, there are also downsides to the use of doggie diapers, and measures that should be taken in order to use them correctly. Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of doggie diapers.

a close up shot of a cute dog

Benefits of Doggie Diapers

The benefits of doggie diapers largely come down to keeping yourself and your house clean while dealing with non-standard house training issues. While they shouldn’t be used as a form of potty training, doggie diapers and male wraps can contain urine and feces in a number of situations that can help dog owners manage issues and make their lives easier and more cleanly while going through longer-term training protocols.

For example, a dog that marks in the house will need to be taught that marking indoors (or on other animals and humans) is inappropriate. But while the training is happening, the dog may be able to wear a diaper as a safety net to ensure that they don’t make messes in your home or someone else’s.

I have also recommended male wraps and doggie diapers to clients who are struggling with excitement urination. In my article, Why Your Dog Pees When People Come Over (and How to Stop It) I go over excitement urination and how we reduce it over time. Unfortunately, because dogs rarely know they’re peeing out of excitement, it’s not a behavior that is easily modified; you can really only go to the root of the issue, the excitement, and treat that. Male wraps and diapers can be really helpful in these situations to keep the excited dog from accidentally urinating on their owners and inside the house, which cuts down on a lot of frustration for those dog owners.

Doggie diapers can also be helpful for dogs with sensitive stomachs, to simply keep on hand in case they come down with diarrhea. Sometimes this can be difficult for the dog to control, and can come in small but frequent amounts. Having a stash of diapers can help keep messes contained and easy to clean, provided you are diligent about checking your dog regularly.

Lastly, doggie diapers can be helpful in situations where a dog that is not entirely house trained really needs to not do their business at an inappropriate place. Think visiting with friends and family, where you don’t quite have the means to be as diligent as I detail in my article, Why Does My Dog Pee at Other People’s Houses?

We dog trainers often say it’s about being diligent and the work you put in, which is true. But the thing is, life happens and training circumstances aren’t always perfect, and this can be a nice occasional help in those situations.

Downsides of Doggie Diapers

As many as the benefits are of doggie diapers, there are nearly an equal amount of downsides. Luckily, these cons are situational and can often be eliminated if they are known and precautions are taken. Essentially, use the diapers appropriately, and many of these are a non-issue.

Firstly, doggie diapers can be uncomfortable for a dog that is not used to wearing them. This can lead the dog to fuss with the diaper, remove it, or even shred it up. Because of this, I always recommend using the diapers only under supervision if possible, and taking some time to condition the sensation of wearing them with some nice food.

If a doggie diaper is shredded, it can be ingested as well. Depending on the material of the diaper, this can actually be hazardous. More on this, and the types of doggie diapers we actually recommend, later.

Doggie diapers and wraps should also not be left on for prolonged periods of time. This is because, especially if soiled, these diapers can potentially cause hotspots and rashes. In extreme situations there is even potential for a soiled wrap or diaper to cause a UTI. To prevent these issues, check and change your dog’s wrap regularly, even if it doesn’t seem soiled; bacteria builds in moist, warm places, and this is no different. Additionally, give your dog breaks from wearing the wrap regularly to allow the skin to breathe.

Doggie diapers are also not an adequate solution or alternative for actual house training. If used as a primary house training solution, doggie diapers can actually make the issue worse by training your dog to never need to “hold it.” I talk about this concept in Are Pee Pads a Good Idea? (and 5 awesome alternatives) because the concepts are very similar. In order for successful house training to occur, your dog will need to learn to hold it and learn to potty outside consistently over time.

The Best Diapers and Wraps for Dogs

Because of the potential hazards of absorbent materials like disposable doggie diapers and potty pads, my recommendation for the best wraps and diapers are going to be something made of fabric that can be washed an reused.

Using a fabric wrap or diaper does not completely eliminate risks from ingestion, but it is significantly diminished compared to the expanding fibers in pee pads and diapers/wraps. Additionally, choosing a fabric wrap can really cut down on costs over time, as they can be washed and re-used until they are no longer needed.

Some dog owners get a sense of ick from the idea of reusing items meant to catch urine and feces, but done the right way it is completely sanitary. Washing the wrap or diaper would look like a matter of removing the diaper from your dog, emptying any solid contents into the trash or toilet, and running the wraps on their own through the wash on a high-heat sanitize setting. Optionally, users of reusable dog diapers will sometimes have a vinegar bin to store and soak used diapers prior to washing, so they can wash more wraps in one load of laundry and give any messes a chance to dissolve and stave away bacteria prior to a full wash.

Remember, while it may be enticing to clean reusable wraps with bleach, this should be avoided due to the ammonia in urine, which combines with bleach to create chloramine. Vinegar is a much safer option, as it will not react with ammonia and has its own antifungal and antibacterial properties.

For more information on cleaning pet messes, check out my article, How to Deal With Accidents While Potty Training Your Dog.

If you are completely set on a disposable option, I recommend finding something light that is meant to be changed regularly and creates a more comfortable feel for your dog. If the wrap or diaper fits comfortably and doesn’t make a huge amount of crinkling, it will be easier for your dog to forget about it and may diminish fussing with the wrap.

While gel-based wraps and diapers may seem enticing for their quickness to dry, these are actually the kinds of materials I recommend avoiding, because if ingested they can cause a lot of problems similar to those I talk about in my article, Are Pee Pads a Good Idea? (and 5 awesome alternatives).

How Long Can a Dog Wear a Doggie Diaper?

While dogs can wear a doggie diaper for longer periods of time (as in, several hours) I highly recommend that dog owners tailor their dogs’ wear times based on their specific needs so the dog is only wearing their wrap or diaper exactly as long as they need to.

The reason that I always recommend that the goal be for minimal wear is that dogs can develop a few issues with prolonged wear, such as hotspots, rashes, and even urinary tract infections if a soiled wrap is left for too long.

Here are some recommendations based on specific needs to different doggie diaper uses.

black tan and white short coated dog

Wear Recommendations for Incontinence

For issues of incontinence, it may be unrealistic to allow your dog prolonged breaks from the wrap or diaper during the day, as they may “leak” fairly consistently throughout.

In these cases, I recommend giving your dog breaks in the form of outside time where leaks are less of a concern. A long walk can give your dog’s skin a chance to breathe, and also give older dogs the kind of exercise that may even improve incontinence issues by strengthening the muscles around the pelvis. Understandably, if you have a dog who is experiencing incontinence due to age, a vigorous walk may not be something your pet is up for. However, taking a long but leisurely stroll or even just a little “green time” in the yard or park will not only help with prolonged diaper wear but also be thoroughly enriching for most dogs.

Wear Recommendations for Marking

For foiling attempts at marking in the home, diapers and male wraps can be a savior for a lot of dog owners. While they won’t stop the behavior, they can keep your dog from actually hitting their target during the behavior.

When it comes to wear time, my recommendation is to limit wear to times that marking would be inappropriate, such as when the dog is loose in the home. Better yet, limit wear to times that the dog is loose and supervision is limited — if you are capable of tackling marking from the behavioral side by interrupting or correcting the behavior, that is even better.

For more on marking, check out my article, How to Stop Dog Marking in the House.

Wear Recommendations for Excitement, Submission, and Fear Urination

I have a pair of articles that handle different sides of the same dog training coin. They handle urination caused by overexcitement, fear, and submission, and are both available at the links below.

Why Your Dog Pees When People Come Over (and How to Stop It)

Why Does My Dog Eliminate in Stores?

While I do have detailed protocols for how to handle excitement urination (including submission and fear, as well), this type of training can take a longer time and be more difficult to control than regular house training. Because of this, I often recommend doggie diapers and wraps for dog owners who are working on these issues, as something of a band-aid until their dog is more capable of controlling their own excitement.

My recommendation for wear time in the case of excitement urination is to limit wear to times that urination would be a real issue. If your dog only really excitement pees when your friends come over, that is a time that you might consider putting on their wrap (of course, while also going through the steps detailed in the corresponding protocol for the behavioral side). If your dog is a particularly excitable dog and more of a 24/7 risk, you might have them wear the wrap while loose in the house, taking it off when the dog goes outside and when they are in their place command or confined in their crate.

Ultimately, wear times will vary for different cases, so my recommendation is always to assess the dog in front of you and reach for the shortest wear time necessary, in order to both cover your bases and give your dog adequate breaks from wear.

General Wear Recommendation Advice

In addition to the above guidelines, I also recommend the following rules for wear, to allow your dog to have the best chance of success with diapers and wraps:

  • Remove the wrap or diaper when outside or when confined in a crate.
  • Check your dog’s pelvic area regularly to ensure that rashes and hotspots are not developing. Dogs that wear diapers or wraps may need more frequent baths or spot-cleaning to the area as moisture and heat is held in the wrap.
  • When home with your dog, check the diaper regularly to make sure soiled materials are not worn for long periods of time.
  • If at all possible, do not leave your dog unsupervised wearing a wrap for extended periods of time. If you leave your dog home alone, I recommend crate training so your dog does not need to wear their wrap all day, and possibly hire a pet sitter or dog walker to check in on them at some point if you are going to be gone for several hours at a time.
  • Re-assess your dog every few weeks to ensure that your dog is only wearing the wrap exactly as much as they need to. If you are also working on the behavioral side, some issues will diminish over time and therefore ideal wear times will also change.

What Can You Use Instead of Diapers for Your Dog?

There are a number of alternatives to the use of regular doggie diapers, depending on your situation. Remember that in most cases, diapers and wraps for dogs are typically a band-aid solution. Some of the alternatives to doggie diapers are:

  • House training
  • Potty pads or pad alternatives
  • DIY options (t-shirts, scrap fabric, towlels, etc.)
  • Spay/Neuter
  • Veterinary treatment

In general, we don’t usually prescribe the use of wraps and diapers for dogs that are simply house training. For that, we recommend our straightforward training protocol detailed in the article, How to Potty Train Any Dog.

For potty pads, we have a lot of the same apprehensions about them as we do disposable dog diapers, such as the absorbent materials and risk of ingestion complications. I talk about these risks, as well as some more favorable and safer alternatives to potty pads, in my article, Are Pee Pads a Good Idea? (and 5 awesome alternatives).

There are also many DIY options made of old clothing, towels, or scrap fabric. These might be a great option for you if you’re already savvy working with textiles, but if you don’t have that particular skillset I can see how making your own reusable dog diapers may actually cost more than simply buying a small set of premade ones.

selective focus photo of long coated brown puppy

On the disposable side, some dog owners fashion dog diapers from the human alternatives, cutting a hole for their pet’s tail in the back of the regular baby diaper. While some are thrilled at this as a cheaper alternative, simply be aware that many human diapers contain the same hazardous materials that disposable dog diapers can contain.

In some cases, a spay or neuter may help your dog, though this depends on the issue. In males, the decrease in testosterone from a neuter may aid in excessive marking, but this of course is not a guarantee. In females, a spay will remove the need for diapers if their purpose is to catch menstruation.

Lastly, there are veterinary treatments that may aid in urinary issues. Depending on your situation, your vet may recommend medications or even surgery; if you’re at all suspicious that your dog is experiencing a medical-related urinary problem and not a behavioral one, it is best to consult your veterinarian to be sure.

When Should You Use Doggie Diapers?

Doggie diapers still dog have a place in dog training, and it largely depends on the problem you are facing.

In general, doggie diapers are NOT ideal for:

  • general house training
  • modifying behavior around elimination
  • dogs that are particularly destructive
  • dogs that will be unsupervised for long periods of time

However, doggie diapers may be really helpful for situations in which:

  • a dog is incontinent, and training measures become less helpful
  • a dog is urinating frequently from excitement, fear, or submission, and long-term measures are being taken to improve the issue
  • a crutch is needed to keep a not-yet-trained dog from doing their business in someone else’s home, store, etc.
  • marking is occurring and being trained, but there is a desire to cut down on messes in the meantime
  • a dog has a sensitive stomach and sometimes comes down with diarrhea that can be difficult to predict/control

At the end of the day, use of doggie diapers and similar tools can help in a number of situations, granted they are used properly. Dog owners can keep them on hand, and tailor them to their experiences as needed!

Author: Kimberlee Tolentino

Kimee has worked hands-on with dogs for over ten years, and today serves the role of head trainer and owner at Lugaru K9 Training in Port Orchard, Washington. Kimee has been a shelter volunteer, a dog walker, dog behavior intern, a dog trainer, and now specializes in behavior modification for pet dogs.