What Are Dog Diapers and Does Your Dog Need Them?

I'm a pet expert—here's how to know whether your furry friend needs dog diapers, and which ones to choose.

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I worked as a veterinary technician more than 20 years ago, and pet lovers then had the same complaints then that they do now: puppies making potty messes, and “leaky” old pets needing dog diapers. Today, I’m a certified animal behavior consultant for dogs and cats and the award-winning author of more than 35 health care pet books. Many of my books and articles offer practical solutions for dealing with dog and cat challenges.

Thankfully, today we have lots of options for keeping messy pooches comfortable, and our homes clean. Dog diapers—just like those designed for human infants or adults with incontinence issues—contain the pet’s waste for easy disposal. They offer a sanitary management solution for pet lovers. If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly and economical alternative, these washable dog pee pads and these reusable puppy pads are just what you need.

How do dogs and owners benefit from dog diapers?

Loving a dog means dealing with pet waste. We expect pets to eliminate in the right place and on our human schedule, but pets don’t always act the way we expect. Here are some ways you and your dog can benefit from dog diapers.

  • A clueless puppy without proper training may “whoops” in unexpected places. Diapers help protect your house from the mess until the pup learns potty etiquette.
  • An intact girl dog’s bloody discharge stains carpets and furniture when they go into season. That can last two weeks or longer. Dog diapers contain the discharge and help thwart boy dog Romeos until your flirty girl dog gets spayed.
  • Say you rescue a needy adult dog. He or she may not know proper potty behavior, or the stress of a new home could cause a lapse in his house training. A “hoser” dog leg-lifts to mark with urine all over your house, while a submissive pup “cries uncle” by peeing to say he’s sorry. Don’t blame the dog. The urine smell calms him down, so the more stress he feels from nail trimming, confrontations with the cat, or your frustration when he dumps his food bowl, the more he’ll baptize your home.
  • Modern dogs live longer, fuller lives than ever before. Thank dog, we don’t give up on a pet with a physical challenge, either. Instead, we make accommodations for them. Dogs in wheelchairs live wonderful, fulfilling lives, but may lose bladder or bowel control. Dog diapers make it possible for disabled pets to stay with their people.
  • Just as women of a certain age have a bit of trouble with (ahem) spillage because of a loss of estrogen, the same thing happens with aging spayed girl dogs. They don’t mean to leak, it just happens.
  • Certain veterinary-prescribed medications increase urination and can cause potty accidents.
  • Finally, a percentage of senior citizen canines develop age-related cognitive issues, sort of a doggy version of senility. They may remember house training—or not—but forget how to tell you when they need to go outside. Or they simply can’t “hold it” long enough to reach the door.

Most dogs are part of the family and spend time indoors with their beloved humans. They not only share our hearts, but many also share our beds and pillows. So dogs who mess in their bed (or YOUR bed, yuck!) create additional unsanitary issues. That disrupts the loving bond you share with your pet.

Sure, you can choose washable dog beds, and probably should. Check out 20 more dog bed options here. But dog diapers offer an easy, economical way to save relationships, reduce nasty bedding accidents, and prevent other stains around the house.

Woman changing diaper of her dog - estrus cycle conceptandriano_cz/Getty Images

How to use dog diapers

To use dog diapers most effectively, figure out the category of behavior they address. Do you need temporary help with a female in season or a dog that needs remedial potty etiquette training? For these pets, they may only need to wear a disposable dog diaper when in the house and at night. If your dog requires help for the rest of his or her life, the cost increases. Washable dog diapers are available and a good option.

Check for size to fit dog diapers

Choose products based on your dog’s waist, thigh, and torso length. Girl dogs won’t need as much length as boy dogs, who need the material to cover the penis. Boy dogs may get by with wraps (sometimes called male wraps or belly bands) when you only need to contain urine.

Measure your dog’s waist with a tape measure around the tummy at the spot where the waist of the dog diaper falls, about two inches in front of the hips. For the length, place your tape measure at the waist location under the tummy, and measure backward between the legs and up over the tail to the top waist location. Some products also want thigh measurement. Dog diaper products provide size charts and measuring tips for the best fit.

Diapers for dogs with or without tails

Most dog diapers feature a hole cut for the tail. If your pooch has no tail (or a docked tail), the diaper may leak. Cover up the tail hole with tape, or look for a dog diaper without a hole. You could also use a disposable dog diaper underneath, covered with a washable diaper on the outside, to contain everything.

How to train dogs to wear dog diapers

Be prepared to introduce your “leaky” dog to the idea step by step. First, set the diaper on the ground and let him sniff it and become familiar with the product. Next, slip it on your dog for only one minute, all the while offering tasty smelly treats he adores, then take off the diaper. Give him a five-minute break, and repeat, this time leaving it on for two minutes, or three minutes, and so on.

If he doesn’t object, you’re doing well. It can take some time to teach your pet to understand he should accept the indignity for treats. Sometimes lots of treats.

Change dog diapers frequently

Check regularly for signs of elimination. You’ll probably need to change the diaper every three to four hours to prevent irritation (think of “diaper rash” with fur, yuck!). Baby wipes keep your pooch clean with each change and soothe the skin.

You’ll learn your dog’s body rhythms quickly and know how long between changes she needs. Some products offer color-coded alerts when the diaper becomes soiled. Give your dog a break from wearing the diaper during romps outside where he or she can do what comes naturally.

What’s the difference between disposable and reusable dog diapers?

Disposable dog diapers get thrown away after one use. They’re made from paper material, with leak-proof outer coverings. These plastic covers can make crinkly sounds when the dog moves, and some dogs dislike the sound.

Reusable dog diapers are cloth and machine washable. They’re softer for dogs’ comfort and may be accepted more readily. Reusable dog diapers come in fun colors and patterns or match fur colors for a more discrete look. Some contain pockets to hold disposable pads. These often come in packages of two or more, so that you can rotate washing and drying others while your dog wears one. They’re machine washable, and depending on the product recommendations, can either be placed in the dryer or hung up to air dry.

The best dog diaper picks

Best reusable dog diapers

So Phresh Washable Diaper For Dogsvia petco.com

The So Phresh Washable Diaper for Dogs offers two diapers in one package. Its five sizes can fit breeds from Chihuahuas to Goldens. The moisture-wicking liner, leak-proof barrier, and quick-drying outer layer offer an eco-friendly alternative to disposable options.

Best disposable small dog diapers

Hartz Disposable Dog Diapersvia walmart.com

Hartz Disposable Dog Diapers offer a good value, especially for puppies and little breeds like Chihuahuas. They come in sizes fitting dogs from 7.5 pounds to 26 pounds. The technology turns liquid to gel and claims six-hour leak protection.

Best disposable female dog diapers

Simple Solution Disposable Dog Diapersvia amazon.com

The thirty-count Simple Solution Disposable Dog Diapers offer a great value. They feature “fur-friendly” fasteners and a wetness indicator to keep your girl happy and dry. Five sizes—extra-small to extra-large—and stretchable fabric mean they’ll fit any size female dog.

Best disposable male wrap for boy dog diapers

Top Paw Disposable Male Wrap Dog Diapersvia petsmart.com

The Top Paw Disposable Male Wrap Dog Diapers contain twelve wraps. They get my vote for convenience and their color-changing wetness indicator.

Best reusable male wrap for boy dog diapers

Pet Parents Belly Band Male Dog Wrapvia chewy.com

I like the Pet Parents Belly Band Male Dog Wrap because it comes in a pack of three, with a wide range of sizes and colors. The sewn-in absorbent material wicks away moisture, with a waterproof exterior shell that keeps everything tidy. They’ll stand up to multiple washings, so they’re a great bang for your buck.

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Amy Shojai, CABC
Amy Shojai, CABC is the Affiliate Pet Editor at Large for Reader's Digest. She's also an award-winning pet journalist and the author of 35 pet titles. She specializes in translating pet medical jargon and shopping information into information pet parents easily understand. Amy shares animal behavior and care information on her blog, and lives in North Texas with her furry muses.