Saturday, June 05, 2010

Apartment Living with Small Dogs

Excuse the deviation from the normal Austin love. I am just so darn proud of myself, I had to share this with you all. Oh, and, actually, it has a lot to do with Austin living with all the sky-rise condo apartments combined with small dog lovers we have downtown these days!

So, as I've discovered, one of the inconveniences of moving into an apartment from a house is having to do without the conveniences of a house. With little dogs, specifically this includes giving up the convenience of a backyard. As owners of little dogs know, a little dog equals a little bladder and thus many, many potty breaks. Those of us who have the unfortunate experience of owning a backyard, then owning none, or at least not living by the one you own, and discovering that their little doggie does not indeed like to do their duty on the leash are, in a word, screwed. After about two weeks of being here, and having accidents on the carpet, in the kennel, and in the sad little caged area we set up in the kitchen she ended up being confined to, especially when she'd never had an accident before save for one or two when we first adopted her, not to mention the constipation she had from trying very, very hard not to go in the house or on her leash, I'd had enough. I decided I was going to give her a backyard. Even if it was only approximately a 2' x 4' backyard. On our balcony, deck, patio, whatever you want to call it.

So I headed to Home Depot and picked up my supplies. My original intent was to create an all wood planter box with a plywood bottom. After discussion with the very helpful Home Depot employees, that plan deviated a tad to an acrylic bottom that would keep the bottom from rotting, cement bricks to elevate the bottom off the cement deck in order to hose underneath thus keeping the deck clean, and lower wood sides than I originally anticipated as we'd already raised the height with the cement bricks and I didn't want our little dog to hop the fence.
The boys and I then headed to the sod store to pick up our grass. Our first stop was a garden nursery, but with no luck there they very helpfully pointed us to a nearby turf store. At the turf store they generously gave us the four squares of sod we were looking for, and even more so gave us measurements for the sod and idea such as the plywood bottom in order to build what my original goal was. They even told me that there was a lady who sold these, but they no longer had her business card. Unfortunately after a little online research, I'm beginning to think she only sold fake grass ones, as I could not find any real grass "potty patches" online. However, I did find a fake grass one called the Potty Patch. After reading reviews, though, I realized the construction is a tad flimsy and shaky, sometimes scaring little dogs. Also, I didn't want to have to hose the pee off the fake grass.

So onward with creating my own real grass potty patch. First, I set down the cement blocks. Then, I placed the acrylic on top, and finally placed the wood pieces around the edge of the acrylic.
My nephew very sweetly came over and drilled eight screws, two in each end, into the wood to hold it together.
Brando drilled eight screws into the wood through the acrylic from the bottom in order to be able to transport it if need be one the soil was in. We poured in the self-feeding for four months soil, placed the grass sod in by cutting the pieces with a knife to fit, and wa-la!
One, REAL grass, potty patch.

As a precaution, we introduced her to the grass with a treat immediately after her feet touched it. Then enticed her to move to other parts of the grass by having her follow a treat in our hands. We enticed her to hop up, then sternly told her no, and gave her a treat once her feet were placed back on the grass to keep her from wanting to hop out. We placed the 24" Midwest black exercise pen around our grass patch
and placed her inside with another treat. Then we walked inside, opened the blinds, and peeked in on her to make sure we were at the ready to say no if she hopped out. She hopped off into the tiny space of cement, hopped back on, started sniffing and promptly did her duty!! I was so relieved, I almost cried!! Seriously. I thought the grass patch would work, but I wasn't totally convinced and if she was afraid of it or didn't like the texture there'd be no hope. So as soon as she was done I went outside and showered her with praise and a few more treats. I told Shawners that after he feeds her now he needs to wait five minutes then take her to the door to the deck and ask her if she wants to go outside. When she starts to spin circles like she does when she's saying yes she wants to go outside, take her to the grass patch and place her in and tell her to, "Go potty!" like we do. Then, the first few times, make sure to praise her immensely when she goes and give her a treat.

Oh my word, I am SOO relieved the grass patch worked instantly. The nice thing is, her little eight pound self's bladder is so tiny, the pee will soak right in - no need to worry about cleaning that off! Her number two duty can be instantly picked up with a duty bag and no smell! The grass can be watered and, now my only hope is, that it stays alive! Which leads to my next project - find a quick connect adapter for the sink faucet in order to be able to easily attach a hose to the sink and water our current garden
and new grass patch.
Read: easy for that one as I already have a faucet adaptor, but without an aerator it's not convenient to use as a sink faucet, and switching out the adaptor with the aerator is downright irritating. But that's for another post!

*30x36 clear acrylic sheet - or whatever size fits your needs
*1" x 4" interior/exterior wood, cut to fit by the hardware store - make sure this is NOT treated, as that can dangerous for your dog
*16 screws
*3 pieces of sod, 16' x 24', cut to fit - I believe ours is Bermuda grass, but I'm not positive
*1 bag of self-feeding soil for at least three months
*24" Midwest black exercise pen or similar

*Lay down cement blocks
*Place acrylic on top of cement blocks and adjust for maximum support
*Screw wood pieces together at ends to create a frame the size of your acrylic sheet
*Screw acrylic into the bottom of the frame by first drilling holes, then screwing in screws
*Fill with a 1"-2" layer of self-feeding soil
*Lay sod on top and cut to fit
*Enclose with an exercise pen
*Water until water drips from the sides
*Train your dog to like the new texture with treats
*Train your dog to do her duty by placing her in the pen, watching from out of sight, and rewarding immediately with treats as soon as she is completely done
*Wa-la! A real grass backyard for your little dog on your patio or deck!


Elizabeth said...

We had a fake potty patch to use in the winter in case our dogs wouldn't go in the snow. Luckily they learned to go outside pretty well, and we got rid of the fake one. We took care of it and washed it the way they said to, but boy it stank! I love your idea!

Optimista said...

This is ingenious! Way to go, you!

Mai said...

you are a genius! i wish we could do that with my roommate's dog. we're still trying to get him to learn how to walk properly (and not walk US).

That Chelsea Girl™ said...

That is wonderful!

Pink Sun Drops said...

Elizabeth, Fortunately this one doesn't stink, but I did have to "mow" the lawn with scissors.

Optimista, Thanks! I was so glad it worked the first few days. Unfortunately through circumstances she was allowed to go on the cement and was promptly terrified of being on the grass after she realized she could go on cement instead (as in shaking standing on the edge of the wood terrified). Fortunately in the meantime she learned to go on the leash and all is happy.

Mai, Hehe, you should try walking Browniie!

Chelsea, Thanks, girl (but see above :) !


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