How to Train Your Dog to Poop in a Litter Box

How to Train Your Dog to Poop in a Litter Box
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon3-6 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

There are many reasons you might want your dog to go potty inside your house rather than taking him for a walk or letting him outside to go. Larger metropolitan areas may not have easily accessible grassy areas to walk your dog. Apartment living, especially high-rise apartment living, may give you reason enough to teach your dog to poop in a litter box rather than having to put your dog on a leash and walk him outside several times a day. In areas where extreme winter weather conditions can be tough for small and tiny breed dogs, walking your dog outside can be all the more difficult. Finding a clean patch of grass for your dog to poop on might be a challenge in the middle of a snowy winter, especially for those small breed dogs. Owners who have a more difficult time getting their dogs out on a regular basis may also want to consider teaching their dog to poop in a litter box.

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Defining Tasks

Teaching your dog to use a litter box within your home is not difficult. However, it will require time, dedication, and patience. If you have a cat in your home using a litter box you are going to want a separate litter box for your dog then the one your cat uses. You may also need to consider the type of litter box you provide for your dog. A tiny breed dog may fit just fine in a cat litter box, but a larger dog may need a bin with taller sides or a little bit more room to turn around. This can be a cardboard box lined with plastic or newspaper or it could be a taller plastic box. Consider the gender of your dog and whether he lifts his leg to urinate as you pick the litter box you plan to use for your dog. Teaching your dog to poop in a litter box is not much different than teaching him to poop outside. It's a matter of repetition and dedication.

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Getting Started

To train your dog to poop in a litter box you will need the appropriate box for your dog's breed, size, and gender. You will also need time and patience and dedication in showing him where to go each time it's time to eliminate. Be prepared after meals and after waking up to take your dog to the box so that he is successful and learns where he is supposed to go on his own. Also, make sure you have some tasty treats on hand for rewards. Be prepared for some repetitive training sessions but also prepare yourself to do them several times a day to set your dog up for success.

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The Go Potty Method

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1

Introduce

Introduce a litter box to your dog. Be sure this is a separate box from the one your cat may be using and keep it in a place where it is visible to your dog, especially while training. If you have a male dog, consider a box with high sides to catch urine if your dog lifts his leg.

2

After meals

Within a few minutes of eating a meal, take your dog to the litter box, help him inside, and say a key phrase such as ‘go potty.’

3

Treat

Even if he doesn’t use the potty the first few times he’s introduced to the box, give him a treat for trying and going inside.

4

After waking

As soon as your dog wakes, especially if he’s a puppy, place him in the litter box to go potty.

5

Key phrase command

Each time you put your dog in the box or take him to the box, use the phrase you choose to tell him what to do. This could be as simple as ‘go potty.’ This phrase will be what you will say to ask your dog to use the box even when you are no longer taking him to it.

6

Reward

Be sure to reward your dog each time he uses the box to go potty. You may consider a more high value treat if he uses the potty on his own or goes to the box after hearing your command rather than you taking him to it.

7

Redirect

If you catch your dog using the house instead of the box, simply redirect him by placing him in the box to finish. You may need to continue taking him to the box until he is ready to go on his own. Do not give him a treat for redirection.

The Get Familiar Method

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Pick a box

Choose a box perfect for your dog’s size and gender. Higher walls might be better for a male dog who lifts his leg. Cat litter boxes could be great for a tiny breed dog. Otherwise, choose a box that will attract your dog.

2

Filler

Cat litter isn’t the best thing for dogs to use, but some love it. Some dogs may eat the litter or play in it. Newspapers, pellets, or dog litter are ideal for a doggie litter box. Some owners use a pee pad on the floor of the box.

3

Introduce

Take your dog to his new litter box. If he’s used to a command to go potty, begin using that. If he has not yet learned a command, pick one and use it each time he goes to use the litter box.

4

Sniffing around

When your dog sniffs around the house or circles in one place, he is probably searching for the perfect place to go potty. Take him to his litter box and use your command to tell him to go potty.

5

Other times

Take your dog to his litter box after every meal and after waking. Use the command he is learning to go potty.

6

Reward

Be sure to reward your dog every time he is successful.

The Use Your Box Method

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Newspaper

Place newspaper down on top of pellets or material you plan to use for your litter box.

2

Introduction

Take your dog to the litter box and set him down on top of the newspaper.

3

Sniff

Let your dog sniff around the box and become familiar with it.

4

Command

Use the command ‘use your box’ as he walks around. If he plays, take him out and try again later.

5

Regular visits

Take him to the box on a regular basis, after meals, and upon waking. Repeat the ‘use your box' command each time you place him in the box.

6

Accidents

Any time your dog has an accident, take him to the box for a reminder of what the box is for. Keep using the ‘use your box’ command.

7

Treats

Give your dog a treat with every positive reaction to the litter box. Always reward with a special treat once your dog is successful.

By Stephanie Plummer

Published: 10/26/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Peanut

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Yorkie

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2 Years

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Question

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I recently rescued this Yorkie. We have another dog that is litter box trained that also lives in our house. I am having a difficult time getting her to use the box (i bought her her own box) as she is already trained to go outside. This morning i woke up and brought her right to the box and she wouldn’t go. I have a paper towel in the box with her pee on it to try to get her used to it. Then she ate and I knew she would have to poop so I put her back in the box and she still wouldn’t go. Then she tried to run away and i caught her squatting to poop in another room on the rug. I picked her up and brought her to the box. She would not finish pooping. I sat with her standing in the box for about 30 minutes and she still wouldn’t go. Then eventually brought her outside. What can I do to make this process easier?

June 10, 2022

Peanut's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Gianna, First, I would set up an exercise pen so you can create a larger area where pup can go potty but be left there for a bit longer and have less pressure from your presence at first. Check out the exercise pen method from the article I have linked below. Since pup isn't a young puppy, you can adjust those times by adding about two hours to what's listed - so pup goes potty every three hours and right after eating and activity, instead of every 1 hour. Exercise Pen method: https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy I would then try one of two things. The first thing you can try is a temporarily larger litter box since pup is used to having a MUCH larger area outside. I would use a shallow plastic storage container and cut or melt through the front to create a low lip, or you might be able to find a large plastic container with one side that's already low enough. You want this box to be as close to the size of the exercise pen space as you can get it - so large, and through the use of the exercise pen time, pup's only option for going potty. You might even want to modify a small baby pool with low sides that you can put the pen directly along the side without any gaps potentially. Whenever you catch pup finally going potty in the kiddie pool, be spying on pup from the other end of the room (low pressure), so you can be ready to praise and walk over to reward and let pup out. This helps pup learn that the quickest way to get out and get a reward is to go ahead and go potty. When pup is used to going potty in an indoor potty in that location, then keep the exercise pen set up but switch it out with a decent sized litter box and continue your training. A second option is to use a few disposable real grass pads to cover the floor of the exercise pen, rewarding pup when they finally go potty there. Most dogs who are outside potty trained, transition more easily to a grass pad. Don't buy astroturf. Get real grass, like freshpatch.com or doggielawn.com or porchpotty.com - most of these can also be bought on Amazon.com. Once pup is doing well with the grass pads, then gradually remove the extra ones until there is just one. When pup is going potty on the one inside the exercise pen well, then place that one grass pad inside a litter box. Continue to reward whenever pup going potty on it. At this point, you can either stick with grass pads if you like them, or if you want to transition to doggie litter, one small handful at a time sprinkle doggie litter on top of the grass pad. Over a two week period you will be gradually adding doggie litter a little at a time every day or two until the grass is completely covered with the doggie litter and pup is using the doggie litter - at which point you can remove the grass pad underneath. When pup is a this point and if pup is consistently quickly going potty in the box, then you can also progress in the steps to phase out the exercise pen, like the exercise pen method describes. Don't be overly eager to phase it out though - it would be better to leave it set up too long than not long enough to avoid pup regressing with potty training. If accidents begin again, go back to using it for another few weeks before starting to phase it out again. Inside potty training is based on location as well as teaching pup to go on a certain type of surface, so try to keep the potty location as consistent as you can throughout the next few months, especially during training. I also want to affirm your decision to use an box, or grass pad is you decide to stick with that, instead of a pee pad. Pee pads tend to be the most confusing indoor potty in terms of pup having accidents on carpet and rugs. Doggie litter boxes or grass pads are usually better choices if the person is willing to use them. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 13, 2022

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Bruno

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Goldendoodle

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3 Months

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Hi He is is potty train in his litter. He knows he has to go there even if he is in another room . He will go to his litter box . However, sometimes he gets lazy to go all the way in and just puts half his body inside and pee. Therefore , half of the pee goes inside and half outside. I am not sure if he is just being lazy . We got him a bigger one and he does go in all the way . Sometimes he doesn’t go all the way . Idk what else to do to get him to understand he has to go all way in. Thanks

Oct. 7, 2021

Bruno's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Diana, First, will you be using the litter box long term or just because he is a puppy? If not, I actually would go ahead and switch to outside potty training if you can accommodate outside potty trips every 3-4 hours maximum with your work schedule. In the long run it will be easier to go ahead and make that transition to outside. Crate training method for outside potty training if you are ready to switch and plan to switch. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If indoor potty training long term in the litter box is your goal, or you aren't ready to switch to outside yet due to your schedule, then I would definitely use the larger litter box. That probably was part of the problem. Depending on the size of the current one, you may need to go even bigger. I would also teach pup to put all four paws into the litter box as a command, to help pup understand that having all four paws inside is the goal. Check out the video I have linked below to train pup to put all four paws in the box. At first, you will reward any paws in the box. As pup improves, only reward when pup gets at least three paws in, ignoring less paws being in. Finally, only reward when all four are in. You will need to reward gradual progress though, with fewer paws at first, to help pup not get discouraged and give up trying. You can either begin clicker training or you can use your voice to tell pup when they are in the right spot. Praise pup exactly when pup put's their paws into the box correctly, even if it takes you a second to deliver the treat after. That timing of your praise of the clicker helps pup understand what they did right, so they learn quicker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUzW84n5_hA You will need to practice this often even after pup can do the trick, during non-potty times too, so pup develops a habit of always getting into the box this way, so that pup will automatically get all the way in when they go to the box on their own to go potty too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Oct. 7, 2021

Yea I am starting to say pee pee and teach him only if he gets his 4 legs in and reward him. I can’t take him out now he is not full vaccinated. I will be doing that . Thank you

Oct. 7, 2021

Diana


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