How to Train Your Dog to Use A Litter Box

How to Train Your Dog to Use A Litter Box
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-8 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Ah, the joys of getting a puppy! You and your family select your new little furball and get to enjoy the excitement of preparing for the pooch to come home. Heading to the pet store, you grab a little doggy bed, some cute, wee toys and a litter box. Wait, what?

Yes, you read that right. For the small breeds, a doggy litter box might just become your best friend. And thankfully, teaching a pup to use their box is about the same amount of work as teaching them to “go” outside.

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Defining Tasks

Most of us have seen a kitty litter box, but doggy litter boxes are far and few between. They're similar in size and shape, although they usually have one side lowered for easy entry. You can fill them up with a variety of things, although word on the street is puppy pads or newspaper are the best options. Some even put down a little square of sod every few weeks to help their dog transition between indoor and outdoor bathroom breaks.

It's easier to train your little furball to use their box from birth, but mature dogs can learn too! It can take weeks or even months of persistence, but if you succeed, your pooch will have a convenient place to go without wrecking your home.

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Getting Started

To help your pup make an easy switch to the litter box, it's good to be prepared. Remember, it can take some time to perfect, and even adult dogs may make the odd accident where they shouldn't. Good things to have for this task include:

  • A Litter Box: This one is obvious, but deciding which one to buy may take a bit more thought. Make sure your dog can get in and out of it with no problems.
  • Treats: Especially at the start, every successful trip to the box deserves a treat and lots of praise!
  • A Liner: As previously mentioned, you're going to want to put something inside the litter box to help contain the mess. Paper, puppy pads or even a patch of grass are great options.
  • Cleaning Supplies: There will be pee! And poop! At the start, be prepared to find messes on your floors. As your pup progresses, you'll have to get used to cleaning out the box.
  • Patience: Scrubbing nastiness out of your carpet isn't fun. But by setting a realistic expectation for the box-training process, you'll be more likely to stick with it.

Keep in mind, small dogs simply can't hold it as long as their larger cousins. Puppies are notoriously bad for this, but even fully grown minis have a hard time with accidents. A litter box can be the perfect solution to this problem, saving both of you from the unpleasantness of puddles and piles on the floor.

Below are some great methods for getting your pupper used to their box. If at first, you don't succeed, try another method! Different dogs respond to different things, so hang in there!

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The Regimented Method

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1

Adopt a strict schedule

As soon as your pup wakes up, head to the box.

2

Plunk them in

Be sure to keep them there until they start to sniff and eventually pop a squat.

3

Make it rain treats!

Go over the top with praise so your dog sees it's fun to go in the box.

4

Set your watch

Bring the pooch back to the box every hour.

5

Be aware

Go even sooner if the canine has had some food or water.

6

Be consistent!

A few days of strict routine can be the perfect start to a life of litter boxing.

The Convenient Method

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Choose the right spot

Place the box near your puppy's bed, crate, or play area so that it is easily seen by the dog.

2

Get him there

Encourage your pup to go there often throughout the day, and praise them for successful trips.

3

Make it fun

When your dog approaches the box on their own, praise them some more!

4

Keep it tidy

Clean up the box after each pee or poop to keep things smelling half decent.

5

Move the box

As your doggo catches on, you can slowly move the box to a more private location.

The Stinky Method

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Get things ready

Set up your dog's new litter box.

2

Plant a smell

Take a towel that was used to clean up a previous pee and place it in the box.

3

Use poop

If your dog left a little log on the floor, throw that in there as well. (Use gloves or a bag!)

4

Allow some smelling

Let the pooch sniff out the box. They'll begin to associate it with relieving himself.

5

Clean it up

Once he's consistently “going” in the box, begin to clean it regularly. They won't need his own stink anymore to show them where to eliminate.

By Abby Clark

Published: 10/20/2017, edited: 10/07/2022

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Buffy

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Chihuahua

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8 Months

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Question

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Calm down and litter train

Dec. 16, 2021

Buffy's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sharon, I recommend using the Exercise Pen method or Crate Training method from the article I have linked below for older puppies. You can adjust the crate training method times, to add an hour to all the times listed there for an older puppy. https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy The following commands can help pup learn self-control, and make it easier to direct pup's energy. I would prioritize Place, Down, Out, and Leave It. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Drop It – Exchange method: https://wagwalking.com/training/drop-it Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dec. 16, 2021

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Milo

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Shiba Inu

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11 Weeks

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Question

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Hello. Milo had used the litter box really well for a few days while in the kitchen at week 9.5. But when out of the kitchen he would go on the carpet. I lessened his space to just the kitchen again and now he’s peeing in the box and out and very inconsistent. He knows he’s bad to pee on the carpet because he hides when he does it. I use puppy litter and Go Here spray and he was so consistent with it for a few days to a whole week. But now he even goes next to it. I’ve been cleaning it every day in case that was the problem and he seems to go when it’s cleaned the first time he has to go, but any time after that is a toss up. He even peed on his bed. I’m not sure why he’s digressing. Help!

Dec. 12, 2021

Milo's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kai, It sounds like you may have progressed to more freedom too quickly. I recommend following the Exercise Pen method or crate training method from the article I have linked below. I would keep pup's space very small for at least a month unless pup has gone potty in the last hour. It often takes a puppy about two months to get to the point where they are potty trained well enough to not need the additional confinement or strict potty schedule. Exercise Pen method or Crate Training method: https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Know that it's normal for potty training to take 2-3 months for the average dog. It's very common for people to give a puppy freedom too soon, but that can result in the process taking even longer. That may not be what's going on here, but in case it is, this is normal. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dec. 13, 2021


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