How to Train Your Dog to Use A Litter Box

Medium
1-8 Weeks
Behavior

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.

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 guy to use his 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.

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 the 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!

The Convenient Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
2
Get him there
Encourage him to go there often throughout the day, and praise him for successful trips.
Step
3
Make it fun
When the dog approaches the box on his own, praise him some more!
Step
4
Keep it tidy
Clean up the box after each pee or poop to keep things smelling half decent.
Step
5
Move the box
As your doggo catches on, you can slowly move the box to a more private location.
Recommend training method?

The Regimented Method

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Step
1
Adopt a strict schedule
As soon as your pup wakes up, head to the box.
Step
2
Plunk him in
Be sure to keep him there until he starts to sniff and eventually pops a squat.
Step
3
Make it rain treats!
Go over the top with praise so your dog sees it's fun to go in the box.
Step
4
Set your watch
Bring the pooch back to the box every hour.
Step
5
Be aware
Go even sooner if the canine has had some food or water.
Step
6
Be consistent!
A few days of strict routine can be the perfect start to a life of litter boxing.
Recommend training method?

The Stinky Method

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Step
1
Get things ready
Set up your dog's new litter box.
Step
2
Plant a smell
Take a towel that was used to clean up a previous pee and place it in the box.
Step
3
Use poop
If your dog left a little log on the floor, throw that in there as well. (Use gloves or a bag!)
Step
4
Allow some smelling
Let the pooch sniff out the box. He'll begin to associate it with relieving himself.
Step
5
Clean it up
Once he's consistently “going” in the box, begin to clean it regularly. He won't need his own stink anymore to show him where to eliminate.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Abby Clark

Published: 10/20/2017, edited: 09/13/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Buffy
Chihuahua
8 Months
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Question
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Buffy
Chihuahua
8 Months

Calm down and litter train

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1009 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

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Question
Milo
Shiba Inu
11 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
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Milo
Shiba Inu
11 Weeks

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!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1009 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

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Question
Lexi
Australian Shepherd
7 Months
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Question
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Lexi
Australian Shepherd
7 Months

We got Lexi when she was 4 months old from her breeder who had litter box trained her. She was purchased as a emotional support animal for our son who is a college student and lives in the dormitory. All was well until he came home for Thanksgiving break - Lexi went potty outside so that he didn't have to transport the litter box. Well, long story short, they are now back at school and she will not go in the box - only on his floor. This is a disaster in the making - any advice would be appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1009 Dog owners recommended

Hello Pam, Check out this article and I recommend following either the Crate Training method or Exercise Pen method found there for about two months as a crash course in potty training. You can also make a temporarily larger "litter box" using a shallow plastic storage bin big enough to fill the entire exercise pen at first, then decrease the size back to normal once pup is going in there, if pup tends to just go potty right next to the litter box instead of in it even when penned. https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Coconut
toy poodle
11 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
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Coconut
toy poodle
11 Weeks

Hello
I would really appreciate out if you kindly give me piece of advice on potty training.
I’m trying to train my puppy to use a pet toilet. Every time she gets out of her crate I encourage her to stop on the toilet and praise her. But she eats the treat and she resist on urinating on it. I even tried to hold her on it, but she keeps running away. And once she is out she pees on the floor. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Looking forward to receiving your respond. Thank you. Parastoo

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1009 Dog owners recommended

Hello Parastoo, I recommend setting up an exercise pen with the indoor potty inside the pen. I would take her to the exercise pen, close the door with her inside the pen on the potty area, tell her to "Go Potty", then leave her in there for the next hour (or less if she goes potty sooner), keeping an eye on her from another part of the room without hovering over her. As soon as she finally goes potty on there (probably once she calms down a bit from coming out of the crate), then be ready to quickly praise, return to give a treat, and open the pen door to let her out of the pen. This helps her to learn to go quickly when told "Go Potty", and be motivated to go quickly in order to get out of the exercise pen in the future - once she sees that that's how this works. Peeing = freedom in her case. This also means you don't have to hold her on the potty, which is very distracting for her and makes it less likely she will relax enough to go potty then, but she also can't wander off to go somewhere else. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Casper
loulou spitz
2 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Casper
loulou spitz
2 Months

I put his litter box which is very easy to gonin and out from all 4 sides i put in the box some new cat litter thought it would work according to researches i praise him when going in and out and when sniffing i put some of his poop and pee in it and he will never use it he will either pee next to the box or somewhere else but not in it

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1009 Dog owners recommended

Hello Elias, I would start with dog litter, which is more paper based, and preferred by many dogs to the texture of cat litter. You might be able to switch to cat litter later if pup doesn't try to eat it, once pup associates going potty with the liter box, if you prefer cat litter. A disposable real grass pad in the little box is another option if pup continues to struggle. The disposable real grass pads, like www.freshpatch.com tend to be the most natural option for a dog. Most dogs won't go in the box, or even on a pee pad, at first. Many tend to go beside them. When this happens there are two options. The first is to crate train pup and use a leash to take pup to the litter box, crating pup when they don't go potty to limit freedom when their bladder is full, so you can ensure pup goes potty in the box each time and is learning. I would do this until pup shows they can go to the box on their own without the crate, confining pup to just one dog proofed room or exercise pen at first, to help pup see the box and remember to go there, and keep pup safe from things they would chew. Crate Training method: https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy The second way I recommend doing this would be to create a very large litter box using a shallow plastic storage container and confining pup in an exercise pen whose entire floor is filled with that large storage container with litter in it. When you see pup go potty there (because they have no other place to go potty), then reward with praise and a treat and by letting pup out of the pen until their bladder gets full again (supervising pup in the home still). Once pup is used to going potty on the litter and associates it with going potty, decrease the litter box size again and see if pup chooses to go in the box when put in the exercise pen. Reward pup with a treat if they do. If they go next to the box instead of in it, go back to the larger box again for another month. Exercise Pen method (modifying this method to include the extra large diy litter box storage container). The best types of storage containers for this are generally the shallow clear plastic type ones that fit under short spaces like beds. https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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