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 Regimented Method

Effective
0 Votes
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 Convenient Method

Effective
0 Votes
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 Stinky Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Get thingsready
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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Julio
AnimalBreed object
16 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Julio
AnimalBreed object
16 Months

I adopted my chihuahua about three months ago. I do not know much about his history. When he got to us he appeared to be semi potty trained and i have been working on him pottying outside. so far so good. he alerts me that he needs to go by going and standing in front of the door . He never barks though. I am now working on getting him to use a litter box as he can not make it through the night long enough to not interrupt my sleep. i have been putting the litter box outside, but he will not use it. I put him in the box he jumps out to pee so i put him back in mid stream. He will sniff the box and even lay on it, but not use it. So i took the litter out and used a pee pad thinking that maybe he didn't like the texture of the dog litter. I also have the spray to encourage him. I have put the box in his crate, but he has only used it twice when I overslept. I'm worried that even though he used it it was more of an "accident" than training. I've considered "oversleeping" more so that he will get used to the box, but I'm not sure this is the right thing to do . Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
673 Dog owners recommended

Hello Momo, If Julio is not having accidents and is going in the litter box during the morning when he really needs to go potty, then do the following. Set up an Exercise Pen with a bed for him that he will not pee on in one end and a litter box in the other end. Spray the litter with the encouraging spray. Set up a camera to watch him while you are in the bedroom or some other room out of sight. If he is likely to pee on a bed, then do not give him a bed at first. Place him into the Exercise Pen overnight or for a very long period of time during the day, until he is forced to use the litter box because he cannot hold his bladder any longer. When you see him go in the litter box on the camera from the other room, then quickly go to him, praise him enthusiastically, feed him several treats, one at a time, and then let him out of the Pen for a while. Start this process when you will be home most of the day, like on the weekend, so that you can catch him going potty on the camera at first. Only do this if he uses the litter box instead of the floor when he needs to go. After a couple of weeks of using the litter box in a row and being rewarded for it, he should gradually get used to the feeling of the litter and start going in the box more often to receive a treat when you are around. Once he is going in the box more often, then you can just use it at night for potty trips. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Doug
AnimalBreed object
8 Weeks
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Doug
AnimalBreed object
8 Weeks

I have a question about using real grass for training a French bulldog puppy, such as the fresh patch. Our situation is a bit unique given the location of it, from what I’ve been reading at least. My fiancé and I built a 2 ft x 4 ft “condo” for him to use to sleep in at night time. This will be his crate/bedtime spot, the place he knows as safe yet it’s time to wind down and sleep. It’s big enough for his bed, blanket and the grass patch. We came up with this because are on the 4th floor of my fiancé’s parents home. We didn’t want him alone 4 floors away where we couldn’t hear or see him, but being upstairs also meant nighttime accidents are more likely given how far we are from the closest door to the outside. So, we put the grass pad in his condo so during the night when he needs to go, he can. (We hope this is ok, The breeder said they have a similar set up right now minus the grass, instead it’s just a separate section on the other side of a barrier where him and his siblings go potty within the bigger pen space and she said they are showing they know to go there and not where they sleep, so I have hope.)

During the day, the plan is for him to be contained with me in the kitchen on the first floor all day while I work, where we can easily go outside. I asked Freshpatch for some advice on how to start the training process and they told me to keep him upstairs where the patch is for the beginning so he can get used to the grass patch first, then once he shows signs of understanding what it is there for, we can start spending time in the kitchen and teaching him to use the outside for potty.(I know not to move the patch otherwise it will confuse him.)

The only concern i have with this is during this first week or so, if we are focusing on learning about the grass patch and we are upstairs all day, we are not establishing a real routine ... during this time upstairs, if we are feeding him, having him focus on using the patch and no outside and letting him play in the area that we want him to call bed, could this be counterproductive and confusing? And if so is there any better way to approach this given the situation and location of the grass sod?

I asked fresh patch if they felt this situation could be counterproductive and they really didn’t have a response to that question, at least they didn’t get back to me, so i am wondering if you have any thoughts?

(I also want to be clear that we are unfortunately very limited with space for him to be “free” in our bedroom upstairs, which is why I think I am so concerned about all this time spent in the condo in the beginning week(s). My fiancé’s parents have asked for us to avoid letting him be on the wood floors up there because they are so soft and easily absorb odor, so although I have waterproof washable pads to put down, I’m doing all I can to really avoid accidents on the wood and the best way to do that is to keep him close to the patch and in the pen. At least until he is starting to get it, then maybe I could leave the gate opened and let him have a little more freedom and just hope he makes it into the crate and to the patch if he has to go? Keeping him on the waterproof pads will be the challenge there I think.)

I’m also a little confused about how the transition from the inside grass to the outside grass works. After he understands the patch, can our real daily routine begin? And Is there anything special I should be focusing on so he is making this connection more easily when downstairs? The routine plan as of now is to have him on a short walk outside in the morning / afternoon and all meals, playtime and naps (in his other crate/cage) downstairs in the kitchen, as well as taking all potty breaks outside.

We pick him up this Saturday and overall not feeling 100% sure of our game plan and how everything is going to work is making me a little anxious! Thanks in advance!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
673 Dog owners recommended

Hello Colleen, Given your situation I do agree with using freshpatch at night and certainly like that you are using that over pee pads - so that it will be more consistent with outside pottying. First, make sure that his little yard and condo are set up in an area that you can close off later - he will be learning to go potty in that specific spot - even after the pad is removed, so you want that to be an area you can make off-limits later when you phase out the grass pad and only have him going potty outside. Basically you want him to learn to go potty on the grass pad while in the condo and yard, but hold it when in any other part of the house, and for that room the condo is in not to just be part of the main area of the house - like the den or kitchen, but to be somewhere distinct like a bathroom, large laundry room (with appliances off) or master closet. Second, I do agree with freshpatch about having him spend some time in that area initially - however I suggest a MUCH shorter period of time. I would follow the Exercise Pen method I linked below - waiting for him to potty on the grass pad and rewarding when he does, for about three days - until you get a few consistent pees on the grass. After pup has a general idea of how to pee on that pad while he is very close to it inside his condo and yard area, then move onto normal potty training while he is with you in the rest of the homes, only using the grass pad at night at that point. Since you aren't needing him to potty train so well on the pad that can will find it from across the house - like a dog who only uses freshpatch would, you just need him to understand that while in his small area, that's where he should go. At all other times he should hold his bladder until outside - which is the harder lesson that will take a lot longer. Exercise Pen method - only follow the initial steps, stop when the method describes increasing the size of the area and phasing out the exercise pen - since you will not ever do that until you are also getting rid of the grass pad later in life, and only taking pup potty outside by then. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Foxy
AnimalBreed object
4 Months
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Question
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Foxy
AnimalBreed object
4 Months

How can I get my puppy to stop sleeping in her new litter box? She used it immediately, but folded the wet side down and went to sleep in it. Please help!

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Thank you for the question about Foxy and her litter box. Are you using paper? Try switching to a grass litter box (then, when you transition her to outside it will be even easier!). A grass litter box is very similar to the real thing. Does Foxy have a comfy bed elsewhere in the house? Hide treats in the bed often, which will encourage Foxy to go there, nosing around. She may then decide to nap there. Make sure it's a comfy bed that is a suitable, inviting size. Good luck!

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Ollie
AnimalBreed object
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Ollie
AnimalBreed object
6 Months

We've had Ollie since he was 11 weeks old. He was trained since birth in a litter box, so we have done the same. He seemed to be improving, as he will go to the box on his own when he is downstairs (all hard floors), and never has accidents on any hard surfaces anymore. If he is upstairs, though, he will continue to have accidents (all carpeted). The litter box is downstairs, but I'm guessing it's more a problem of the surface texture than that the litter box is so far. This morning, he did a really strange thing, and while I was doing normal training with him, he stopped in the middle, went over to his playtent (it's like a child's play area with tents and tunnels, and plastic balls inside) and squatted for a poop. I ran over to stop him midway, and as I did, I noticed there was a pile of old poop already in the tunnel. I feel quite discouraged, and am wondering why he keeps having accidents. Did I make a mistake in choosing litter box training? Would it be too difficult to transition over to outside training? How do we help him transfer his understanding that accidents on hard surfaces are not okay, to carpet and play tents too? I'm also concerned, because he doesn't seem to notify us whenever he needs to go. I've had times where he is sitting right next to me, and then just suddenly starts peeing. He might've sniffed around but I could've missed it. He definitely doesn't bark or do any other kind of obvious behavior that he needs to go. Please, any advice would help! Thank you!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
673 Dog owners recommended

Hello Aimee, At this point, I would suggest simply switching to outside potty training, using the crate training and tethering methods from the article linked below to limit his freedom when his bladder isn't completely empty. You can either remove the litter box all at once when you start crating - so that pup's only potty option is outside, or you can place the litter box outside and take pup potty out there to the box for a while to make the transition more gradual, then remove the box entirely and just have an area of litter on the ground outside he is being taken to - which will gradually disperse and get washed out, so that he ends up going potty just on the ground underneath overtime. Some puppies do great with an immediate switch - others need that in between step of moving the indoor potty outside, while also doing the methods to prevent accidents inside at the same time. Check out the Crate Training method from the article linked below. Make sure that the crate doesn't have anything absorbent in it - including a soft bed or towel. Check out www.primopads.com if you need a non-absorbent bed for him. Make sure the crate is only big enough for him to turn around, lie down and stand up, and not so big that he can potty in one end and stand in the opposite end to avoid it. Dogs have a natural desire to keep a confined space clean so it needs to be the right size to encourage that natural desire. Use a cleaner that contains enzymes to clean any previous or current accidents - only enzymes will remove the smell and remaining smells encourage the dog to potty in the same location again later. The method I have linked below was written for younger puppies, since your dog is older you can adjust the times and take him potty less frequently. I suggest taking him potty every 2.5- 3 hours when you are home. After 1.5 hours (or less if he has an accident sooner) of freedom out of the crate, return him to the crate while his bladder is filling back up again until it has been 3 hours since his last potty trip. When you have to go off he should be able to hold his bladder in the crate for 5-8 hours - less at first while he is getting used to it and longer once he is accustomed to the crate. Only have him wait that long when you are not home though, take him out about every 3 hours while home. If he hasn't gone poop yet during that half of the day, he needs to be tethered to you or returned to the crate, then taken back outside again in 30-45 minutes if you know he likely needs to go, less frequently if he likely doesn't need to poop. Pooping outside equals more freedom. Less freedom now means more freedom later in life. Crate Training method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If he is not already used to a crate, expect crying at first. When he cries and you know he doesn't need to go potty yet, ignore the crying. Most dogs will adjust if you are consistent. You can give him a food stuffed hollow chew toy to help him adjust and sprinkle treats into the crate during times of quietness to further encourage quietness. Work on teaching "Quiet" by using the Quiet method from the article linked below. Tell him "Quiet" when he barks and cries. If he gets quiet and stays quiet, you can sprinkle a few pieces of dog food into the crate through the wires calmly, then leave again. Expect some amount of barking for a couple of weeks - the more consistent you are with not letting him out when he barks for attention, the quicker many pups will learn how to be calm in the crate. Giving pup a dog food stuffed chew toy often helps. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bentley
AnimalBreed object
9 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Bentley
AnimalBreed object
9 Weeks

Bentley is litter box trained but has recently began to take a toy into her box and lay down in the litter box. How can we keep her from playing in her box? Thx.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Thank you for the picture of Bentley. Gotta love those ears! Sleeping in her litter box sometimes means that a dog just feels safe and secure in the confined area. Are you crating her and is the crate nearby? Or can you find a nice dog bed around the size of the litter box and entice her to sleep there? Place treats often on the dog bed when Bentley is aware and also when she is not. Finding these surprises in her bed may be an incentive to go there more often. If she really prefers the litter, try switching her to a real grass pad - that won't be as comfy as the litter. Then, when you are transitioning her to peeing outside, she will find it easy to switch from the grass pad to the outdoors. Good luck!

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