How to Train Your Chihuahua Dog to Use a Litter Box

Medium
1-2 Weeks
General

Introduction

Mary lives by herself and has a little Chihuahua named Lula. They live on the 2nd floor of an apartment. Usually, Mary takes Lula for walks several times a day so Lula can relieve herself. Unfortunately, Mary had a bad accident recently and her mobility is greatly reduced. Getting downstairs and taking Lula for her walks to go potty several times a day has become extremely difficult and painful for Mary, but she does not want to give up her little friend--she is like family, and the only company Mary has while she is confined to her apartment recovering. 

The good news is Mary hears that small dogs, like Chihuahuas, can be trained to use a litter box. This will work great since Mary’s daughter comes by every few days to exercise Lula, and has offered to clean the litter box for her. Problem solved! As soon as Lula goes through a little bit of training to learn how to use the litter box, that is. 

Having your Chihuahua use a litter box is a great solution for apartment dwellers, those with reduced mobility, or people who may need to work unexpected hours. Also, for some Chihuahuas that live where inclement weather is common, such as in northern regions and find going outside in winter too cold, a litter box might be an excellent solution.

Defining Tasks

If your dog is already used to going to the bathroom somewhere else you will need to establish a new potty routine with your Chihuahua to establish using the litter box. This process is similar to any doggie potty training, reinforcing the new bathroom area and preventing opportunities to make mistakes or use other facilities for elimination. It may take more time to teach a dog to transfer their bathroom location, as you need to create a new association. Starting training with a young dog without a previous bathroom habit does not require this transfer. However, young dogs do not have as well-developed control over their body functions and need to be taught that you expect them to relieve themselves in the appropriate spot, the litter box--this also can take some time. 

Never use punishment to establish a new potty habit,  as this only confuses the dog. You will want to create a positive association with the use of the litter box instead. Take steps to prevent accidents and avoid allowing your dog to go to the bathroom in an inappropriate location, as this can create incorrect potty behaviors.

Getting Started

Because Chihuahuas are usually little and may not be great climbers, make sure you start with a litter box that has a low area for your dog to step into it easily. Although it may be tempting to locate the litter box out of the way, this is not a good idea, as your dog needs to be able to readily access it. The litter box should be placed in a central location, at least until using the litter box is well established with your Chihuahua. You can purchase special litter boxes that are appropriate for dogs, and even special dog litter that has different properties than cat litter and is more appropriate for your dog's needs. If your dog is used to using puppy pads, you can line the box with a puppy pad at first. If you have a cat, each animal will need a separate litter box; pets do not like to share bathroom facilities. Your dog's litter box will have to be cleaned out regularly, to prevent smells and encourage your dog to continue using it. Special products to reduce odors are available. During training, focus on using the litter box only for elimination. Do not also take your dog outside to go potty, as this will only confuse him.

The Confine & Capture Method

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Step
1
Set up litter box
Put your dog on a feeding schedule so that you have a better idea when he needs to eliminate. Prepare a litter box; you can place a piece of his feces in the box or soak up some of his urine on a paper towel and place it in the box to associate the smell of his waste with the box.
Step
2
Confine your dog
Confine your Chihuahua in a small enclosure or a crate that he will not feel comfortable going to the bathroom in.
Step
3
Provide potty
Take your Chihuahua to the litter box every hour or so (more often if you think it is around the time that he needs to go to the bathroom) and wait for him to eliminate.
Step
4
Return to confinement
If your Chihuahua does not go to the bathroom in the litter box, return him to his crate and try again
Step
5
Reward litter box use
If your Chihuahua uses his litter box, praise him and take him for play time. Do not return him to his crate for some time. Repeat until well established.
Recommend training method?

The Potty on Command Method

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Step
1
Choose a command
Choose a command for your Chihuahua to pee or poop, like “go potty”.
Step
2
Establish a schedule
Establish a routine of feeding to help you determine when your dog will need to relieve himself. Try to establish a predictable schedule so you can be available to direct the behavior.
Step
3
Use command in usual setting
When you predict your dog needs to go to the bathroom, take him to his usual bathroom spot and say "go potty," Wait for him to eliminate and repeat the command and say "good dog". Reward your dog with a treat or praise and affection.
Step
4
Establish
Practice the 'go potty' command and wait for him to go. This may take quite a while at first, ignore your dog while you wait.
Step
5
Transfer to litter box
Once you have well established the 'go potty' command in your dog's usual bathroom spot, start taking your Chihuahua to the litter box and providing the command. Use patience, repeat, watch your dog for signs he needs to go and try to capture the moment and associate with the 'go potty' command and the litter box.
Recommend training method?

The Watch & Capture Method

Least Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Get ready
Put your Chihuahua on a feeding schedule. Water should always be available, however, restricting feeding times will help narrow down when your dogs needs to go to the bathroom. Prepare a litter box. You can place a piece of your dog’s feces in the box or soak up some of his urine on a paper towel and transfer it to the box to associate the smell with the box.
Step
2
Watch and interupt
Watch your dog very closely. When he asks to go out, if that is what he was used to, or starts sniffing around and circling, looking like he s about to lift a leg or squat to do his business, interrupt your Chihuahua and take him to his litter box.
Step
3
Take to litter box
Place your dog in his litter box and wait. If the dog tries to leave his box, encourage him back into the box, put him on a leash if this helps. Wait for him to do his business.
Step
4
Reward
When your dog finally pees or poops in his litter box, reward him, say "good dog", and take him somewhere else to play with a favorite toy.
Step
5
Continue until established
Continue over several weeks until your dog starts seeking his litter box on his own to go to the bathroom.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
harvy
Chihuahua
5 Years
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Question
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harvy
Chihuahua
5 Years

Im not sure you could advise but im thnking of rehoming a chihuahua boy, My cocern is he lives with a female chihuahua and 3 cats and another older dog and family, Do you think he will adapt to living a life with just one owner as I don't have other pets or children

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
670 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tracey, That will depend on a couple of things in most cases. First, is he especially attached to one of the other animals? Or, does simply hangs out with them and isn't firmly attached to any particular one. Do you know if he can be left at home without any of the other animals in the house or at least where he can get to them? For example, if the cats are locked in an upstairs bedroom, and all of the dogs besides him are taken on a walk with the family, and he is the only one left on that level of the house, does he do alright or does he get really anxious? If he does alright, then he would probably be fine without the other animals. Next, how much attention will he receive in his new home with you? This attention can be structured, such as training time, a walk, or simply being present part of the time. If you work from home, work part time, or work full time but have a lot of time to give to him for things like training sessions, or play when you are home, then he will be much less likely to be lonely. If you give him the mental and physical stimulation that he needs when you are present, then when you are gone you can leave things like food stuffed chew-toys, an automatic treat dispenser, such as Pet Tutor or AutoTrainer, take him to Doggie Daycare part of the week, or hire a dog walker to come midday. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Petey
Chihuahua
13 Years
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Question
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Petey
Chihuahua
13 Years

Petey is 13 and has been marking on furniture and other things in the house. I’ve tried belly bands, diapers, crating, and nothing works. He’s been doing this for about 10 years. I don’t know what else to do and I don’t want to get rid of him but I’m at my wits end! Help please? Thanks!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
670 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sheryl, It sounds like you need to hire a professional trainer to help you - which you may have already done. Look for a trainer who specializes in behavior issues, who is a "balanced trainer". The solution to this probably involves trying the belly bands again and using some corrections to ensure he doesn't chew them off, using corrections to discipline the marking behavior, working on building his trust and respect for you, and cleaning certain areas really well with enzymatic cleaners. You need to find a trainer who can think outside of the box to help you, and one who uses discipline and rewards - but does it calmly. I suggest hiring a trainer, rather than me telling you what to do, be cause quite honestly you need someone who can trouble shoot along the way, ask you more details about what you have tried, and teach you hands on how to do all of this. When the standard approaches do not work - its time to hire someone very experienced to help because a real person, in real time can adjust the training and come up with solutions outside of the standard approaches - that's the value of working with a private trainer. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Earl
Chihuahua
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Earl
Chihuahua
3 Years

He keeps weeing and pooing in the house as he won’t go outside when it’s windy or wet I need to know what’s the best tray to use for him and how best to train him for got the toilet in the house using the above tray

Kind regards
Meil

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
91 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Here is information on indoor potty training. As far as what type of tray to use, anything that is big enough for him to comfortably turn around on and squat is good. Choose Your Spot Pick a space in your house where you want your dog to go. Obviously, you’ll want this spot to be a low-traffic area. Make sure this spot is easily accessible to your dog, and make sure the floor surface is linoleum or tile, as opposed to carpet. If your dog “misses,” it will be easier to clean up. If the only spot you can put the tray is a carpet, you might consider getting a small tarp to put underneath the it to guard against spillage. Choose a spot that is outside of your “smell zone.” An important tip to remember is to make sure not to let your dog decide the spot he likes. Not only might he pick an area you won’t like, but he’ll learn that he is in charge – not you – which can cause a host of problems down the line. Monitor Your Dog When you are potty training your dog, full-time monitoring is an absolute necessity. It’s impossible to correct bad behaviors if you don’t see them happen. Dogs have very short memories. It is important to catch your dog in the act. If your dog goes on the floor, and you try to correct him hours after the fact, he will be confused and upset, not knowing what he did wrong. This can hinder training and your relationship with your dog. Puppies, in particular, must be watched constantly. They have less control over their bowels and will go when they have to go. If you miss these moments, you lose precious training opportunities. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to be with your dog 24 hours a day, but try to spend more time at home during the weeks you are potty training – it will pay off in the long run. Learn Your Dog’s Schedule Dogs, for the most part, are predictable. They will go to the bathroom at predictable times. You should be able to learn when your dog has to go based on timing as much as on his signals. Take some time to study your dog’s bathroom habits. You’ll learn the amount of time after he eats or drinks that he has to go, and you’ll get in rhythm with his daily bathroom schedule. This will help you reduce accidents and speed up the potty training process. Studying your dog’s habits can also help you identify his bathroom “triggers” – like having to go after a certain amount of playtime. Once you learn your dog’s schedule, use it to your advantage in potty training. Bring him to the potty tray a few minutes before he normally goes, and encourage him. This will help him get used to going in the right spot, and help you establish repetition in your training. Choose a Command Word Dogs have keen senses – they respond to sight, smell, and sound. When you begin pee pad training, choose a command word and use it every time you take your dog to the pad. Just about any word will work. The tone of your voice is more important than the actual word. Try phrases like “go on” or “go potty” in a slightly elevated, encouraging tone. Make sure to repeat this same command, in the same tone, every time you take your dog to the potty tray. Avoid Punishment When your dog has an accident, it’s just that – an accident. When you punish your dog during potty training, he will become confused and scared. He doesn’t know what he’s done wrong, and can’t understand why the person he loves most is mad at him. Most importantly, it will not help his potty training. Positive Reinforcement Both human and dog behavior is largely based on incentives. Dogs’ incentives are very simple – they want to eat when they are hungry, play when they are excited, and sleep when they are tired. But the most important thing your dog wants in life is to please you. Use this to your advantage. Whenever your dog goes on his potty training tray, shower him with lots of praise. If he sees that he gets praise for doing his business on the pad, he will be incentivized to keep going on the pad – and he’ll be excited to do it! Potty training – whether it’s a tray or going outside – will take time, but if you do it right, can take less time. Many dogs are potty trained in less than two weeks. Just remember that you and your dog are partners. Do everything you can to help him learn the proper etiquette, and you will enjoy a long, quality relationship together. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in.

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