How to Train Your Large Dog to Use a Litter Box

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

There are many reasons why you might want to train your large dog to use an indoor litter box. Some dog owners are gone for long periods of time and don't want to run the risk of even their large guy have an indoor accident. Your adult dog large might feel as if he'll be punished if he has an accident indoors. With a dog litter box, you can give him the opportunity to relieve himself while you're away from the house. He will be able to go potty while keeping a clean house and staying out of trouble. If you know you're going to be gone for long periods of time, longer than your dog can handle holding it, setting up a large litter box for your dog is not hard to do.

Defining Tasks

Don't think of a large dog litter box as the same as a cat litter box or a small box that you may use for a small breed dog. He just needs a space where he knows he can go without getting in trouble to relieve himself when he's unable to go outside. You can also use newspaper to line a box that your large dog can step into or set up a litter box using a tray liner or crate liner and a thin layer of cat litter. Potty training your large dog to use a dog litter box is not much different than house-training him. It's going to involve a lot of repetition, reminders, and rewards.

Getting Started

 If you choose to train your large dog to use a litter box, be sure you have it set up and ready to go before you begin training. It will be best if you pick a confined area within your home that your dog can rely on anytime he needs to go. This means the area needs to be kept clean and cannot change from day-to-day or week-to-week. Be ready for some potty training exercises and lots of rewards for making it to the litter box and not having accidents in the house during training and while you are away from the house.

The Crate Tray Method

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2 Votes
Step
1
Set up
You can use the bottom crate liner tray as a litter box for your dog. It is up to you if you choose to actually use the crate part or if you're just going to have the tray in the same place without the crate box on top. Place a fine layer of cat litter in the bottom of the tray. To contain the mess, you don't want the litter to be as high as the sides of the crate tray.
Step
2
Introduce
Wait until your dog has to go potty. Your dog will show you he needs to go potty by barking or going to the door as he may normally do to head outside. Or you can wait until he wakes up or about 10 minutes after meals to introduce his new litter box.
Step
3
Welcome in
Walk your large dog over to his new litter box and use command words you may have taught him when you were house training him to go outside. If you are just now house training him for the first time, these key phrases will be something like 'let's go potty' or 'do you need to go potty?'
Step
4
Place him in litter
Place your dog in the cat litter. Since your dog is a large breed, you might not be able to pick him up and take him in there; just walk him over and gently guide him or coax him by following a treat at the tip of his nose into the box. The whole time you're walking him into the box use the key phrases he associates with going potty.
Step
5
Success
If your dog goes to this new space and actually uses the litter box to go potty, celebrate with a treat and some verbal praise. Don't be too loud in your celebration while your dog is in the litter box because you don't want to scare him and make him feel as if he did something wrong.
Step
6
Redirect
If your large dog has indoor accidents just redirect him in the moment or when you return home. Take him to the litter box, remind him what the box is for, and treat him afterward. Do not reprimand your dog with a loud angry voice, rub your dog's nose in his accidents, or scold or hit him. These methods are not productive and are often counterproductive.
Step
7
Practice
Whether you are house training your large dog for the first time or retraining him to use a litter box instead of going outside, remember practice makes perfect. You are going to have to take the time to show him and remind him where his litter box is. Always reward a job well done and redirect an accident.
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The Newspapers to Litter Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Set up
Set up an area in your home with a large cardboard box with low sides and line it with newspapers.
Step
2
Show dog
Walk your dog o this area and let him sniff around. If he happens to need to go potty and marks the newspaper, celebrate, give him a treat, and tell him what a good boy he is. Otherwise, just let him explore the area.
Step
3
Potty time
Pay attention to when your dog needs to go potty, such as about 15 minutes after eating, as soon as he wakes from overnight sleep, or after extensive play time. Take him to his newspaper-lined box and encourage him to get inside to go potty.
Step
4
Verbal cues
Be sure you are using verbal cues such as 'go potty' or 'let's go potty' while he's in the box with the newspaper.
Step
5
Add litter
Once your dog has used the newspaper box a few times, you can slowly begin to incorporate a litter to the box. You can find specific low-dust litter meant for dogs or you can use small comfortable pellets like you may use for rabbits. Add this slowly so your dog gets used to the texture below his feet and the idea of peeing and pooping on this litter.
Step
6
Repetition
Be sure you are taking your dog to his litter box every time you think he needs to go potty. There are definite cues your dog will make when it's time to go potty. Outside of after meals and upon waking, your dog may scratch or sniff around the house or begin to walk in circles. When you see these things happening, take him directly to this litter box and encourage him to go.
Step
7
Reward
Be sure to reward your dog every time he goes to the litter box. While he's in training, if he goes to the litter box on his own without going potty, give him a reward for recognizing the box and exploring it. Once he starts using it to go potty be sure to reward him every single time.
Step
8
Practice
Give your large dog lots of time to practice before having any concerns about whether or not he's getting it. Just like house training, this is going to take time and patience.
Recommend training method?

The House Train Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
Box
Create a littler box for your large dog. This needs to be a box he can stand up and turn around in. Be sure the sides are not too high so he can step into the box without tripping. Also, make sure the litter inside is not too thick.
Step
2
Go potty
Talk to your large dog an get him excited about going potty. If he’s used to going to the door to head outside, walk with him, but do not open the door. If he’s house training for the first time, use words he’ll hear when you ask if he needs to go.
Step
3
Box
Take him to the box and stand on one side with two treats in your hands. Hold one treat over the box and lure him inside. Once he’s in, give him the treat and then use the verbal potty cues again.
Step
4
Sniff and circle
If your dog needs to go potty, he may start to sniff or circle, letting you know he’s ready to go. Encourage him with quiet verbal cues.
Step
5
Success
Once your large dog goes potty in his litter box, celebrate with the second treat and give him lots of verbal praise.
Step
6
Leave
Get him out of the litter box and playfully celebrate with him.
Step
7
Repeat
Pay attention to the cues your large dog gives you when he needs to go potty and use your verbal cues while walking him to his litter box each time you think he needs to go. If he’s house training for the first time, you may need to take him to the box every hour or so. Be sure to take him upon waking and after meals.
Step
8
Rewards
When you catch your large dog using the litter box on his own, give him a treat. Do this during training as well when you are taking him to the box to remind him where to go.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Stephanie Plummer

Published: 01/10/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Pebbles
Yorkshire Terrier
9 Months
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Question
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Pebbles
Yorkshire Terrier
9 Months

She is good in most every other aspect except for barking in the car. She goes crazy, barking at anything and everything. She going absolutely bonkers when I have to use the windshield wipers or go through the drive thru. What can I do to get her barking under control?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1125 Dog owners recommended

Hello Dianne, First, pup needs to be physically restrained while in the car to help pup learn calmness, keep arousal lower by avoiding her looking out the windows so much, and keep you safer while driving. I would either crate pup in the car or use a padded car harness that can be clipped to where pup rides on the floorboard of the car if there is space for pup there, if not, the middle row seats. I would avoid pup riding in the front for your safety. The back can be used, but the middle row if an option is less likely to make pup car sick. Second, I would work on desensitizing pup to the car in general, and working on a Down-Stay in the car, and teaching the Quiet command to be able to use in the car. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Start by simply feeding beside the car while its off, then feeding treats along the runner with the door open, then inside the car with it still. For at least a couple of weeks practice the Down Stay command on the middle seats' floorboard or seats (if a row seat). Gradually move to practicing with the car in the driveway but still while on - don't turn on in the garage for gas breathing reasons. When pup is completely relaxed in the car and can do a solid down-stay, recruit a second person to drive or train, so the driver can only focus on driving. Have the person training enforce Down, while the driver simply pulls out of the driveway and back in When pup can stay relaxed during that (which will require a lot of repetition before pup relaxes then too - once pup sees that the driving is boring through repetition), then drive down the block and back. Gradually increase the distance and level of excitement as pup improves, only moving onto further distances or more exciting locations once pup can stay relaxed at the current level of training. For most dogs who are simply overly excited, this protocol alone is enough. Since your dog may also be reacting to the passing of other cars , you may find that you need professional help to go a step further with the training. For a dog who is reacting out of instinct like prey or herding, you may also need to do some low level e-collar training to interrupt the fixation on other vehicles. This is done in combination with teaching Down-Stay, desensitizing pup to the car in general, safely restraining pup during the ride, and recruiting someone to help you drive/train so the driver can focus on just driving. To do the low level e-collar training, pup would wear the e-collar around with it turned off for a few days to get them used to it, and avoid them becoming "collar wise". You would find pup's "working level" on the collar, which is the lowest stimulation or vibration level pup response to when calm. You would then practice a down stay in the car, but start using the e-collar to briefly correct pup when they tried to stand up, guiding them back into the down position with a leash, and using treats to reward pup for lying down or staying in the down position. This should be practiced calmly with the car off. As pup improves, you would gradually move through your desensitizing/down training again, this time with the e-collar for interrupting as needed. Progressing from next to the car, in the car, car on and still, car driving in driveway, in neighborhood, to a calm location, to a more exciting location, to longer trips, ect... At all points pup would be physically restrained, probably with a car harness that allowed a little movement from sitting to down position but not walking around, be required to stay Down, and be calmly rewarded for staying in a calm mindset and in the down position. This would all need to be done very gradually and often to keep pup calm enough for them to be able to learn and not get overly aroused. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Darcie
Border Collie Bull Staffy
1 Year
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Question
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Darcie
Border Collie Bull Staffy
1 Year

I have recently rescued Darcie from a local shelter. Most things are going well with adjustment, but potty training. I see her cues for needing to go, take her outside and stay at least 20-30 minutes but she doesn't go. Instead, within 5-10 mins of going outside she goes in the house. I have put puppy pads down to save the floors and she uses those about 60-70% of the time. I am considering litter training because maybe she prefers to go indoors?? Not sure what to do next.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1125 Dog owners recommended

Hello Shanna, Would you prefer she go potty outside or in a box inside? I would not give up on outside training just yet if that's what you want pup to learn; if you prefer she use a litter box I will cover that as well though. If you want pup to learn to go potty outside, I would first consider a doggie jacket that's comfortable, insulated, and will be easy for her to go potty while wearing. Her lean build and thin fur might be part of the reason, in addition to simply not understanding the objective, why she isn't going potty while outside. She might be cold and simply trying to hurry up and get back inside. Check out brands like www.ruffwear.com for an example of a dog coat built for function and comfort not just style. For the potty training, I recommend crate training her for potty training. 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 her. Make sure the crate is only big enough for her to turn around, lie down and stand up, and not so big that she 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 small 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 her potty less frequently. I suggest taking her potty every 3-4 hours when you are home. After 2 hours (or less if she has an accident sooner) of freedom out of the crate, return her to the crate while her bladder is filling back up again until it has been 3 hours since her last potty trip. When you have to go off she should be able to hold her bladder in the crate for 5-7 hours - less at first while she is getting used to it and longer once she is accustomed to the crate. Only have her wait that long when you are not home though, take her out about every 3 hours while home. The method will cover what to do when you take her outside and she doesn't go potty (return her to the crate for 30-60 minutes, then take her back outside, repeating this process until she finally goes potty while outside when you take her). It will also cover some tips on getting her to go potty more quickly when you do take her, like walking her around slowly to get things going, teaching "Go Potty", motivating, ect... You want her to get into the habit of holder her bladder between trips and not just eliminating whenever she feels the urge and you want to encourage that desire for cleanliness in your home - which the crate is helpful for. 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 she is not already used to a crate expect crying at first. When she cries and you know she doesn't need to go potty yet, ignore the crying. Most dogs will adjust if you are consistent. You can give her a food stuffed hollow chew toy to help her adjust and sprinkle treats into the crate during times of quietness to further encourage quietness. If she continues protesting for long periods of time past three days, you can use a Pet Convincer. Work on teaching "Quiet" but using the Quiet method from the article linked below. Tell her "Quiet" when she barks and cries. If she gets quiet and stays quiet, you can sprinkle a few pieces of dog food into the crate through the wires calmly, then leave again. If she disobeys your command and keep crying or stops but starts again, spray a small puff of air from the Pet convincer at her side through the crate while saying "Ah Ah" calmly, then leave again. If she stays quiet after you leave you can periodically sprinkle treats into the crate to reward her quietness. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Only use the unscented air from the Pet Convincers - don't use citronella, it's too harsh and lingers for too long so can be confusing. In order to make progress with potty training accidents inside have to be prevented first (the crate), so pup will start generalizing a natural desire to keep a confined space (crate in this case) clean to keeping your entire home clean, over a long enough period of time that pup develops a long term habit (potty trained). If you decide you would rather pup be litter box trained, check out the article I have linked below. Pup will also need to be confined to avoid accidents in other locations for this to work most of the time. I recommend either the Exercise Pen method or the Crate Training method from that article. https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Rosci
Bully mix
2 Years
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Question
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Rosci
Bully mix
2 Years

This is a rescue dog and I have no background she instantly potties outside but also inside when I'm away

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1125 Dog owners recommended

Hello Chirmere, Assuming you are trying to teach pup to go potty in an indoor potty, like a doggie litter box, I would use the Exercise Pen method from the article I have linked below. Having pup stay in the exercise pen when you are away. Since pup is larger, I would use the type often used in training classes with the more stable fencing, and also secure it to the wall or something else secure to ensure it can't fall over if pup jumps up on it. https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Another option without using the pen, would be to use a crate when you aren't home to supervise pup if you aren't gone for longer than pup can hold their bladder for. Pup's freedom needs to be limited when you are away in order for pup to develop a habit of keeping your home clean even when you aren't there supervising pup. It sounds like pup's main issue right now is too much freedom too soon in the potty training process. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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