Can You Train Dogs To Use A Litter Box? [You Might, If…]

The fact that cats can be trained to use a litter box makes life considerably easier, and more hygenic for owners. So naturally the question arises, can we do the same for our dogs? Is it possible and if you were to attempt it, what factors do you need to take into consideration? Well, here is everything you are going to want to know.

So, can you train dogs to use a litter box? Small dog breeds can be litter trained successfully using positive reinforcement methods. However, it’s not the best solution for large dog breeds as you may not be able to find a litter box big enough. Litter trays may also not be suitable for dogs that love to dig, such as terriers. 

Cats and dogs are similar in many ways, however they do have their differences that may make litter box training a dog a little trickier.

Or something that’s not worth all the hassle and effort altogether..

As we shall see as we continue to explore this potential toileting solution in the next few sections.

So keep reading if you are considering it and want to know how to best implement it! Or if you even should!

Can A Dog Use A Litter Box?

Small, tame dog breeds can be taught to use a litter box as long as you are patient and consistent. However, larger dog breeds may struggle to squeeze into a litter box. This can lead to frustration, disobedience, and destructive behaviors in the long run.

Generally, litter boxes are built with cats in mind.

There are a limited number of retailers that have launched dog litter trays but they still aren’t large enough to accommodate a German shepherd or rottweiler!

Larger dog breeds also create more waste which can overfill a small litterbox very quickly.

The other main issue with litter box training a dog is that canines are not evolved to bury their waste like cats.

Some dogs are also prone to coprophagy (eating poop!).

Cats are solitary hunters that bury their waste to hide their scent from potential predators or competitors.

However, dogs hunt in packs and prefer to display their poop to ward off other packs that may attempt to claim more territory.

Saying that, it is possible to litter box train certain small or medium dog breeds as long as you are willing to put in the effort.

The most suitable dog breeds include:

  • Maltese
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Shih Tzu
  • Pug
  • Border Collie
  • Chow Chow

Is Litter Box Training A Dog A Good Idea?

Litter box training is a good idea for certain dog breeds as the equipment needed is usually very affordable and it’s a convenient solution for owners that are out of the house for long periods.

Here are a few more benefits of training your dog to use a litter tray:

It Can Reduce Accidents In Small Puppies

Adopting a new puppy can be overwhelming, especially when you factor in their need to eliminate on a regular basis.

Typically, puppies can only hold their bladders for one hour for every month of their age.

So, if you need to pop out of the house for a couple of hours or you are running late due to traffic, your puppy may not be able to ‘hold it’ for long enough.

This can result in toileting accidents. By litter training your puppy, you can provide a safe, convenient toilet for your puppy to use whenever he needs!

Read more: How Long Can A Puppy Hold Its Pee?

It Can Increase Confidence In Certain Dog Breeds

Dog breeds such as the Maltese are notorious for having toileting accidents.

Due to their small size, they can struggle with the idea of going to the toilet in an open outdoor space.

By providing a litter tray, you can improve your dog’s confidence and reduce the likelihood of toileting accidents. 

It Can Help Senior Dogs With Bladder Issues

Bladder problems and incontinence are common in dogs, particularly in females over 8 years old.

Waiting for you to let them outside so they can relieve themselves may not be a good option here.

So, a litter tray can be useful. Bear in mind that some bladder issues can be detrimental to your dog’s health if they are not treated.

So, you must seek the advice of a vet if you’re concerned. 

Litter Is Designed To Reduce Or Eliminate Odors

There’s a vast choice of litter options on the market and they are all perfectly safe for dogs.

Whether you choose to go with wood pellets or clumping paper litter, they are all designed to reduce odors in the home.

Saying that, it’s still important to clean out the litter tray at least once a day depending on the size and age of your dog.

Remember that dogs don’t naturally cover up their poop.

So, you may need to clean out a doggy litter tray more often than you would for a cat to keep odors at bay. 

While there are many benefits to litter training your puppy, there are downsides too.

Not all dogs will accept this type of training, particularly terriers as they were bred to be ratters.

These dogs aren’t used to catch rats anymore but the instinct to dig still runs strong!

Large dogs will also refuse to use a litter tray that is too small.

Factors To Consider With A Litter Box For Your Dog

Other factors you need to consider include:

Making Sure You Have Separate Litter Boxes For Each Of Your Pets

If you have a cat and a dog, you’re probably wondering if you can simply train your dog to use the cat’s litter tray.

The answer is no.

Both cats and dogs are highly territorial animals so they will refuse to share a litter box.

In fact, this could lead to even more inappropriate elimination from both parties. 

Certain Types Of Litter Can Get Stuck Between Your Dogs Paw Pads

Litter granules can often get stuck in the small gaps between the pads on a dog’s paws.

If urine or feces have already been soaked up in the litter, your dog could end up traipsing urine or fecal matter through your home without realizing it.

This could also lead to an infection in the paws so you must check your dog’s pads regularly and clean out any debris. 

Will Dogs Use A Litter Box?

Some small and medium dog breeds will use a litter box if successfully trained to do so. However, it will not work for all dogs. You will need to take into account the breed, age, and temperament of your dog and ensure you consistently use positive reinforcement during the process.

Independent dog breeds such as Afghan hounds and Bulldogs may flat out refuse to entertain the idea of a litter tray.

Similarly, notorious chewers such as beagles and Jack Russel terriers may decide to eat the litter rather than pee on it!

Remember to always purchase litter that is labeled as non-toxic as some types can cause health problems if too much is ingested. 

How To Train A Dog To Use A Litter Box 

Gather Supplies

To train a dog to use a litter box, you first need to gather your supplies.

Make sure any litter tray you purchase has high sides, except for toy dog breeds that may struggle to climb into it.

Male dogs in particular lift their legs high to urinate.

So, you’ll want to make sure the sides are high enough to retain all of the pee to prevent it from ending up on your carpet.

Some dogs are picky about the type of substrate you use so a bit of trial and error is needed here.

The most popular substrate for dog litter trays is artificial grass as it mimics a dog’s natural toilet preference.

Especially if they are used to pooping in the garden!

You will also need a poop scoop and poop bags which can easily be purchased from most pet stores as well as online. 

Introduce The Litter Box

To successfully train your pup to use a litter box, you will need to know how to spot the behavioral signs that indicate your dog needs to go to the toilet.

These include restlessness, circling and sniffing a particular area before squatting, and pacing.

As soon as you notice one or more of these signs, gently lift your dog and place him in the litter tray.

You will also want to place your dog in the litter tray first thing in the morning and after every meal.

Leverage Puppy Pads

If your dog is used to peeing on puppy pads, you can also use these to your advantage.

Simply place them near the litter box and gradually move them closer until eventually, you will be able to put them in the litter tray.

When your dog is comfortable using the litter tray, you can remove the pads altogether. 

Patience & Consistency

You may be lucky and find that your pup goes toilet in the litter tray the first time.

However, this is unlikely!

Patience and persistence are needed when training a dog.

Repeat this process as often as needed and be sure to reward your dog with tasty treats or fuss when he gets it right!

Calm & Relaxed

Remember, you want the litter tray to be perceived as a safe space so never force your dog into the litter tray.

Keep a calm and even tone, and reassure your dog at every step.

It may also be worth giving a simple command like ‘toilet’ or ‘poop’ when he is in the litter tray. 

Routine

Once your dog starts to get the hang of toileting in the litter box, keep up a structured routine for a few more weeks.

Try to guide your dog to the litter tray at roughly the same times every day so your pup knows what to expect.

Then try just using your command only, without physically placing your dog in the litter tray.

Repeat As Needed

Expect accidents and don’t be afraid to move back a step if your dog doesn’t seem to be getting it.

Litter Box For Dog Considerations

A suitable litter tray is essential for successful potty training.

The placement of the litter tray is also important.

Here are a few factors to consider when you start toilet training your dog:

Make Sure The Litter Box Is Big Enough

Any litter tray you purchase needs to be large enough for your dog to comfortably squat inside it and turn around easily.

High-sided litter trays are best as they will prevent pee from ending up on your walls and carpet.

However, if you own a toy dog breed, make sure one side of the tray is lower so they can easily climb in and out.

Consider Placement

Dogs like a bit of privacy when they do their business.

So, make sure you place the litter tray in a quiet area of the home but not one that is completely isolated.

If your dog refuses to use it, try moving it somewhere else until you find the perfect spot.

Don’t place the litter box anywhere need food and water bowls because dogs don’t like to eliminate near where they eat.

In the beginning, you may want to put the litter tray in a room that is easy to clean I.e., with hard or tiled flooring, because many dogs love to dig in their litter and make a mess!

Choose The Right Litter

Dogs produce more waste than cats.

So, make sure you choose a large pelleted, absorbent litter.

Preferences of substrate may differ between dogs so trial out a few different options to see which one your dog prefers. 

Clean The Litter Box Regularly

Make sure you only use dog-safe cleaning products and ensure you clean the litter tray after every use.

Your dog won’t want to go potty in a dirty litter tray!

Be Consistent

Set up a pooping and feeding schedule and stick to it.

This is the best way to litter train a dog.

Remember, that every dog is an individual and learn at their own pace. 

Finally

You can train some dogs to use a litter box – but not all, it seems.

Chances are, you’ll likely know whether it’s a good idea based on your dogs size and temperament.

Generally small trainable dogs are best for litter boxes. Larger, independent types are not.

Whether you could overcome the odds for the later ultimately depends on the litter boxes you can find and your approach.

It uultimately depends how committed (and perhaps) patient you are!

For the former, it could just be your best idea yet!

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