Even the most loyal dog lovers have to admit the convenience of a cat’s litter box. With cats, there’s no rushing home to find a smelly accident staining your rug (assuming, of course, the cat is reliably litter trained). There’s no standing in the rain waiting not-so-patiently for your cat to do his business in the muddy yard, and there’s no tiptoeing through the grass hoping you don’t step on a stinky landmine. Litter training definitely has its advantages, and did you know cats aren’t the only pets that can learn to use a litter box? Dogs can also be litter trained, and it’s a skill that could save you a lot of time and clean up.
Why Would Someone Want to Litter Train Their Dog?
Teaching a dog to use a litter box sounds like a crazy idea. Litter boxes seem exclusive to cats, but there are a number of reasons why a dog person might like the idea of a litter trained pet. The main reason is all about convenience. With dogs, you have to be around every time nature calls. If you’re stuck in traffic and can’t get home in time for your dog’s regularly scheduled bathroom break, you’re in trouble. The same goes for if you’re sick in bed. Instead of begrudgingly tying your laces to take your dog out to potty, you can cuddle in bed and let your pup use his litter box whenever he needs it.
Cleanup is also easier with a litter box. Even if you have a fenced yard to serve as your dog’s potty area, you still need to devise a plan to clean up the mess. You can walk around combing the grass with your pooper-scooper and hoping you don’t take a wrong step, or you can take a few seconds each day to clean the litter box.
What You’ll Need
If training your dog to use a litter box sounds like a way to simplify your life, you start by finding the right litter box. Litter training is easiest with small dogs, because you don’t need a huge box. In general, you want a plastic container that is large enough for your dog to stand inside with up to a foot of buffer room on either side.
There are plenty of options online ranging in price from $50 to $500. Those pricier products are the ones with convenient features like self-cleaning functions, fake grass, and grates that let the waste fall into a lower pan for even easier clean up. If you’re only interested in the basics, a good-sized plastic tub that your dog can easily step into will work fine.
Once you have the box, you’ll need the litter. The dog litter available in stores and online is similar to cat litter. It comes in both paper pellet and clay litter forms, and you can pick brands that have special odor-trapping features.
Training your dog to use a litter box is no different than training him to go outside. It’s all about using positive reinforcement to show your dog what you want him to do. Follow these steps to get started.
1. Get your dog on a regular feeding schedule. This will also get him on a regular bathroom schedule so you’ll know when he needs to go.
2. If you’re training a puppy, about 15-30 minutes after your puppy eats, he’ll need to use the bathroom. If you’re training an adult dog, look for clues he needs to go to the bathroom like sitting by the door, pacing, or whining. Take your dog to their litter box and say a phrase like “go potty.”. Whatever you choose to say, remember, you’ll need to say the same thing every time you want your dog to use his litter box.
3. It might take more than a few minutes of your dog standing in the litter, and you might have to stop him from trying to leave, but as soon as he goes to the bathroom, praise him and give him a tasty treat. Make a big deal about it, and let him know he’s the best dog in the world!
4. Come up with a potty break schedule that works with your dog’s physical needs. For puppies, you’ll need more frequent potty breaks, but adult dogs can go several hours between breaks depending on when they last ate.
5. When it’s time for your dog’s scheduled potty break, bring him back to his litter box. Repeat step 2 every day, multiple times a day until your dog starts heading to the litter box on his own. If you catch him lifting a leg over your carpet, clap your hands to get his attention and gently guide him to the litter box. Praise him when he finishes what he started. It’s important to do your best not to get upset when your dog makes mistakes. He won’t understand why you’re mad, and your anger will make the situation worse. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement when he gets it right.
Just like normal house training, teaching your dog to use a litter box won’t happen overnight. It will take several weeks, and possibly months, for your dog to consistently use the litter box inside. Litter training isn’t for every pup parent, but if you’re successful, you might find yourself with more time and less mess.