Train Small Dogs To Use Litter Box

posted: 05/15/12
Read more Read less
How to Train Your Small Dog to Use the Litter Box
iStockphoto/Thinkstock |

The idea of training your small dog to use a litter box like a cat might sound a bit wacky. But like most really good ideas, it's just north of genius.

Imagine: Your last meeting of the workday runs long, but you don't have to worry about the stinky mess your furry pal's sure to deposit on the rug in your absence. Sounds a bit less wacky now, doesn't it?

Providing a litter box (and training your dog to use it) offers her as-needed access, no matter what time of the day or night she gets the urge. It's also convenient, especially for apartment dwellers or those who don't have the luxury of a fenced yard in which a small dog can run and poop freely. Even if you do have an expanse of grass, you'll still need to collect your dog's smelly landmines or dodge them every time you walk through the yard — unless she learns to use an indoor litter box.

So how do you convince your dog to use a litter box? You'll need to spend several months offering positive reinforcement when she uses it, but otherwise the exercise is no different than any other type of doggie potty training.

You can use the same techniques on puppies and adult dogs. Feed and water your dog at regular intervals throughout the day. Then take her to the litter box and help her step inside. Say a command word or phrase, like "go potty," to tell her to do her business. If you're training a puppy, she'll most likely eliminate 5 to 30 minutes after eating or drinking. If you're training an older dog, look for the signs that she needs to go — she may whine, pace, sniff around or walk to the door. When she successfully uses the litter box, offer lots of praise and a treat. If you catch her eliminating someplace else, gently scold her and take her to the box. As she begins to use the litter box on her own after a few months, keep up the praise as you decrease her dependence on treats.

So, will your dog and cat need separate, ahem, facilities?

Read more Read less
Can a Cat and Dog Use the Same Litter Box?
iStockphoto/Thinkstock |

You'll need a large plastic tub to serve as your dog's litter box. There are many models on the market with different features, including modesty-serving covers, self-cleaning functions and layered boxes that have a grate or grass on top and allow waste to collect in a lower pan. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $500 for the initial setup, plus the ongoing cost of litter replacement. Dog litter itself is similar to the kitty variety and there are many kinds, from paper pellets with activated charcoal odor control to simple clay litters. For DIY scent control, sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the box each time you empty it.

At its most basic, the box should be large enough for your dog to turn around in comfortably. The sides of the box should be low enough for her to climb in by herself; however, if your dog is of the male persuasion, make sure the sides are high enough to catch the results of enthusiastic leg-lifting.

While you may be tempted to place the box in a far corner of the basement or an infrequently used guest room, that's a recipe for disaster. Your dog needs convenient access to the litter box and you need a visual reminder to clean it (which you should do each time your dog uses it, if possible). Determine the ideal spot using the principles of cat litter box placement: a location easily accessed, but with a sense of privacy.

Unfortunately, your dog and cat won't be happy using the same box. Dogs and cats approach litter box usage quite differently — unlike dogs, cats doesn't need training to use the litter box. What your cat does need is access to his own box — which holds true whether his household companions are dogs or other felines. Without this sense of ownership, your cat may start spraying urine throughout the house to mark his territory or refusing to use the litter box altogether. Dogs can be territorial, too, so each dog in a multi-pooch household may need her own box if fights break out.

While it takes time and patience to teach your dog to go potty indoors, it can be done. And the rewards of successful training can be great. After all, what's the point of having a housedog if you spend half your time outside waiting for her to poop?

More on
Small Dogs