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House Training

Litterbox Training a Dog

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For some dog owners, especially those with very small dogs (with even smaller bladders), or those living in high-rise apartment buildings, training your dog to “do the deed” in a litterbox is a great alternative taking several flights of stairs a zillion times a day. Litter-training your dog is not impossible but, like housebreaking, it will take dedication and some hard work from you. With just a few basic training techniques, your pooch will soon learn how to take himself to the bathroom without your help.

Using a litterbox isn’t natural for dogs, like it is for cats. But, there are dog-appropriate boxes available with a little searching. You can even find one that resembles a small patch of grass. Try to avoid a cat litterbox (and cat litter) as the clay, dust, and fragrances used can be harmful to your little dog.

Training Guidelines

  1. Litter training normally begins by finding the right location to place the litterbox. Ideally, it should be placed in a well-ventilated spot with a floor that’s easy to clean. If possible, do not place the box on a carpeted area as accident clean-ups will not be easy.
  2. Limiting the area in which your dog roams until he is well trained to use the box is important. During the training period, your dog should always be near the litter box or be in your sight. This way, you can monitor him constantly. You may want to try putting up gates or shutting doors when necessary.
  3. Recognizing the common signs that your dog needs to go potty is crucial. If you see him circling and sniffing around, immediately take him to the box area as these could be signs that it’s time to “go.”
  4. Decide on a key word or group of words to repeat each time he needs to go. Consider “Potty”, or “Go pee.” After a while, he will associate these words with the act of going and you can even get him to go on command.
  5. During the training period, expect your dog to have accidents. When he does, clap loudly, and then say firmly, “No,” to get his attention. Then, quickly move him to the box. Be firm but calm with your dog. You don’t want to frighten him during training as this could set back your progress.
  6. Once your dog goes in his litter box, give him treats and praise him with lots of affection. This way, he will learn to associate the box with good feelings.
  7. Try soaking a paper towel with your dog’s urine and then place it in the box. This way, your dog will smell his own waste and will be more likely to return to that spot to go again.
  8. Do not forget to clean any accidents thoroughly. Look for cleaning products especially designed for pet accidents. Dogs can smell things that humans can’t. If your dog’s scent remains, he will go to that place to go again.
  9. Remember to familiarize your dog with the litterbox throughout the day. Put him inside the box, say the key word, and then praise him. After some time, you will see your pooch going in the litter box all on his own once you say the verbal command.

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  1. It's interesting to know that when it comes to having a dog inside, that we are able to teach them to use a litter box like a cat. I like how you pointed out that one step into doing this is by using keywords to help them associate the act to the word, that way we will be able to give him the command to go. We live in an apartment with a little dog, and it would be nice to be able to not have to take him out all the time or if we are gone he won't have an accident.

  2. Avatar Of Susan



    Hi. I trained my 3 year old female dog to use a potty box. At first she looked at me like i was crazy.. her expression clearly said “GOOD girls dont DO that in the house!” … but, with time and lots of patience and constant dedication..it took about a week before i didnt have to watch her all the time.. she finally decided that so long as it was in THAT box, then it would be ok. Put the box in a place well away from where YOU cook and eat, and the dogs food and water is! I made my box at home, but you can buy them online. it should have a sides to it that are at least 3 inches tall for a small dog like you have. You can start out with cutting down a large cardboard packing box and lining it with thick plastic drop cloth. Then i buy a piece of fake grass material, and cut a piece to fit the box. On top of that i put about 2 inches of wood shavings, like you use for small animal bedding. I get the large bags of it from the local feed store or Walmart for about $5 a bag…it goes a LONG way. At first i bought a spray used to encourage puppies to GO in a certain area.. and sprayed just a small amount on the wood shavings. I only did this the first two times i changed the litter. Then, just like teaching them to GO outside.. you take them to the litter box, and tell them..Potty Box! After they get the idea.. be sure to scoup any feces daily and change the wood entire lining about every 5 – 7 days. You can also get a “Fire Hydrant” to set in the middle for your male dog to use for a pee post… Thats what they use at the big dog shows in the Potty area runs.

  3. Avatar Of Bonnie Massicotte

    bonnie massicotte


    okay the training post sounds all doable BUT, what about a 3 yr old chichuau that is being fostered. at the other foster he would follow the 8 other dogs outside. but he is only one here and doesn’t like our minnesota cold. he went out when he first came with a walk on leash to telephone pole in front yard to pee and he went poo in my back yard. now he wont go out.if I carry him he stands and shivers. I haven’t found where he is peeing and he will poo down basement sometimes otherwise it is where he drops it. I have tried to contain him near the potty pad but he whines, and keeps getting away. he wont pee but he must be licking himself since his breath smell like urine. help me train a 3 yr male how to use potty pad.

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