Litter Box Training A Dog: Pros & Cons and How to Do It Successfully

When you’re a dog owner, house training can seem almost impossible if you have a job that keeps you out of the home for long periods. Dogs can only hold it in for 6 to 8 hours, so if your job regularly keeps you out of the house for any longer, you’ll likely frequently arrive home to accidents. Like puppy pads, litter box training a dog is a practical compromise that allows you to control your dog’s potty habits and keep your home clean.

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While indoor potty training an adult dog or a puppy might seem complicated, most dogs take to the training exceptionally well. And there are plenty of advantages to litter box training a dog, too, since it gives you significantly more flexibility while saving you money compared to alternatives like pee pads. By using pee pad training methods like positive reinforcement and attractant spray, it won’t be long before you see how convenient dog litter box training is.

Litter Box Training a Dog: Pros and Cons

litter box training a dog

Pro: You Don’t Have To Take Your Dog Outside As Often

One of the best benefits of litter box training a dog is that it significantly reduces the frequency you need to take your dog outside. It’s not something you need to worry about since your dog will have a place to go potty whenever they feel the need. Instead of worrying about potty break walks, you should ensure the time you spend outside with your dog is mentally and physically stimulating.

Con: Your House May Have a Foul Odor

While many litters can suppress and significantly reduce the smell of dog pee, it’s safe to say that the odor is both strong and highly unpleasant. You can take specific approaches to your litter box placement to reduce the smell, like putting it in the bathroom or beside an open window. You can also clean the dog litter box frequently and use high-quality litter to minimize the odor. If you decide to use a litter box, it’s essential to be realistic and understand that it may result in foul odors.

Pro: Your Puppy Won’t Be Exposed to Outside Diseases

One of the most stressful stages of raising puppies is when they’re too young to be vaccinated but old enough to be taken outside. While most dog owners find that the risk is worth the reward (and nothing awful happens anyway), it can still be a significant source of stress — especially if you’re worried about affording treatment for a potential disease or have an incredibly fragile puppy. Litter box training effectively resolves all these worries since you’ll only need to take your dog outside for exercise and mental stimulation. This practice significantly reduces your dog’s exposure to outside diseases.

Con: You May Struggle To Shift Your Dog to Actual Potty Training

Unfortunately, while many dog owners have found that dog litter box training was initially a convenient solution, they now need help to shift their dogs to proper potty training so that they have the time to take them outside regularly. While some dogs respond better to new tricks than others, you should consider the possibility of your dog using litter boxes forever before you decide to train them to use them. If this potential risk doesn’t seem worthwhile, you should explore other potty training methods. 

8 Best Tips for Litter Box Training a Dog

tips for litter box training a dog

1. Start by Using Puppy Pee Pads

If you intend to litter box train your dog, you can use many of the same methods for pee pad training — including the potty pads themselves! You can start by covering a large area of your home with puppy pee pads. As your dog successfully uses them, you can gradually reduce the area covered until it’s the size of your intended litter box. Next, you can place the potty pad inside the litter box — and once your dog understands that it is where they go potty, all you need to do is switch to using litter instead.

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2. Consider Using Deodorizing Litter

Cats have famously used litter boxes for a long time, so pet product manufacturers have developed many unique products that absorb pee effectively and suppress odor. Many of the products intended for cats work just as well for reducing the smell of a dog’s litter box, so finding products that work is often affordable and as accessible as going to your local pet store. 

3. Keep the Litter Box Clean

While dogs may be animals, there’s no doubt that they enjoy having clean spaces just as much as anyone else — and if their litter box is allowed to become too dirty, they may feel discouraged from using it due to the strong odors. You should clean your dog’s litter box at least once daily, especially if they’re using it to poop.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Try Litter Box Training Your Older Dog

As dogs age, they tend to lose the muscle control and mental capacity that allows them to be fully potty trained. As a result, senior dogs are significantly more prone to accidents — even when they’re kept on a frequent potty schedule. By offering your old dog accessible litter boxes, you can almost eliminate the possibility of accidents, all while empowering your aging dog.

5. Give Your Dog Lots of Positive Reinforcement

As with regular potty training, dogs rely on lots of positive reinforcement to understand they’re doing the right thing. By giving your dog a huge amount of praise and an immediate reward, you can override any other thoughts they may have, like a compulsion to mark. With consistent training, they’ll always choose your praise over any other compulsions. 

6. Watch for Digging or Coprophagia

Dog owners encounter some of the most common issues when litter box training their dogs are digging and coprophagia. Some dogs like to dig in the sand and make a huge mess, while others are tempted to eat poop when it’s left accessible to them in the litter box. Unfortunately, the best way to address these issues is using a different potty training method.

7. Buy a Litter Box With High Sides

To avoid accidental spills, you should consider buying a litter box made of sturdy material with high sides. These prevent spills with male dogs since they can block any splashing. It’s important to note that these don’t work very well with large dogs due to the large sides, however. A flat litter box tray has drawbacks but is significantly better for large dogs. 

8. Choose a Litter Box Big Enough For Your Dog

Lastly, it’s crucial to ensure that you choose a litter box that is large enough for your dog. Generally, you will have an easier time litter box training a smaller dog, as a large dog will have difficulty containing their mess in a cat litter box that is entirely too small for their body. If you are set on litter box training a large dog, you will need to get creative with what you use as the litter box itself – using a large metal tray or a shallow plastic storage bin may be your best bet! A small dog can use a standard large litter box and keep the mess in the potty area.

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The Bottom Line

While litter box training a dog may seem complicated, it’s not much different than training them how to use a puppy pad. While litter box training a dog is not for everyone, you can teach your dog how to use one with persistence, treats, and positive reinforcement!

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