Litter Box Training for Dogs

Have you ever wondered about training your dog to go potty inside? Turns out, litter isn't just for cats! Training your dog to use a litter area, pee-pad, or fake grass is a great way to ensure that your dog can have their needs met while you're away from the house, in a meeting, or sleeping. 

Litter training your dog is also super convenient for people who live in small apartments, live on the upper floor of apartment complexes, or have dogs with mobility issues. Finally, if you live in places where grass is scarce, litter training your dog can be a good compromise.

Litter training your dog is easiest with a small dog or young puppy. It will be challenging to train a larger dog to reliably use a pee-pad; and likewise, it will be hard to train an already housebroken dog to go indoors. To get started, you'll need:

  • A crate or playpen larger than your dog so they have room to move around
  • The substrate you want to train them on: pee pads, litter, fake grass, etc.
  • Food, water, and treats

First Steps In Litter Training Your Dog

First, set up your training area so that the crate/playpen houses food, water, and the training material with room to move around. Next, you'll put your dog in the area and just let them free feed and drink. If they're a puppy, they'll usually have to go potty within an hour after eating and drinking. Keep them in the playpen and encourage them to go potty on the substrate. When they do, give them lots of treats and praise: just like you would when housebreaking your dog. 

You'll want to repeat this a few times. If you want your dog to go potty exclusively indoors, taking them outside in between training sessions may slow your progress. Additionally, be sure to clean the substrate each time your dog goes to the bathroom, to help keep it as an attractive place for them to go. 

Finishing Your Dog's Litter Training

After your dog can reliably go on the substrate, you'll want to take steps to finalize the behavior. Changing one thing at a time is an easy way to keep your dog successful in their litter training.  After you change, get a few successful training sessions before changing something else. Some things you may want to change include:

  • Removing the playpen/crate from around the litter area
  • Moving the litter area to a new location in your house - don't put it in a dark corner though. Make it convenient for your dog!
  • Reducing the size of the litter area. But there should still be enough room for your dog to stand/squat without missing the substrate. 

If your dog struggles with any step you take, just go backwards, build their confidence, and try again. And remember: dogs need their litter area cleaned after every use, unlike cats. It may be helpful to buy multiple sets of the substrate so you can easily change them out in between uses. 

The best part about litter training a dog? It'll be easier to train future dogs if you add dogs to your household! They'll be able to see your older dog doing their thing, and mimic.