Who Says Litter Boxes Are For Cats Only?
Will a Dog Use a Litter Box?
Many times, as a dog owner, we must all find ourselves waiting on Fido to finish his business on a stormy night and thinking – “Why didn’t I just get a cat?” Cat owners have always had things a little easier that way – safe inside on those cold late-nights when we’re stuck outside holding the leash or the door for our canine companions. Also, if your dog has trouble walking any distance because of osteoarthritis or age related conditions, or perhaps suffers from a medical problem which causes increased urination, a litter pan would certainly be a helpful and humane alternative to having your dog beg to go outside, get you out of bed, or wait for you to dress for the weather and take him outside.
Well there’s good news! Most breeds of dog can be trained to use a litter box . Some breeders of smaller breed dogs will regularly train dogs to use a litter box as a matter of convenience if they live in an area with harsh winters. It just makes more sense than any other option. Larger dogs can also be taught to select a “target spot” inside the home and return there as a matter of habit – usually this is done with newspapers. So logically, if a dog can be taught to go in a place that you choose, shouldn’t it be a simple matter to place a dog litter box in that target area? It is that simple.
Simple Steps To Litter Training Your Puppy
First though we need to consider the basics. It is best to train a dog while still a puppy. It isn’t impossible to train an adult dog, but the earlier that you develop good habits, the less likely the dog is to fall back to some previous behavior. If your dog is older, that doesn’t mean he is a lost cause, and may in some cases only help to make your dog easier to train – providing that he has developed some level of obedience already.
Training a dog to do anything usually involves identifying a positive behavior – and then rewarding it repeatedly until the dog reaches a point where the desired behavior becomes associated with a good thing like a treat or praise. Puppies respond better to treats more regularly, so a food treat that you will associate solely with the use of the litter box is a key. Try to find something that is small, but very flavorful or with a distinct smell, not the regular food that the dog has in his bowl at meal times. ( Cheese, small bits of cooked liver, small slices of wiener, bits of carrot, or store bought dog treats should work – but be sure the dog likes the treat before you invest in a big bag.)
Second, we need to catch the dog doing the behavior in the right place. The best way to do this is to place the dog in an enclosed area with newspapers or a small litter-box in the corner and watch for the puppy to go. When the puppy goes, immediately praise him and offer the treat. Even easier is to crate-train your dog. Rather than the long wait, put your puppy in a small enclosed space right after feeding. Wait a short time and then watch to see if the puppy is doing ok, then take him out and place him in the litter box.
The timing of the meal and the fact that he’s now restricted to the large litter box should increase the odds that he will be ready to go while you are watching him. Remember too that dogs are more prone to bathroom stops in the early morning when they wake or after you return home from work, school or shopping.
Reward, Reward, Reward!
The reward you give your dog for going in the litter box is two-fold, offering mainly the treat at first, but also the praise. After a few days you will find that your dog will look forward to visiting the litter box and getting the good things that go along with it. (snack & praise). Soon you’ll be able to let the puppy choose his own times to visit the litter box, but be warned, some dogs have been known to “fake” a bathroom trip or two once they get into the habit.
Keep a sense of humor and reward him for trying, it will only reinforce the idea that he’s starting to understand. However if the fake trips become too frequent. You may wish to save the treat and just offer mild praise for false alarms.
The praise component is very important, don’t neglect it! Remember that there will be many times that you may be elsewhere when the dog needs to go. It’s a good idea to bring the dog to site and praise him when you get home or when you discover his earlier handiwork – make sure that you only offer special attention when your dog is on target.
Another consideration is the type of surface. Some dogs may already be used to going on a plain surface or on newspapers. You can leave your litter box liner bare, or line with a single sheet of newspaper – depending on the dog. Either way, clean-up is still easy. If you have a dog that is used to going on the grass, you may have a more difficult time switching, but it is worth a try, and you may find an organic or recycled litter that will act as a good substitute.
For smaller dogs, you may be able to use an absorbent litter, but do use some caution here as you’ll want to test your dog’s reaction to the type of litter that you use. If your dog is a “digger” then you may wish to avoid using a litter at all. You should try to avoid clumping litters – whether clay based or natural fiber – if your dog is curious about the “clumps” that form. Experimentation is the only way to be sure that your dog finds the litter box a comfortable stop, without also making it a site for exploration. Assume the worst and be wary of any litter that might cause problems if ingested.
When your Dog forgets:
If your dog happens to eliminate in the house but in an inappropriate spot (only while you’re home), clap your hands to interrupt her and take her quickly to the desired location immediately. You don’t have to get angry, just disrupt the activity and establish that you wish the dog to stop. Many dogs will react to a firm “No”, or a loud “AH, AH, AHHHH!”
Any elimination in the pan should be enthusiastically praised and otherwise rewarded as soon as it happens. It also will be helpful to reward even mild interest and sniffing in the vicinity of the litter box. Dogs are bright and will get you intent soon and enjoy this activity as much as any other game that you might play with them. The extra attention to dog litter box training early on will usually pay off with a life-time of easy clean ups and a contented pet.