The Best Ways to Help Dogs Use the Litter Box

by Simon Foden Google
    Make the litter box training fun by giving toy rewards.

    Make the litter box training fun by giving toy rewards.

    Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    A litter box for your dog is a practical solution if your dog doesn’t have access to the yard when you're out. If he’s trained to use his litter box, it saves you cleaning up a mess and prevents him from becoming distressed for soiling the house. You can also use the litter box to help fully potty train your dog so he can go outside by himself.

    Dogs instinctively avoid soiling the area where they sleep and eat, so he’s more likely to use the litter box if it’s positioned away from his bed and food bowl. By placing the litter box near to the door, you get the dog into a habit similar to going outside. This won’t necessarily help with potty training, but when it’s time to get rid of the litter box, you’ll already have the dog used to heading toward the door when he needs to eliminate.

    Observe your dog’s daily routine and keep notes of how long after waking, eating, drinking and exercise he needs to go potty. Knowing when he is likely to go gives you a big advantage, as with this information, you can time visits to the litter box perfectly.

    Establish a routine where you guide your dog, on leash, to the litter box when he is most likely to go. Use the information you learned when observing his daily routine to help. This way, you get more opportunities to reinforce and encourage correct elimination. Your dog is less likely to understand why he’s at the litter box if he doesn’t need to use it half the time you take him. If he’s only there when he needs the toilet, he’ll build an association pretty quick.

    Say “go potty” or similar just before he eliminates. If necessary, repeat the cue a few times until he starts. Creating a verbal cue is part of the positive reinforcement process. With sufficient repetition, your dog will begin to think “when I hear that phrase, I should use the litter box, because last time I heard it and used the litter box, I got a reward.”

    This is the second crucial element of positive reinforcement for litter box training. As soon as he starts to go in the litter box, stop the verbal cue and switch to verbal praise. “Good boy!” is the standard. Once he’s done, give him a food treat or a toy and a little physical fuss. Over time, Lucky will learn how the process works. The reward reinforces positive associations in his head with potty in the litter box.

    If you discover a mess, you’ve already missed your opportunity to correct the dog, so don’t waste your time yelling. Your dog won’t have any idea what he’s being punished for. In fact, yelling and attempting to punish your dog can create toilet anxiety. Calmly clean up the mess and try not to stress out.

    Photo Credits

    • Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.

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