There are many reasons that taking your dog outside to eliminate may not be an option. Maybe you’re in an apartment building and it’s too difficult to get outside all the time. Perhaps the weather in your area isn’t conducive to going outside year-round. Perhaps you simply live a busy lifestyle and you can’t always make it home from work during the daytime to take your dog out for a walk. Whatever the reason, if you have a small dog, it is possible to litter pan train him or her just as you would a cat. Fortunately, it isn’t a difficult task to teach a little dog to use a litter box.
Your first step is to decide on the kind of litter you will be using. While some people like to simply shred their newspapers and use that material for their dog’s litter pan, other people feel that commercial cat litter material is easier to use. This is simply a matter of personal choice, but you will want to stick to the same litter throughout the litter box training process because consistency is one of the primary elements required for litter pan training success.
Though it is important to keep a clean litter box, leaving the litter slightly soiled throughout the training process can be beneficial because dogs like to use the same place over and over. Therefore, the smell of their own urine can actually draw them to return to use the box. Over time, the puppy will become accustomed to using the box and you’ll be able to clean it out more effectively on a regular basis to keep odors to a minimum.
Once you’ve decided what kind of litter you’ll be using, you can then choose your litter box. Typically, the largest sizes of litter boxes will work well. Use the pan-style litter box and not the type with the hoods.
Next, watch your dog carefully for signs that he or she is ready to eliminate. This will include scratching or pawing at the floor, sniffing the floor, whining, or circling. As soon as you see these behaviors, take your dog to the litter pan and place him or her inside.
After the first few uses you’ll be able to call your dog to the litter box so that he or she can enter on his or her own, building the routine.
When your dog does eliminate in the litter pan, make sure that you immediately praise him or her enthusiastically. Do this every time that your dog uses the box, whether you’ve placed your puppy inside, or he or she has gone in alone. Use happy tones and pet or scratch your puppy. This will solidly reinforce the behavior.
Occasionally throughout the litter pan training process, your dog will have accidents and eliminate in the wrong place. Do not scold your dog. Instead, simply clean up the mess, being careful to remove all odors by using a cleanser designed for dog urine, or by using white vinegar, hot water, and dish soap.
Be patient with your puppy as you teach him or her how to use the litter box. With your consistency, determination, and support, your puppy will learn to use the litter box as his or her exclusive location for elimination within quite a short period of time.
Pamella Neely writes about crate training and puppy socialization. Her site offers a free crate training schedule for crate training puppies.