Can I Train My Puppy to Use a Litter Box?

If there’s one thing about raising a puppy that most people don’t care for all that much, it’s potty training. For me, potty training is crucial but, if I’m being honest, not my fave task when caring for a new pup. (I think most dog owners can agree that urine and excrement aren’t something they care to handle.) 

For many folks who adopt a puppy, potty training alternatives are what they search for if only to avoid the smell and, well, everything else about doggy bodily fluids. The fact is, though, there aren’t a lot of potty training alternatives when it comes to puppies. Yes, there are different potty training methods, but not many tools.

However, one tool many new puppy parents ask about is the same one that millions of cat owners use every day; a litter box. Extremely easy to use when training a kitten, the question I often hear from my faithful readers is, “can I train my puppy to use a litter box?”

The answer is that, yes, you can use a litter box to train your puppy. Indeed, many people prefer using litter boxes to other types of potty training. Potty training with a litter box can significantly reduce accidents as your puppy will be free to use their litter box at all times. It’s also convenient and safer for them, as they don’t need to venture outside the house.

For puppy parents, a litter box can also be a significant convenience. It prevents, for example, trips outside when it’s raining, snowing, or when the weather is otherwise nasty. Also, your pup won’t track in mud, dirt, and other debris after going outside. Lastly, you can easily clean a litter box using a scoop, something many puppy parents prefer.

Now that you know you can use a litter box to train your puppy, you might have other questions about this compelling potty training method. For example, what’s the best way to teach your puppy to use a litter box, and are litter boxes better than pee pads when potty training.? If yes, please continue reading! I’ve got the answer to those and other questions for you below!

Litter Box Training a Puppy: Pros and Cons

There are, to be sure, several pros and cons of training your puppy to use a litter box. Knowing those pros and cons before you make a decision is crucial. That way, you and your puppy will both have the biggest chance of success. They include:

PROS

  • Litter boxes reduce “accidents’. ‘Once trained, your puppy can use their litter box whenever they feel the need to “go.” That means fewer accidents as they don’t have to wait for you or someone else in the family to let them outside or take them for a walk.
  • Training a puppy to use a litter box is relatively straightforward. Most will need only a week or two to figure it out. Some puppies are smart enough to start using a litter box after the first time!
  • Puppies can use a litter box for liquid and solid waste (i.e., poop and pee). 
  • Litter boxes can be helpful for older dogs who are having problems controlling their bladder.
  • Using a litter box can help build confidence in your puppy and help them become a well-adapted dog.

CONS

  • Training a large puppy to use a litter box can be problematic at best and disastrous at worst. Keep in mind that a large puppy makes a lot of poop and pee every day. Also, depending on the size of the litter box, their aim might not always be perfect.
  • Typically, you’ll need to clean the litter box daily. If not, the odors can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you have a larger pup. For some people, cleaning a litter box is worse than using a plastic bag to clean dog poop up outside. If you’re one of them, a litter box might not be your best choice.
  • Some dogs like to paw at the ground after they relieve themselves. For that reason, you might need to get a cat litter box with very high sides. Either that or keep a broom and dustpan nearby to sweep up scattered litter.
  • If you have cats at home, you’ll need separate litter boxes for them and your puppy. (Trust me, neither one likes to share this private space.)
  • Litter can get stuck between the spaces in your puppy’s paws and pads. If the litter has already absorbed urine or feces, your puppy will track that through the house, which could get pretty gross.

Dog Litter Box vs. Pee Pads

Both litter boxes and pee pads are helpful, practical, and a commonly accepted form of potty training a puppy. Is one better than the other? Some would argue, but most dog experts agree that both methods work well on some dogs but not for all dogs. Below are a few of the main differences between the two, including using them, cleaning them, etc.

Cleaning

A litter box takes a few steps to clean. You need a scoop and a bag to place the waste, and you need to clean the litter box regularly (which can be pretty gross). A pee pad can be rolled up and tossed in the garbage, making it much easier to clean.

Cost

Pee pads need to be replaced frequently, which means you’ll need to buy new ones regularly. Of course, you need to replace cat litter frequently, so there’s an ongoing cost for both. Overall, pee pads probably cost about 50% more than litter.

Labor

Cleaning a litter box takes a few minutes or longer, depending on how long you wait between cleanings. Depending on how many puppies you have, it might also be a 2-person job. Cleaning up a pee pad is easy and fast, in most cases. However, if your puppy misses the pad, clean-up time could increase significantly.

How Do You Potty Train a Puppy to Use a Litter Box?

There are a few different ways to train a puppy to use a litter box. Below I’ll share the one I like best, including step-by-step instructions on how to use it correctly and successfully.

  1. Choose the spot for their litter box carefully. Most experts say that you should put it near their crate, bed, or play area so that your puppy can see it easily.
  2. As soon as your puppy wakes up every day, bring them to their box and encourage them to “Go potty!”.
  3. Show your puppy the litter box throughout the day and encourage them to use it. Some training experts recommend taking a tiny bit of their own poo and putting it in the litter. That lets them recognize their own smell in the litter box. (Use gloves if you do, of course.)
  4. When they use the litter box, praise your puppy profusely. Give them a treat too, if you like.
  5. After each trip to the litter box, set a timer for an hour. Bring your puppy back to the litter box and repeat the praising process when it goes off. (Increase the time as they get older and learn better bladder control.)
  6. If they go somewhere else in the house, say “No” and bring them to their litter box. There, say “Yes”.
  7. Clean up the litter box daily. Puppies are too young to be careful and will get poop and pee all over themselves if you don’t keep the box clean.
  8. Once they’ve mastered the litter box, move it to a more private location, and make sure you show your puppy where it is.

Final Thoughts

“Can I train my puppy to use a litter box?” is a popular search question on Google, and for good reason. Litter box training for the right dog and the right situation can be easily and quickly accomplished, making potty time less of a mess. However, litter box training isn’t possible with some dogs due to their size, breed, habits, and so forth.

I hope today’s blog gave you all the answers you were searching for about training a puppy to use a litter box. If not, please see my other blogs on raising your precious puppy. They’re packed with tips, advice, and real-world info you can use to raise a happy, healthy, and well-behaved adult dog.