Why Don’t Dogs Use Litter Boxes?

A litter box for your pup is one of the most effective methods of preventing mishaps in your home, but this is not always a viable option for most pet parents because the majority of dogs will not use a litter box regularly. Some small dogs may learn to use them occasionally, but most dogs never use litter boxes and are opposed to learning for several reasons.

So, why do dogs not use litter boxes?

The main reason that dogs avoid using litter boxes is that they do not have the instinctive behaviors to use a litter box and bury their waste like cats do. Other reasons litter box training may not be suitable may include dog breed size and territory issues.

why dont dogs use litter boxes
Why Don’t Dogs Use Litter Boxes?

What Keeps Dogs from Using Litter Boxes?

First, a puppy’s innate behavior compels them to avoid using a litter box in general. This behavior can be seen in your pup during early ages when puppies simply use the floor to relieve themselves for the first couple of weeks. Dogs prefer to squat or hike when urinating, and it’s important for them to also mark territory.

Secondly, a dog’s size matters a lot, too. It’s a fact that small or medium dog breeds can learn litter box training somewhat easily, but it’s a much more difficult issue with larger dogs. Large dogs generally never learn litter box training properly and will often have accidents due to their large body stature which prevents them from even fitting in any available litter boxes.

Tip: You absolutely must teach large breed dogs to do their business outside because they can never be litter trained properly due to their size.

Finally, canines have a pack mentality that includes a hierarchy of “power” in both their canine and human families. If you do not have great control over your pup, they will assume themselves as the alpha of the home. When this happens, they think that the house is their territory, and they never listen to their owners and simply do whatever they want, so it is best to properly train them—especially with litter training—when they are young and keep a good hold on them regardless of their age.

Related Reading: Why Does My Dog Get Runny Poop on Walks?

Do Dogs Require the Use of a Litter Box?

Well, it depends. If you trained your dog with litter box training, then yes. Your dog requires a litter box for its potty training. For this type of training, all you will need is a big and comfortable dog litter box, and that’s all. 

Canine litter boxes are best suited for canines that are smaller in stature or medium in size. Large dogs should be taught to relieve themselves outside of the house. With little dogs, you should consider using a dog litter box as an alternative to bringing your pet outdoors to urinate or defecate regularly.

Teaching smaller dogs to use a litter box can also make bathroom needs much easier during bad weather when other outdoor risks apply to small breeds or when going on a walk is simply not an option.

Litter Box Recommendations for Toy Breeds

If you have a toy breed for your canine companion, look for a litter box (see Amazon) that has a depression on one or both sides as well as a ramp for easy entry and exit. This will make the process a lot more easy, stress-free, and less messy for your pup.

Litter Box Recommendations for a Male Dog

If you have a male pup, look for an elevated box (see Amazon) with one or both sides much higher in height because there will likely be some limb-raising when they go potty. A litter box that is not at the right height may result in a messy environment in your home.

How to Begin Litter Box Training

Look for a premium quality litter box that has been developed specifically for dogs; these can be found at most pet supply stores. You may also use a giant cat litter box or practically any form of low, uncovered plastic container that is wide enough to allow for your dog to comfortably fit inside with room to do their business. Additionally, you will also need some litter, litter bags (if preferred), and a poop scoop.

Just as with outdoor potty training, you should take your pup to the litter box when he first wakes up, after he’s eaten breakfast, and at various intervals throughout the day. Keep an eye out for indicators or signs that he or she has to go (like sniffing about or circling), and take him or her as soon as possible to the litter box to relieve themself.

Tips for Encouraging Your Dog to Use a Litter Box

If your furry companion is accustomed to urinating on pee pads or urine pads, you may want to try switching to a litter box instead.

If you use the following methods, your dog will eventually likely learn how to use a litter box properly:

Buy a premium quality litter box

First, you need to buy the best quality litter box for your pup. Make sure the size and height are appropriate for your dog’s current and eventual adult size and that it meets any other requirements to ensure maximum comfort and cleanliness.

Place a soiled paper towel to attract your pup

You may want to place a paper towel or bath tissue soaked in your pet’s urine in the litter box to help accelerate the training process. If you do this, it will encourage your canine to use the litter box to continue marking that same “familiar” spot.

Maintain the cleanliness

After your pup has relieved himself, clean out the clumped-up litter, and get rid of it in an appropriate location. Once in a while, clean the litter box entirely with detergent and clean water. Also, be sure to fully change out the litter 1 to 2 times a month.

Select the best quality substrate

Some dogs are finicky about their litter substrates, so experiment with several types (clumping, non-clumping, biodegradable, etc.) until you discover one that your canine is satisfied with.

Taking your pup to the litter box

You should take your pup to the litter box anytime he exhibits indicators of the need to excrete. Smelling the ground, hiding beneath furniture, and other such behaviors are possible indicators, but these may vary among different dogs. If an accident occurs before you can get him to the box, don’t reprimand him or blame yourself. Just stay consistent with the litter box training, and he’ll have the hang of it in no time.

Reward your dog

When your dog is eliminated in the proper location—such as the litter box, in this case—don’t forget to give him a treat! Positive reinforcement is the best possible training method for dogs to learn anything you could ask of them.

Tip: Keep in mind to change the litter substrate regularly to keep your dog healthy.


Is it possible for a dog to use a cat litter box?

The simple answer is that they can and that it is safe for them to do so. Some dogs can even be trained to do so very quickly! However, the size of the dog and the litter box should be compatible with one another.

dog not using litter boxes
Dog Not Using Litter Boxes

What is the composition of dog litter?

Most dog litter is comprised of paper pellets created from recycled newspapers. Other types of dog litter may be clay-based, silica-based, or biodegradable. Some types may also be clumping, but there are some non-clumping options, too.

Is it possible to train a pup to defecate in a certain location?

One of the easiest methods of teaching a dog to go just in one location is to teach it to go “on command.” As you walk your pup on a leash to the location you want him to use, speak the cue word to get his attention. Keep the canine in that location until he uses the potty, then give him a treat. Only reward your pup when it gets to that certain location for bathroom purposes.

How long does it take for a dog to poop after eating?

A dog will need to defecate between 5 and 30 minutes after eating. As a result, if you keep a consistent meal schedule and pay close attention to the time, your puppy will find it much easier to figure out when to encourage the use of the dog litter box.

What should you do if your dog poops in your house?

If your dog starts to defecate or pee inside, stop him right away by clapping and/or yelling “Ah-ah!” immediately to startle him and try to halt the behavior. Take your dog for a walk or point them to the litter box as soon as possible to try to redirect where they engage in their bathroom habits. Additionally, be sure to use an enzyme-destroying cleaner for any messes to prevent future mishaps in the same areas.

Related Reading: Why Would Dog Poop Be Cold? (A Detailed Explanation)

stuart and his dog

Family Dog Expert Author

Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.