If you live in an apartment and own a dog, the chances are that you have asked yourself this question many times before.
Why don’t dogs use litter boxes?
There would be no more accidents in the house, and you would take fewer trips outside to go potty.
Your dog could just use the litter box anytime they needed to, day or night, without you having to be there to take them out.
Why Don’t Dogs Have Litter Boxes?
There is no real reason why dogs don’t have litter boxes; they can use them.
You can teach dogs to use litter boxes, but they do not have the instinct to bury their mess as cats do.
It takes longer to train a dog to use a litter box because the behavior is not instinctual for them.
While a dog may not take to using a litter box like a duck to water, you can still train them to use it.
All it takes is time, repetition, and lots of positive reinforcement.
This article delves into why dogs don’t instinctively use litter boxes and explains how to teach your dog to take care of business in a litter box.
Why Do Cats Use Litter Boxes and Dogs Don’t?
Let’s first start by explaining why any animal would want to bury their excrement.
In the wild, animals rely heavily on their sense of smell to locate prey and others of their species.
Wild cats have many natural predators. They bury their urine and feces to cover their scent so predators cannot track them.
House cats inherited this behavior from their wild ancestors.
This trait is why you only have to show a cat where the litter box is once or twice, and they will always evacuate their bowels there.
Wild dogs, on the other hand, have very few natural predators.
Therefore, they do not need to bury their excrement because they are not worried about other animals knowing their whereabouts.
Domestic dogs are not inclined to use litter boxes because they do not have the instinct to bury their feces.
Their wild ancestors did not have to develop this behavior.
NOTE – You might find this post interesting about why dogs lick their own pee.
You Can Train A Dog To Use A Litter Box
While dogs do not instinctively use litter boxes as cats do, you can still train dogs to use litter boxes.
Some dog breeds take much more easily to litter box training than others.
But you should always remember that dogs that are litter box trained sometimes have accidents.
Cats use litter boxes much more effectively than dogs.
Advantages Of Training Your Dog To Use A Litter Box
Training your dog to use a litter box can solve loads of issues.
There are so many advantages to teaching a dog to use a litter box:
- For owners with limited mobility, it makes life much easier.
- It is excellent for owners who do not have a yard or live in an apartment.
- No more going outside to potty on cold, rainy, windy, snowy days.
- Dogs do not track mud and dirt from the garden on rainy days.
- Convenient for owners that work long hours and cannot afford a dog walker.
- Useful for senior dogs and special needs dogs that cannot hold their bladder or bowels as long.
- Very useful for house-training puppies.
Disadvantages Of Dogs Using Litter Boxes
There are still some significant drawbacks to dogs using litter boxes:
- You have to clean the litter box out and replace the litter daily.
- Dog litter boxes can be stinky and messy.
- Litter boxes are unsuitable for dogs prone to digging, chewing, and other destructive behaviors.
- Litter boxes are not suitable for dogs prone to coprophagia (eating poop).
- All dogs do not easily and reliably take to litter box training.
How To Teach A Dog To Use A Litter Box
Training a dog to pee or poop in a litter box is the same as teaching it to go potty outside.
You’ll need a large litter tray for your dog, litter pellets, and lots of “high-value” treats for starters.
Positive reinforcement is critical when training a dog to use a litter box!
Introduce your pup to their new litter box.
Show it to them, speak to them excitedly, and encourage them to step into the box.
Give them lots of treats to build a positive association with the litter box.
Take your dog to the litter box in the morning, when they have just woken up after eating or drinking, or when you see them sniffing the ground and walking in circles (typical signs they need to go potty).
After your dog does its thing in the litter box, give them lots of praise and treats immediately.
Their paws should still be in the box.
If your dog does not immediately go potty in the litter box, give them a few more minutes away from it and then lead them back to the litter box.
Give your dog regular, predictable opportunities to use the litter box throughout the day.
Repeating this routine will get your dog used to the litter box.
While you need to prevent as many slip-ups as possible, your dog may have an accident. In this case, never punish your dog!
The training process takes time and patience.
For more advice, here is a great video sharing more tips for litter tray training your pet pooch.
Just click on the video, and it will start to play:
What Dog Breeds Can Use A Litter Box?
From a practical standpoint, only smaller dog breeds can use litter boxes.
Large dogs would need a gigantic litter box for the whole endeavor to work.
The following breeds are the best candidates for litter box training:
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Italian Greyhound
- Shih Tzu
- Bichon Frise
- Boston Terrier
- Japanese Chin
- Miniature Schnauzer
- English Bulldog
What Can Breeds Of Dog Not Use A Litter Box?
While would be possible to train bigger breeds to pee and poop in a litter box.
The size of the box would mean that it is not feasible in most homes.
Breeds that would be too big include:
- Great Dane
- English Mastiff
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- St Bernard
- Irish Wolfhound
Final Notes On Why Dogs Don’t Use Litter Boxes As Cats Do
While most dogs do not have litter boxes, there is no hard reason why they can’t. Dogs can learn to use a litter box.
That being said, dogs do not take to using a litter box as naturally as cats do because they do not have the same instinct to bury their feces.
And larger breeds would need such a big box that it’s rarely going to be a practical solution for them.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!