How to Litter Train a Large Dog


Potty training your dog outside is ideal. However, there are certain circumstances when you can’t regularly bring your dog out to do their business. If you have a larger dog and you live in an apartment on the 47th floor, a litter box might be the best answer when potty training your pooch.

Training your large dog to go potty in the litter box can be convenient if you have to go to work every day, or you have no immediate access outside. If you plan to litter train your large dog, you will need the right equipment, introduce your dog to the box, and teach them to use it.

Steps in Litter Training Your Large Dog

Setting Up the Litter Box

  • Use a large plastic tub that can serve as a litter box. The box will be used to hold the litter. You can also opt for the more expensive ones that have self-cleaning functions or grass on top.
  • Make sure that the box is big enough for your large dog to turn around in. The sides should also be low enough for your dog to be able to enter by themselves, and high enough to prevent them from urinating out of the box.
  • When buying a box with a hood, you can cut the top off. This way, it would be easier for your dog to use it and for you to clean it.
  • Now that you’ve picked the right box, you can now get litter for it. Dog litter works because of its larger pellets that are super absorbent. Dog litter can be from simple clay to those that can control odor with the use of activated charcoal.
  • You can also make your own odor eliminator. You can simply sprinkle baking soda on the box before you fill it with litter.
  • You will need to buy a step-on trash can and a litter scoop. Every time your dog eliminates, you need to remove their waste. Having a trash can and scoop nearby will make it more convenient for you.
  • Place the box in a private spot but can be easily accessed by your dog. Consider putting the box near the areas your large dog spends most of their time, but the area has to be out of the way enough that you are not watching them.
  • Never place the box near their food and water, because dogs won’t relieve themselves where they eat.
  • Dogs also have the tendency to dig, especially when it is their first time using the litter box. Place the box in an area where it will be easy to clean the mess.
  • If you have a cat and a dog, make sure that they have their own litter boxes.

Familiarize Your Dog with the Litter Box

  • First, train your dog to go into the box on command. Your dog needs to be able to enter on their own before they learn to relieve themselves in the litter box. Your dog has to learn that the litter box is a safe area.
  • Lead your dog in the box and say a command such as “use the box.” When your dog inside the box, praise them.
  • Your dog will eventually leave the box. When they leave, put them back in. Repeat the command “use the box” and praise them. You should show your dog that you are ecstatic that they are in the box. Keep doing the exercise until your dog learns the association of the command “use the box” with being in the box.
  • Try to use the command “use the box” and have your dog enter the box alone. Once your dog is used to being guided to the box, you can try using only the verbal command. Note that you can use the words you want, not just “use the box.” You have to be patient and remember not to repeat the command over and over again – it should only be used once.

If your large dog does not get in the box, just walk away, and you can try again later, or you can go back to guide them.

If your large dog does get in the box, praise them profusely. Keep practicing the activity until your dog gets in the box immediately on command.

Training Your Large Dog to Use the Litter Box

  • Remember that you have to be consistent and positive. Never punish your dog for going potty outside the litter box will only make them afraid and will make it more difficult for them to learn.
  • Get some newspaper and soak them in your dog’s urine or take some of their feces and put them in the box. Doing this will let your dog know that they are allowed to relieve themselves there. The odor of their urine or feces will make them more likely to go potty in the box.
  • You can feed your large dog on a regular schedule. Having a feeding schedule will result in regular times when they need to relieve themselves.
  • Observe your large dog for signs that they need to relieve themselves. The signs could be pacing, whining, walking to the door, and sniffing around. When you notice one of those signs, immediately bring them to the litter box.
  • Send your large dog to the litter box with the command “use the box” on a consistent schedule so accidents can be avoided.
  • Keep a close eye on your large dog to avoid accidents. You have to prevent your dog from getting into the habit of relieving themselves anywhere inside the house. You have to watch your dog whenever they are not confined. Look for signs that they are about to do their business and quickly get them to the litter box.
  • When you cannot watch your dog, you can have them confined. You can use a small room and block it with a baby gate. Put the litter box in the room so your dog can use it when needed.
  • Reward your dog when they relieve themselves in the litter box. Giving rewards like treats and praise will make them do the behavior you want repeatedly. In this case, relieving themselves in the litter box.
  • Scoop your dog’s waste after every time they poop. You also have to clean the box entirely at least once a month. If the box gets too dirty, your dog might not want to use it anymore.
  • When you catch your dog in the middle of an accident, stay calm. Yelling at your dog will only scare them. You can startle him by clapping sharply. The action will usually cause your dog to stop what they are doing. Quickly bring your dog to the litter box and encourage them to finish doing their business there. When your dog successfully finishes relieving themselves in the litter box, reward them.

How to Make a Litter Box for Your Large Dog

Making your dog’s own litter box can save you money because store-bought ones can have a hefty price tag.

  • Find a plastic or metal tray that is large enough for your big pooch. Your big dog needs to have enough room to enter the litter box and turn around easily. You can use a tray from the bottom of a large dog crate of a big plastic storage container. Here’s a tip, get or make one that you can slip under the bed. It is a good height for the box to hold the litter and will allow your dog to enter the box easily.
  • You can also use those big, trunk-like bins with sides that are higher, as long as you cut into one of the sides a wide notch that will serve as the entryway for your big dog.
  • When choosing a filler material, pick one that can be easily changed and disposed of properly. You can find dog litter in several pet stores, or you can just use cat litter or newspapers.
  • Fill the litter box with the litter, and you can sprinkle baking soda over the litter to help in absorbing the odor.
  • You can also line the tray with pee pads, which can hold the urine. Large dogs have large bladders as well, so you can expect large amounts of pee. Lining the tray with pee pads also makes cleanup easy. All you need to do is lift out the wet pee pad and just replace it with a new one.
  • You have to clean the box regularly to keep your large dog coming back. Your dog’s nose is very sensitive. Even one pit stop will create an unpleasant odor that is enough to keep your dog away. Clean or scoop your dog’s litter box daily, and it would be even better if you clean it several times a day so that the odors are kept to a minimum. This will make the litter box more inviting to your dog.

Tips:

  • You can keep a layer of newspaper placed around the litter box until you are confident that your big dog has it all figured out and will not overshoot when they pee.
  • Always inspect the tray because dog claws can be sharp, which can cause unintentional damage over time. If the tray is damaged, replace it.
  • Do not fully rely on the litter box to be the only bathroom for your dog. Take your dog outside once in a while for fresh air and exercise whenever you can. You can also let them do their business outside.
  • A litter box made out of wood is not highly recommended. Over time, moisture and odors will seep slowly into the box. No matter how thoroughly you clean or scrub the box, it still won’t remove the odor. So, plastic and metal are the materials you can go with.

Pros and Cons of Litter Box Training

Pros

  • Urine odor and stains on the floor can be prevented.

A large dog that has to go relieve themselves will hold it in until they can’t. If, for some reason, you can’t get them outside (you’re not home or you’re sick), your dog’s urine will get into your carpet or flooring and can create odor problems, damage, and stains.

Litter box training your dog can help manage the issues with waste because they can deal with their potty needs even without your presence.

  • Getting the supplies that you need is very easy.

You can make your own litter box if you want to save money, or you can just buy one in the store. There are different options you can choose from, as well.

  • Litter box training allows for both solid and liquid waste.

Unlike other tools, such as pee pads, the litter box is more appropriate for both solid and liquid waste. It can still be messy, especially when you are training a large dog, but clean up is still manageable compared to other alternatives.

  • It can help senior dogs with bladder control issues

If you have a dog that is over 8 years old, their senior status can greatly impact when and how they need to eliminate. Instead of entirely relying on diapers, which can be expensive, you can teach your old dog to transition to the litter box.

There will be no need for them to walk outside, which will significantly reduce the amount of physical pain they feel, especially if you live on several floors above ground. At their age, they may not have enough time to tell you that they have to relieve themselves, so having a litter box near them will be convenient.

  • There are several varieties of litter you can choose from.

Dog litter is also similar to the products for cats. You can use activated charcoal, paper pellets, or simple clay litters. If you have problems with the odor, you can sprinkle baking soda at the bottom of the box. This will significantly lessen the unpleasant odor.

Cons

  • It works better for small breeds.

Although it is possible to litter train a large dog, it is a lot easier for small dogs. A larger dog means more waste, which can overwhelm you.

  • Your dog might dig in the litter tray.

The litter box might not be the best option for you if your dog is a digger. There will be more mess to clean up on a daily basis, especially when you have a larger dog. They can easily move the tray around and spread the mess all over the room.

During the training process, you have to watch for their behaviors since some dogs would eat the litter or even their waste after leaving it behind. If you have a coprophagic dog, you might want to speak with your trusted vet about the best house training options for your dog.

  • The initial setup can be costly.

Although smaller dogs can use a set up that is cheaper, some products are priced over $500. If you have a big dog, you have to use a larger container or tray to hold their waste, which is a lot! Urine will absorb into the litter, that’s why the tray should be able to manage the expansion.

You may want to price out the needed items before deciding to use a litter box in potty training your dog.

  • Severe odors with a litter box can be a problem.

Dogs leave more waste behind than cats, and litter training can be quite putrid and can change your home’s environment if your place is small. You can consider litter box training if you have a laundry room, garage, or a bathroom that has vents that can help control air movement.

  • Male dogs require trays with high sides.

Having a tray with high sides is necessary when you have a male dog. They can sometimes be enthusiastic when it comes to lifting their legs when it is time to pee. If the tray you use has lower sides, good luck with cleaning the mess.

  • You’ll need separate litter boxes for each pet.

If you have a cat and a dog at home, neither one wouldn’t like the idea of sharing one litter box. You will need to set up one for each pet. Believe it or not, there are pet owners who choose to force this issue, and the consequences are much harder to manage. Having the same litter box will encourage the cat to urinate throughout the room where the litter box is placed as a way to mark their territory. Dogs may do the same as well.

If you have more than one dog, you might want to have separate trays for each dog, as well.

You should also put certain items away from the litter box, such as scratching posts, rugs, or any upright item because your dog might think that they are a part of the litter box, and you know what will happen.

  • The litter box should be cleaned daily.

With a cat’s litter box, you can get away with not cleaning it every day, but it’s a different case with a dog litter box. Many dogs will eventually refuse to use the litter box because the tray is dirty. This means that you have to be vigilant when it comes to checking if there is waste still left behind. You have to dispose of the litter with the waste in the trash, which can be messy, as well. Never flush the litter.

  • The litter will get into the spaces between your dog’s paw and pads.

Litter granules can get stuck in the small spaces on your dog’s paw between the pads. If urine is already absorbed because of previous usage, your dog could begin tracking their pee or poop all over the house without even realizing that’s what they are doing. The waste stuck between the pads of their paw can cause minor injuries that can eventually lead to swelling and infection if left untreated. This could also restrict their movement. You need to find a litter that is large enough to deal with the issue, but still small enough so your dog will still want to use the litter box when they need to do their business.

Different Methods of Litter Training Your Dog

The Crate Tray Method

  • Step one: Set up

You can opt for the bottom crate liner tray to become your dog’s litter box. It is your discretion if you opt to use the crate part or if you are going to have the tray without the crate box on top. When you have decided on what you want, you can then place a layer of litter in the tray. The level of the litter should not be as high as the sides of the tray, to effectively contain the mess.

  • Step two: Introduce

Wait until your pooch has to relieve themselves. They will either bark or go to the door to show you that they need to go. Then you can bring your dog to the litter box. You can also bring them to the box after they wake up or around ten minutes after every meal.

  • Step three: Welcome in

Walk your dog over to their litter box and use a command word that you had previously taught them when you were potty training them to go outside. If it’s your first time to potty train your dog, you can use the words “go potty,” “use the box,” or other words of your choosing.

  • Step four: Place your dog in the litter

Place your dog in the litter. If you have a large dog, you can just walk them over and guide or coax them by following a treat near their nose into the box. While walking your dog into the litter box, use the command they associate with going potty.

  • Step five: Success

If your dog uses the litter box to relieve themselves, you can celebrate by giving them a treat and some praise. Don’t be too excited and loud because you don’t want to scare your dog and make them feel that they did something you don’t like.

  • Step six: Redirect

If your dog has accidents, don’t yell or scold them. Just redirect your dog at the moment. Take them t the litter box and remind them what the box is used for. When your dog continues to relieve themselves in the box, give them a treat.

  • Step seven: Practice

Whether you are potty training your dog the first time or retraining them to use the box instead of going potty outside, you have to remember that practice makes perfect. You have to be patient and consistent in showing and reminding your dog where their litter box is and what it’s for. Remember to reward every job well done and redirect if there are any accidents.

Newspaper to Litter Method

  • Step one: Set up

Pick an area in your house and place a large cardboard box with low sides. Line the box with newspapers.

  • Step two: Show dog

Walk your dog toward the area and let them sniff around. If your dog happens to need to do their business and marks the newspaper, celebrate and give them a treat. If your dog doesn’t, just let them explore the place.

  • Step three: Potty time

Observe when your dog has to go potty. It can be around 10 to 15 minutes after a meal, as soon as your dog wakes from overnight sleep, or after playtime. Take your dog to the box lined with newspaper and encourage them to get inside to relieve themselves.

  • Step four: Verbal cues

While your dog is in the box lined with newspaper, make sure that you are using verbal cues like “use the box” or “go potty.”

  • Step five: Add litter

When your dog is already used to the newspaper box, you can gradually start to incorporate litter into the box. You can use low-dust litter or small comfortable pellets. Add the litter slowly to get your dog used to the texture below their feet and the thought of relieving themselves on the litter.

  • Step six: Repetition

Make sure that you’re taking your dog to their litter box each time you notice that they need to go do their business. Look for the particular cues your dog makes when it’s time for them to go potty. When you see those cues, immediately take your dog to their litter box and encourage them to go relieve themselves there.

  • Step seven: Reward

Make sure that you reward your dog for every successful potty in their litter box. While training your dog, and if they go in the box on their own even without going potty, reward them for recognizing the litter box and exploring it. Once your dog starts to use the box to go potty, reward them every time.

  • Step eight: Practice

Give your dog enough time to practice before concerning yourself, whether they are getting it or not. It doesn’t happen overnight; it will take time and plenty of patience.

Final Thoughts

It is more challenging to litter train a large dog than a small dog. You need a bigger tray, and you’ll be dealing with bigger waste. If you are really decided in using the litter box to potty train your large dog, give it time. You need to be consistent and patient, as well.

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