14 Pros and Cons of Litter Box Training a Dog

House training is one of many activities that responsible pet parents manage with their dogs. It can be a rollercoaster of emotions, with several successes combining with moments of failure to finally reach a desired outcome. Some pups love to go outside to use the bathroom, but some individuals may be resistant to that idea. If you live in a large apartment complex or have long periods when you’re away from home, a better solution might be to do some litter box training.

Some dog breeds are quite adaptive to the idea of litter box training. You’ll avoid the issue with faux grass products, reduce your cost profile when compared to potty training pads, and remove the problems of a grated toilet where their claws can get stuck in the colander-like surface.

How do you convince your dog that the litter box is the best place to use the bathroom? It may take several months for some breeds to adapt, but puppies and adult dogs will eventually get to know the process. You’ll also want to review the specific pros and cons in this guide to see if this option is useful for your situation.

List of the Pros of Litter Box Training a Dog

1. It is very easy to get the supplies that you need.
Certain breeds of dog can excel with litter box training. The process is similar to what you would teach a cat, providing them with a large tray as a place to use the bathroom. If you give your pup a lot of positive reinforcement with this process, then it can be a rewarding experience that controls messes for you. Most breeds can adapt to this training option in a couple of weeks, and some individuals may take to it right away.

2. You can eliminate the threat of urine odors and stains.
Dogs that need to go to the bathroom will hold it until they no longer can. If you’re not available to get them outside, then the urine can get into your flooring or carpet to create damage, odor problems, and stains. Litter box training your pup will help you to manage the problems with liquid waste because they can manage their bathroom needs independently of your presence. If you’re running late because of work or need to get some errands finished, then you can handle your business because you know that your pet will be using the tray instead of the floor.

3. Litter box training allows for liquid and solid waste.
Even advocates of house training where the dog learns to use the bathroom outside don’t mind litter box training as a secondary alternative. This option gives your pup an opportunity to relieve themselves of the liquid and solid waste when it is time to go. Although there are times when this method can be messy, especially if you’re trying to train larger dogs, it is still a better option than the alternative. The cost is manageable as well, with the tray and your first litter priced less than $40 in most locations.

4. There are several different varieties of litter from which to choose.
Dog litter is similar to the products that you can find for kitties in the store. When you need to replace what is in the tray, then you can find everything from activated charcoal to paper pellets. Simple clay litters are sold almost everywhere to provide pet parents with a suitable entry-level option. If you have concerns about the odors that come from the tray, then try sprinkling some baking soda along the bottom of the box every time you empty it to have more control over this issue.

5. It helps senior dogs who may have bladder control issues.
If your dog is over the age of 8, then their senior status can impact how and when they need to relieve themselves. Instead of relying on diapers to manage the mess, you can work with your older pup on transitioning to the litter box. You can reduce the amount of physical pain they experience trying to walk outside, especially if you live in a high-rise apartment. They might not have enough time to let you know they need to go at that age too, so having a usable tray gives you mess containment.

6. You will give confidence to some breeds with this training option.
Some breeds, with the Maltese being the most notorious for the issue, can struggle to fully adapt to the idea of going outside. Their small bladder size can make it challenging to get them to a patch of grass on time. By choosing to use a dog litter box for your training option, you’ll create an effective compromise as a pet parent that can give your pup confidence. Instead of dealing with messes or scolding behaviors, you can create a positive environment that involves the litter tray instead.

List of the Cons of Litter Box Training a Dog

1. It works well for small breeds only.
Larger dogs don’t do well with a litter box because the trays are not large enough to accommodate their bodies. A bigger pup also means that more waste products must be managed, which could overwhelm the capabilities of this system. If your dog weighs more than 20 pounds, then you might want to look for an alternative solution for their bathroom needs. That’s why pet parents who live in large apartment complexes either stick to the smallest breeds, take 2-3 walks per day, or choose toilet training instead.

2. Some dogs love to dig in the litter tray.
If your dog is a digger, then a litter box is not the best solution for your potty training needs. You’ll have a mess to clean up every day because your pup will have a lot of fun moving the supplies in the tray all over the room. You will want to watch their behaviors during the training process as well since some individuals like to eat the litter or their waste after leaving it behind. If your pet is coprophagic, then you’ll want to speak with your veterinarian about what the best training options for your needs will be.

3. There can be severe odors with a litter box.
Cats do well with a litter box because the product absorbs their urine and covers up the odors of their waste – to an extent. Ask any kitty pet parent about the smells that come from the tray over time and you’ll get some interesting answers. Because dogs will leave more waste products behind, this training option can be quite odiferous, changing the entire environment of your home if you live in a small place. You might want to consider litter box training if you have a garage, laundry room, or bathroom that has venting in place that will help you to control air movement if it offers easy access and some privacy.

4. The cost for the initial setup can be high for some pet parents.
Although some dogs can use a setup that will cost $50 or less to begin this process, there are products in this category that are priced above $500. If you have a larger dog, then you must use a bigger container to hold all of the waste. Liquids will absorb into the litter, which means the container must have some capacity to manage the expansion. You’ll want to price out these items before you decide to use this potty training option because there might be cheaper selections available in your market.

5. Male dogs need to have a tray with high sides.
If you decide to pursue litter box training for your dog, then you will need to have a product that offers high sides if you have a male pup at home. There can be enthusiastic leg lifting when it is time to go to the bathroom, so something without the appropriate height will still encourage a mess in your home. Since a pup needs the tray to be low enough for them to step over it as well, this option tends to work better with female dogs unless you have a toy breed as a pet parent.

6. You will need separate boxes for your pets.
If you have a dog and a cat at home, then neither one will be satisfied with the idea of sharing a little box. You’ll need a separate one for each species. Pet parents who try to force this issue will often encourage their cats to spray urine throughout the room with their little box as a way to mark their territory. Dogs can be the same way. You might even need to have separate trays for each pup at home if you have a pack.

Placement away from other items that your dog might think is part of the litter box, like an area rug, scratching post, or another upright item, is essential for success. If your pup thinks your rug is part of the tray, then they will pee on it – and then wonder why you’re upset about it since they did the “right” thing.

7. A dog litter box needs to be cleaned every day.
You can get away without cleaning a cat’s litter box every day, but that is not the case with a dog. Many pups refuse to use this option if their tray is not clean. That means you’ll need to be vigilant about checking to see when waste is left behind. You can’t flush the litter either, which means you’ll need to dispose of it and the animal waste in the trash – and that can be a messy process too. The only advantage here for some pet parents is that you get to pick up the waste inside instead of outside.

8. The litter can get into the spaces between the pads and their paw.
There are small spaces on a dog’s paw between the pads where the litter granules can get stuck. If waste absorption has already occurred because of previous bathroom usage, then your pup could start tracking their urine or feces throughout your home without realizing that is what they’re doing. Unless you use paper products, this waste can cause small injuries that can lead to swelling and infections that could restrict their movement. You’ll want to use a product that is large enough to still manage this issue, but it is also small enough that your pet will want to use the box or tray when they need to relieve themselves.

It will take some time and plenty of patience to teach your dog how to use a litter box. Although some pups never take to this idea very well, most small breeds can eventually learn this skill. That’s why the pros and cons of litter box training a dog are essential to review. Do you really have a house dog if they are spending half of their time outside trying to go to the bathroom?

About the Author
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.