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Teaching a Dog Trained to Potty Outside to Use a Litter Box  

Teaching a Dog Trained to Potty Outside to Use a Litter Box  

It can be difficult for a dog who has been taught to potty outside to understand that using a litter box is acceptable. One approach is to use a small, gated-off area or an exercise pen as a potty area, placing the "litter" material, or combination of material, on the entire floor area.

The ultimate goal is to have the chosen litter material be in a litter box. This can be accomplished by (1) Placing a litter box, with litter material in it, within the area and, as the dog becomes proficient using the potty area, gradually remove the litter material surrounding the litter box or (2) Have the dog learn to use the potty area without a litter box (litter material on the floor with no litter box initially) and, when the dog is okay using the potty area, add a litter box.

There are many options for a litter box and litter material - refer to the Litter Box Training section, number 3 for information. If your dog has been accustomed to pottying outside on grass, using hydrated hay as the litter material, or part of the litter material, might make the transition easier for your dog as the hay has an odor similar to grass.

When introducing a litter box, be patient and observe your dog to ensure he is comfortable stepping into the box. Some dogs might be more comfortable with a large tray. Placing a non-skid mat beneath the litter box will prevent it from sliding when your dog enters it.


When you anticipate that your dog will need to eliminate, he should be placed in this area with no open entry/exit - close the exercise pen door or use the gates to create a closed barrier. He is being confined to that area, but you need to stay with him so that you are ready to reward him with a yummy treat and praise when he eliminates. Since you want to encourage the dog to use this area on his own, when not confined within it in by you, there should be an available entry. Placing some of the dog’s urine on the litter material can encourage the dog to eliminate there. Don’t skimp on the praise and treats when the dog shows initiative and uses the potty area!  

With some dogs, it can help to have them become accustomed to eliminating on paper or doggy pee pads outside first. This can be done by placing the pee pads on the ground and directing the dog to that area by leash. Depending on your living environment, you can also initially create the potty area, using an exercise pen or baby gates as described, outside. Once the dog is comfortable using it outside, bring it inside and work with him there.  

The potty area can be relocated (and the surrounding enclosure eliminated), but do so gradually, moving the spot incrementally to where you eventually want its new location to be.

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