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Litter Box for Dogs

Dear John,

My dogs (small dogs) are used to going potty outside in the patio (grass in summer time) but in wintertime they go outside on the deck when they were puppies. Now they are 1 year old but I have never liked the dogs go potty outside in wintertime. Now we want to teach them to go potty in the garage. We were using a tray with newspaper. My husband bought a cat litter and they don’t like it at all, they don’t like to get the sand in their paws. Also they don’t like to go outside potty when there is rain. Could you give us some other suggestions before wintertime comes? Thanks.


Dear P.P.

“Toilet” habits are just that – habits – but for some dogs when you try to change those habits you find the habit is more of an addiction and they resist tooth and nail being told they now have to “go here.” It’s akin to our being told, “The bathroom is under repair, just use this bucket here in the corner of the kitchen. Don’t mind us.” In theory it’s doable but in practice, except for the most liberated of us, most will cringe and mentally and physically batten down the hatches and resolve to give up eating and drinking.

Where to go to the bathroom is easily imprinted in puppies and if they wished, breeders could virtually housetrain puppies before they are ever sold to homes. That’s why dogs from pet stores or those that spend a lot of time when they were young in shelters gravitate to basements. The concrete is what they’re looking for.

The key is to accomplishing your goal is to start connecting dots between one location and another. In the case of a dog used to going on grass that I want to switch to a litter box I first train the dog to go in one part of the yard. I make the area smaller a little at a time, usually with those mini-picket fences sections. Eventually, I take the litter box, fill it with whatever I plan on end use but I buy some sod and cut it to fit on top. I reduce the area available to the dog in the yard until they end up standing in the tray to do their business. Once things are going well, I start trimming a little of the sod off now and then until there’s none left and then start moving the tray closer and closer to the house, (or in your case the garage) eventually moving it inside to where I want the dog to target.

It’s important when doing this to feed a good quality food and on a schedule so you can time eliminations. Don’t underestimate the impact that giving dogs treats can have on scheduling eliminations. For when it’s “bathroom time”, once again I make my changes gradually. That’s key in changing any big behaviour. If my dog goes out once an hour, I set my watch and make the time between normal trips extend a little each day until we have 3 scheduled bathroom trips every day. Health impaired, the young and the elderly will need more trips of course.

I have a bunch of tips in a free “House Training Cheat Sheet” that I’m happy to email to anyone requesting it. It works great for puppies and is easily adapted for changing targeted areas. [email protected]

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade

[email protected]


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