Litter Box Training
Provided by one of our dog purchasers, Fred Everett of Marietta, GA
We have very successfully used a litter box for our two most recent toy poodles, a period that spans 30 years.
- Why a “litter box”? You never have to worry about walking the dog or letting him out. You can go to work, out to dinner, out for day-long shopping, and sleep through the night…without a worry. And since we are talking about a six-pound animal, there is very little mess to deal with.
- We found that the ideal location for our litter box is in the laundry room between the kitchen and the garage, as we can block off the kitchen door entrance with a baby gate. This creates a small “doggie training area” with a tile floor that will comfortably accommodate a 30” deep X 37” wide X 3” high (outside dimensions) custom-made litter box that fits perfectly in the open corner space next to our dryer…leaving ample room for play, doggie bed, food and water dishes.
- To ensure that the litter box has a very smooth…easy-to-clean…surface that prevents bacteria buildup, the carpenter used ¾” smooth-sanded birch plywood for the bottom and ¾” smooth-sanded white oak lumber for the sides. So…the inside height of the side walls measures approximately 2 ¼”…easy height for a puppy to hop over…yet tall enough to hold the necessary amount of litter.
- To prevent moisture absorption, the carpenter applied three coats of polyurethane to all surface areas.
- We fill the litter box halfway full using Purina “Yesterday’s News” cat litter pellets made from recycled newspaper. We immediately remove poop from the litter box with a piece of toilet paper when we see it and flush everything, including a few newspaper pellets, down the toilet. As recycled newspaper pellets “swell” as they absorb urine, they are easy to spot with a careful look. We police the litter box each Saturday, scooping out the swollen pellets, and adding new pellets to keep the box half full. During the litter box training period, we always leave some swollen pellets in the center of the box so the smell the puppy remembers is ever-present. Once per quarter we scoop all pellets out of the box, wipe down the entire surface area with Lysol Wipes, then wipe the entire surface area again with a moist paper towel to remove the Lysol scent, and then wipe dry the entire surface before adding fresh litter.
- As the laundry room is sufficiently small, and the litter box is ever present, it is very easy to train the puppy to hop in the box to “poopy.” To speed up the process we coax him into the box with the word “poopy” and a snap of the finger over the center of the box, and then reward him with lavish praise and a small treat after a “successful” mission. As dogs do not like to poop in or near their bed, we put the bed away from the litter box so he cannot get behind it to relieve himself. This forces the puppy “towards” the litter box when he gets out of his bed to relieve himself. We put his food and water about two feet from the litter box as that draws him back to the litter box with regularity and automatically “reminds” him where to relieve himself.
- During the day when we are in the greater kitchen/laundry room area, we take down the baby gate and allow him to roam in this larger tile floor area. All entrances and exits from the kitchen to the rest of the house are blocked off as young puppies cannot be trusted too far from the litter box. To minimize mistakes and reinforce the learning process, we lead the puppy back to the litter box every 45 minutes and coax him into the box. As the training progresses, we back off on the coaxing, watch him hop in the box on his own, and then reward him with lavish praise and a small treat after a successful mission. Until the puppy has proven that he will, on his own, run back to the litter box with consistency, we put the puppy back in the laundry room and put the baby gate back up if we are going to leave the kitchen area for more than 15 minutes. We also place a small folded blanket on the kitchen floor relatively close to the laundry room door as the puppy will use it as a play station. This shortens the distance to the litter box for the puppy and allows you to keep a sharp eye on his activity, including “urgent behavior” which typically precedes the need to relieve himself.
- After a mistake and a quick clean-up, we always carefully wipe the tile floor with Lysol Wipes to disinfect and remove all scent, followed by a careful wipe with a damp paper towel to remove the Lysol scent.
- By keeping a sharp eye on the puppy in the greater kitchen area you will be able to bark out a very sharp “NO” when the puppy squats to pee or poop. Quickly pick him up, place him in the litter box, issue your normal command, ”poopy.” Assuming some sort of successful mission, follow-up with immediate praise and a small treat. With diligence and a couple weeks of careful training, your puppy will learn the litter box routine. As final training progresses, the kitchen baby gates come down and the house opens up. But the same training routine continues…sharp eye…lead the puppy back to the litter box every 45 minutes until he demonstrates consistent behavior. If you are going to leave the house, put the puppy back in the laundry room with the gate up until you are confident that the litter box routine has become ingrained behavior. It is better to over-use the laundry room during the training process as it automatically reinforces his use of the litter box. It is much better to minimize mistakes and maximize litter box successes, as mistakes lengthen the learning process.
- During evenings we bring the puppy into the family room and let him run and chew toys on our L-shaped sofa where we watch television, with 45-minute trips back to an area outside the doorway into the laundry room near his folded blanket where we wait, and encourage him to head for the litter box.
- During nights we put the puppy in the canvas carrying crate I used on the plane with a small soft blanket for bedding and put him on the bed between us so he can “sleep quietly with his pack.” We have found that one nighttime trip to the litter box when 8-13 weeks old is too long an interval. So we set our clocks for 12:30 and 3:30 to take him to the litter box. Hopefully we can cut this back to once per night at three months old and do so by coaxing him off the bed and down the hall to the litter box. And then none per night when he turns four months old and consistently demonstrates ingrained litter box nighttime behavior.
- In addition to the litter box, we take the puppy out three times per day for play and pee time in our fully fenced backyard, but remain ever vigilant as hawks are a natural part of our habitat.
- Litter box training timetable: one to two days to stop mistakes in the laundry room, three weeks to stop mistakes in the greater kitchen area even if you are elsewhere in the house for prolonged time periods, six weeks more before you will be able to allow the puppy to freely roam the house while you are at home day or night…four months of age.
- Very important note: It is essential that you “kill” the pee or poop smell when a mistake is made on your carpet, as the puppy WILL return to that smell spot. The very best way to do so:
- Immediately blot up as much of the pee as you can with paper towels.
- Pour a modest amount of club soda on the pee spot.
- Kneed the club soda into the spot to dilute the remaining pee.
- Blot up as much of the club soda as you can with paper towels.
- Spray the entire wet spot and the immediately surrounding area with Nature’s Miracle (Advanced Formula by Eight-in-One Pet Products).
- Gently blot excess surface moisture with a paper towel.
- Let sit for five minutes.
- Blot up as much of the remaining moisture as possible.
- Fluff up carpet.
- Keep puppy away from the area until it is completely dry.
- We never harshly scold or punish. A very sharp “NO” to stop unwanted behavior is the extent of our discipline. We prefer to “reward” desired behavior with lavish praise and small treats.
Unless there is a stain, there’s no need to use club soda on poop mistakes, but it is essential to use Nature’s Miracle as the scent will remain and must be “killed” or the puppy WILL find the spot.
With diligent persistence, particularly during the first few weeks, you can readily teach a toy poodle to consistently use the litter box as they are very intelligent. After proper litter box training, mistakes are a very, very rare occurrence.