When people think of litter boxes, their first thought always goes to cats. But, did you know that dogs can use them too? Yes, dog litter boxes are a handy tool that many dog owners aren’t aware of. With many people turning to apartment living and opting to have smaller dogs, they’re becoming more and more popular!
Dog litter boxes are designed to help your dog go to the bathroom inside the home. They’re meant to be a convenient method when going outside may not be an option. While they are not meant to be a total replacement for relieving themselves outside, there are many reasons as to why you might want a dog litter box.
Those who live in high rises or don’t have access to a backyard will find it challenging to bring their dog outside often enough for them to do their business. Some dog owners who are away at work may want to give their dogs an option just in case to prevent unwanted accidents. Bad weather such as rain or snow may also stop your dog (or you) from wanting to go outside.
Dog litter boxes are also convenient for when traveling, such as in RVs or staying in a hotel. It also helps with elderly dogs, sick dogs, or dogs with bladder issues. And, for owners who have mobility issues, this ensures their dog can quickly go to the bathroom when they cannot take them outside.
See! They’re a great tool to have around. If you’re new to the world of dog litter boxes, this article covers everything you need to know about purchasing and using them, as well as the best options out there on the doggy market!
What To Look For In Dog Litter Boxes
Before you start your search, you need to know what you’re looking for! Here are some of the top features you will want to consider before purchasing a litter box for your dog.
There are so many different options when it comes to a litter box. Many are outlined below! You’ll find simple ones that are composed of just a box, multi-layer systems, ones with pee pads, and even ones made of natural grass.
Keep in mind; you do not want to use a standard kitty litter box. Cats can jump higher, and dogs don’t have the natural ability to jump over higher edges. Litter boxes designed for dogs have low sides or a dip in them to allow dogs to walk in easily. When purchasing a litter box, look for the word dog somewhere in the description or the picture.
What is the litter box made of? Everything should be made of doggy-approved materials, but some materials may appeal to you more than others. Do you like real or fake grass? Is it okay to have disposable pads, or do you want only reusable options? Will the litter box last for your dog’s lifetime, or is it only suitable for short use?
You will want to consider how absorbent the design is too and whether it can handle your dog’s needs. The litter box should also be fully waterproof to ensure there’s no leakage. And if you have a teething puppy or one who likes to get up to no good, make sure the material is durable enough.
Ease Of Cleaning
When your dog goes to the bathroom inside, you’re going to be doing more cleaning than you would outside. It’s just a fact! However, some dog litter boxes are easier to clean up than others. No litter box should have such a foul odor that it affects living in the house.
Litter boxes that use pee pads are simple to dispose of, and ones that have collection containers are easy to dump. When it comes to feces, you will always need to scoop it up. Most indoor toilets for dogs are primarily meant for absorbing and collecting urine.
One of the main things you want to keep an eye out for is the size of the litter box. Most are designed with smaller dogs in mind as they tend to have accidents inside the house more often. Some medium-sized dogs may fit in the litter boxes themselves, but larger dogs will likely need to go with the grated or pad-style options available.
If the box is too small for your dog, you risk them having accidents on the edges or just outside the box. And, if the box is too big for your dog, it may mean unnecessary cleaning for you. Just like goldilocks, you need to find the size that’s just right.
Everyone has a different budget! Some litter boxes will be made of higher quality materials or come with extra features that may increase the price. If you’re just getting started with litter training, consider going for something on the lower end to get started.
Once you know your dog will use the litter box, you can invest in a higher-quality and longer-lasting product.
Different Types Of Dog Litter Boxes
You may be surprised how many different types of litter boxes there are out there for dogs. Depending on your dog’s needs and sizes, one option may be better suited for you than another. More or less, the possibilities of dog litter boxes will fall under one of these categories.
Traditional Dog Litter Box
Similar to a cat litter box, a traditional dog litter box is made of a shallow plastic tray. Inside, it’s filled with pellets made of either pine or paper. The walls are high enough to stop the pellets from falling out, but a shallow dip at the entrance allows your dog to walk right in.
When purchasing litter for the box, don’t purchase standard kitty litter. Wood pulp (such as pine) or recycled paper pellets are the best options. They can be pricey, but most pets use the same kind of pellets, and you can find the same product for cheaper, just marketed differently (for example, horse pine pellets).
The other option you will see a lot of is pee pads. While not a litter box, they are a typical tool used for house training dogs. Many of the litter boxes will also use puppy pads to help with leakage. They are made of either large fabric, paper, or a combination and fit inside the box.
You can also purchase pee pad holders to keep just the pad in place! They work well for potty training puppies, but on their own, they can get messy.
You can also purchase washable pads since the disposable ones can get pretty pricey if you are consistently using them. But, when dogs are taught to pee on fabric pads, keep in mind this makes them more likely to also pee on rugs around the house that they have access to.
Plastic grates are an elevated platform above a collection tray. Made of a gridded screen, the dog sits on top and urinates without getting its paws wet. The urine goes through the screen, and you collect it from the tray underneath. For feces, you scoop it up the same as you would outside on top of the grate.
Without a doubt, the favorite option from a dog’s perspective is real grass. Just like going outside, you can have squares of real grass inside the home. It’s naturally odor-neutralizing as the urine soaks into the sod. You also don’t have to worry about cleaning up at all.
Once you’re done with the grass, and it begins to dry out, you simply compost it and bring in the next one. Using real grass can get costly since it can’t be reused and won’t last a long time. It also requires frequent ordering or a subscription service so that you are never without the grass.
If purchasing real grass isn’t in the budget, many dogs also enjoy using artificial turf instead. While they don’t naturally gravitate towards it like they would natural grass, it does do the trick. They also work well to deodorize, allowing the urine to permeate through the grass into a collection bin down below. Because they last for so long, you do need to clean them regularly, some more so than others.
11 of the Best Dog Litter Boxes To Buy
This list covers some of the many different dog litter box designs and features out there! There should be a little bit of something for everyone in terms of size, price, and needs.
If you feel overwhelmed with the options, make sure to note which of the features listed above are important to you. This will help you create a shortlist of some of the best litter boxes for your dog.
This is about as simple as you can go for a dog litter box. It is explicitly designed with dogs in mind; it has a wide opening to allow your dog to climb in easily.
It comes in small, large, and x-large sizes in an array of colors to match your home. The most popular option is large, with dimensions of 24” L x 20” W x 5” H and a dip of 3” tall. This design is suitable for dogs who weigh up to 20 lbs.
The design is made of solid plastic that can bear the weight of plenty of litter. The tray has curved bottoms to help make cleaning easier. You can use either pee pads or wooden or paper pellets to fill the tray. You can even use both while training!
Cleaning requires emptying the litter and giving the tray a wipe down with warm, soapy water. Air dry, refill it, and it’s good to go.
Pros and Cons
Sometimes the simplest options are the most effective!
With this design, you maintain it the exact same way you would a kitty litter box, scooping up feces or soiled litter daily and refreshing the litter entirely on a weekly basis. This makes sure no unpleasant odors persist.
For some, this way of cleaning may be a pro and for others a con. It requires you to continuously purchase paper or wooden pellets, which can get costly. But, it does keep things fresh.
The other downside to this litter box is that it can only hold dogs up to 20 lbs. This means that any medium or large-sized dogs will have to go with an alternative option. The design will be too restrictive for any larger dogs, regardless of weight.
Artificial turf is one of the most popular options for dog owners looking for an indoor potty solution. It’s one of the most affordable options out there as you don’t have to purchase any additional items such as pads or pellets. All you need is the artificial turf to start training your dog!
It comes in small and medium, with the medium measuring 25” L x 20” W x 1.25” H. Green in color, the fake grass is made from a synthetic plastic.
The artificial turf is made of a 3-layer system to help make clean up simple. The top grass encourages the dog to use the bathroom, while the next layer helps to lock in the liquid and drain it to the collection tray beneath. This ensures that the grass is always dry and ready for use. To clean, you will remove the base tray, rinse, and wash with soap.
You can use artificial grass inside the house or outside on a patio, deck, or garage.
Pros and Cons
Artificial grass has no weight limit, so this could work for any sized dog as long as they have enough room to squat down and not miss the grass. Because the urine collects below the grass, it neutralizes odors fairly well.
You can add additional puppy pads below to also help with clean-up and smells if you notice an issue. And, since the urine does not stay on the grass, it keeps your dog nice and clean too.
One downside is that the plastic will eventually wear down. You may have to buy additional pads/grass for the top for replacements. However, you should only need to do this about once every two months, so it still is significantly less than most other options.
Similar to the PETMAKER artificial turf above, this one also features fake grass made of plastic. However, it uses a different collection design that may work better for you or your pup. The PetSafe brand is well known for its high-quality products, so while this option is a tad pricier, it just may be worth the investment.
This indoor dog potty comes in 3 sizes: small, medium, and large. The medium measures at 24” L x 24” W x 5.5” H. Green grass on top, the container itself is black and works best for small to medium-sized dogs.
For this design, you have a black base with a slide-out waste collection bin. When it comes time to clean, you simply slide out the collection bin, and the urine will be collected there. The waste container can hold quite a bit of urine compared to the flatter designs.
This product also comes with a trial size of Wee Sponge Powder. When sprinkled in the waste container, it solidifies the urine for easy clean-up.
To clean this design, you can remove the grass layer on top and rinse in the shower with warm and soapy water. Doing this daily or every other day prevents any odors. You can also clean the whole unit every week or so to eliminate odors.
Pros and Cons
The lifted design is a unique feature of this dog litter box. For some reviewers, this design helped prevent the “half on, half off” issue some dogs were having with the flatter designs.
That being said, the square surface area may be too small of a surface area for large dogs to do their business. If you really want the elevated design and collection tray for your larger dog, you can combine two squares of artificial turf together.
Price: Starting at $24
There’s nothing quite like real grass…and your dog probably agrees. This can be a great option for some dogs who prefer the real thing and for owners who have the budget.
Real grass! For dogs who are not convinced of using a dog litter box, you can try and bring the real thing inside. Just like grass outside, the mat will soak in all urine and even absorb most of the smell. You don’t have to clean or collect any urine. It’s up to you whether or not you will want to collect feces or leave it.
The grass also is soilless and 50% lighter than grass you may find elsewhere.
First-time users can purchase either a plastic tray or wooden sleeve to keep the grass in place, avoid shedding, and contain any potential leakage. You can order Fresh Patch directly from their website and set up a subscription service, so you always have new grass on the way.
Pros and Cons
This is the most eco-conscious option out there. You simply compost the grass once you’re done with it! They’re completely natural and are very safe for use inside the home. And because dogs instinctively like to use real grass, training will be a breeze.
Of course, like any grass, it won’t last forever. Depending on how big your dog is and how often they use it, you will need to replenish the grass approximately every 1-4 weeks. And, since you don’t “clean” the grass, it can get messy at the end of its use. Some dogs who like to eat grass may also use it more as a snack rather than a bathroom.
If your dog doesn’t like grass, you can get a similar style design using a grid-style litter box. This keeps paws nice and dry as it elevates the dog from the collection tray.
This design measures 23.2” L x 17.9” W x 1.8” H, with the additional back panel measuring 8.2” high.
This design consists of a top grate, pee pad, and bottom collection tray. This allows your dog to go to the bathroom inside without the mess but has easy clean-up with the pee pad underneath.
For any extra spillage, the bottom collection tray can hold up to 3 gallons. The bottom of the grate also has anti-slip pads to keep the bed in place.
What makes this dog litter box unique? It has a small, raised pillar attached to the grid to give your dogs the ideal spot to aim while peeing. It also has an additional back panel to prevent any backsplash and keep everything contained to the tray.
This is great for any boy dog who always feels the need to mark its territory, even when inside! And for those who don’t need it, it can easily be removed.
Pros and Cons
Due to its low design, this is great for any older dogs who have a difficult time getting to something higher up. The additional elements of the back panel and pillar are a great solution for owners with male dogs. The grate itself snaps on and off for any teething or playful puppies who feel the need to chew on everything in sight.
On the downside, this design still requires the use of pee pads. This can get costly and stinky without constant maintenance and cleaning. There are also no weight specifications for this product, so owners with heavier dogs may want to be cautious.
Here is another design with an additional back wall to prevent splashing, but this time, it also features artificial grass! The rectangular size makes it suitable for dogs of all sizes.
This design comes in one size, measuring at 30” L x 20” W x 2.56” H, with the back wall measuring 11.6” high.
This is the only artificial grass on this list that has an additional wall for protection. This not only guides the dog on where to pee on the mat but prevents any splashing off the mat.
Hompet uses what they call a Hemming Grass for this design. It does not shed, crack, or disintegrate from UV rays or acidity from urine. It also has 56 drainage holes to help mats drain and dry faster, also preventing unwanted odors.
Below the grass, there is a grid to hold the mat up and a collection tray. It comes with a removable tray to help make clean-up super simple. Simply slide the tray out from the container, dump out the urine, and rinse with soapy water.
Pros and Cons
This design has two great features that will make clean-up minimal: the removable collection tray and the back wall. Preventing extra clean-up is half the battle. And when it’s all collected into one easy-to-clean tray, it greatly quickens the amount of time spent cleaning.
One complaint about this design is that the grass does not stay put for dogs who do any kind of scratching/digging when they do their business. This is partly due to its easy-to-clean design, making the grass simple to remove and spray clean.
A pricier option on this list, you get a high-quality product with excellent reviews. This design has the highest walls of any litter box and works well to keep everything contained and easy to clean.
This kit contains the litter box, a base, 2 rails, 6 clips, and 50 pee pads to get you started. It comes in 4 colors and measures 28” L x 20” W 16” H.
This design is made just for leg lifters. Measuring 16” tall, there’s no way any small or medium-sized dog will make it over these walls. However, the opening at the front is short and wide, so your dog can easily slip in and out of the litter box on its own. The walls also offer lots of privacy for any “shy dogs”.
The box also comes with its own uniquely designed pee pads that cover every inch of the container, allowing you to simply remove the pee pad for clean-up. The rubber bottom keeps the whole litter box in place while your dog uses it.
Pros and Cons
You won’t find walls as high as this anywhere else. The design itself is also smooth and more aesthetically pleasing than most options out there. This is great for those who must keep the litter box out in the open.
This is the most expensive option on this list but may be worth the investment.
If you’re trying litter box training for the first time, you may want to start with a cheaper option. But, if you want something that will last you for your dog’s lifetime, this one will certainly hold up.
Similar to a classic dog litter box, this one also combines the grid design that’s ideal for smaller-sized dogs. It’s an elevated design for pee pads that makes cleaning up that much easier.
This tray measures 22.4” L x 17.7” W x 6.1” H. It comes in either blue or pink.
This takes the litter box design but removes the need for any kind of pellets. It consists of a grid, pad, and tray. The grid above keeps your dog elevated and off of the pee pad while allowing the urine to drain through.
Underneath, the puppy pad is optional. Without it, urine can simply be emptied from the tray, which removes the additional cost of purchasing puppy pads. For those who want a quick clean-up, puppy pads will help.
The design is also meant just for dogs, meaning there is a low divot in the corner to allow them to enter easily. The grids also snap into place to prevent any wobbling from their weight. It’s made of sturdy plastic, well equipped to handle any weather conditions if outside, and dog wear and tear.
Pros and Cons
This is a simple yet effective design. It does its job well to make cleaning easier. The raised sides prevent any spillage, but the container is also easily accessible to small and elderly dogs.
Due to its size, this design only works for smaller-sized dogs. Any medium or large dogs would not have enough room in this dog litter box, and there would certainly be spillage.
If you want something super simple to accompany your puppy pads, you can try this grid style holder. Rather than leaving your pads directly on the floor, this gives it a place to sit and helps to prevent messes. It works great for housetraining!
This tray comes in a vivid green and measures 21” L x 16” W.
When it comes to puppy pads, most puppies like to use them as a chew toy rather than a bathroom. This design helps to solve that problem!
It comes with a snap-on grate that goes over the top of the pee pad. Not only does it keep teeth away, but it also keeps paws cleaner.
To clean, simply remove the grate and throw away the pee pad. The pan below can also be quickly wiped with warm, soapy water. Rubber pads at the bottom keep the pad in place.
Pros and Cons
Commonly used for potty training a pup, this is a quick solution for dogs who are still learning. The design works well for little dogs but is not very large as they grow older and bigger. Elderly dogs will also find it easy to use with its flat design and low height.
While simple is great, it doesn’t have any of the extra features that some of these other dog litter boxes have. And, like many on this list, it works well only for smaller to medium-sized dogs.
If litter boxes aren’t your thing, or you have a new litter of puppies on the way, you can also turn to the classic pee pad. This reusable option makes things a little less pricey. Have a couple on hand, and you’ll be able to wash one while the other is in use!
This mat measures 48” x 60” and comes in a brown paw print design as well as in a pack of two.
For those who hate disposable pee pads, you can wash this mat as many times as you would like, and it will hold up. Made of 4 layers, the top layer is made of knitted polyester to make things nice and comfy for your dog.
Underneath, it has an absorbent middle layer and then a waterproof layer. On the bottom, an anti-slip layer helps to keep the mat in place.
This pack of 2 also comes with a glove to help with cleaning. Overall, this mat will keep your furniture and floors clean and dry.
Pros and Cons
Of course, this isn’t technically a dog litter box. Therefore, it has many of the issues that litter boxes aim to solve: mess and odor. Urine will soak into the pads and will stay there until cleaned in a washing machine. This means you will be cleaning these pads fairly often.
However, they are quite large and good for covering large areas. Accompanying one of these pads with one of the litter boxes on this list while puppies are still being trained will keep everything as clean as it possibly could be.
Last but very certainly not least, this may be the most high-tech option on the list. Its design automatically detects and collects urine, so all you have to do is pour out the collection bin.
The tray measures 23.6” L x 16” W x 1.35” H. The collection container holds 1.5 L of liquid. It comes in an array of pastel colors to match your home. It works for medium-sized dogs up to 40 lbs.
This tray utilizes some of the same features as other options on this list but includes a pump that collects urine. When your dog goes to the bathroom, the pump will automatically get triggered by a urine sensor. It will then wait 30 seconds to ensure your pup has left to not startle them before the pump starts and collect the urine from the tray.
Pros and Cons
Out of all the dog litter boxes on this list, this design requires the least amount of work on your end due to its self-cleaning technology. This really helps to reduce odors and daily time spent cleaning the litter box.
As with any tech, sometimes things can go wrong, and it can be difficult to troubleshoot the issue. To keep the pump clean, provide regular cleaning, including the urinal sensor with clean water. You also need to charge the pump for it to work, but this only needs to be done every few months.
How To Train Your Dog To Use A Litter Box
Litter box training works well for puppies and other small breed dogs, but you can even use them for large dogs if you have the space to house a large enough dog litter box.
Puppies instinctively will use a litter box on their own, so it doesn’t take much to train them how to use it. If you have a puppy, getting started on their training nice and early will make your life a whole lot easier.
When the puppy is about 3 ½ weeks old, they will begin to get their teeth and eat regular dog food. It is also around this time that the mama dog may stop cleaning up after their puppies, and it will now be up to you to keep things mess-free. And, since puppies poop an average of 4 times a day, you’ll be cleaning up a lot.
As soon as your puppy starts moving around, place them in a pen large enough to house a litter box. Depending on the number of puppies, you may need two dog litter boxes. For puppies, you want very shallow litter pans that they can easily crawl into. Keep the litter box away from where they sleep as they like to keep their messes away from their safe space.
Puppies will slowly begin to use the litter box on their own. By 8 weeks, they should be fully trained. You can also place puppy pads over top of the litter boxes to help transition them if they seem to be having difficulty!
Eventually, you can remove the puppy pads. They smell their scents in the tray and connect it to the place they need to go.
Litter Training Adult Dogs
Adult dogs can be a little trickier as they have been taught that outside is best. But, perhaps you have an older dog who still has accidents or adopted a rescue that was never potty trained. If you have a new puppy, they can even train other dogs how to use the litter box. Dogs learn a ton from watching what other dogs do, and they all will begin to use it if a litter-trained puppy comes into the house.
While training, make sure to put your dogs in a smaller area with the litter box in the enclosure. They may start instinctively going in that place. If they go outside of the tray, make sure to clean it thoroughly right away. By keeping the scent contained to only their litter box, they begin to make the connection.
You also will have a good idea of when your adult dog needs to use the bathroom. If they stand at the door or bark to go outside, instead, walk them to their litter box. Use the command you taught them to go to the bathroom. If they successfully go, reward them with praise and a treat.
It’s always a good idea to give the dog multiple litter box options. This prevents any messes from happening in the house in the event that they deem something wrong with one of the litter boxes. If they do have an accident, simply redirect them to the litter box and keep practicing. Any kind of yelling or anger won’t work and is counterproductive to their litter box training.
Sanitizing Dog Litter Boxes
No matter the type of litter box you use, you need to ensure that proper sanitation remains a priority. Even if there is no smell or it’s not visibly soiled, you need to clean the litter box. Some are very good at their job and may appear unused!
Dog urine and feces can contain microorganisms that can affect the health of you and other pets who may live in the house. Keeping the litter box clean helps to prevent the spread of any disease-causing germs. Each litter box should come with instructions on the best cleaning method.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Litter Boxes
Still have questions? Using a dog litter box is new terrain for many, so you’re not alone. Here are some of the most common questions people have about using and purchasing litter boxes for their dogs.
Can You Use Dog Litter Boxes for Poop and Pee?
All litter boxes work well for urine. They are designed to reduce accidents in the house from peeing on furniture and the floor. Most either absorb the liquid or collect it. For poop, most will require you to scoop it as you would if you were outside.
It’s important to note that the purpose of a litter box is to reduce the number of accidents in the house and to work as an alternative when you don’t have the opportunity to go outside. It does not eliminate the need to take your dog outside.
A dog should have constant access to water, which means that the need to pee can be more sporadic. On the other hand, most owners have a fair grasp on when their dog may need to go poop based on their feeding schedule. This means you can take your dog out whenever they need to go number 2.
Where Should I Put a Dog Litter Box?
When thinking about placement for dog litter boxes, consider where you would put a cat litter box in your home. Ideally, you want it out of areas you hang around in, such as bedrooms or living rooms. A low traffic area such as the laundry room or back entrance works well.
Dogs feel vulnerable when using the bathroom, so it’s also a good idea to place it in the corner of the room whenever possible. This allows them to feel enclosed and protected on either side while they do their business.
You can also place a dog litter box outside if you have a deck or patio. Many homeowners like this option for artificial turf as any rain or snow will naturally clean the turf. That being said, you will still want to clean it just as regularly as you would if it were inside.
When you’re just teaching your dog how to use a litter box, you will want to keep the litter box in an enclosure with them. Keep it away from where they sleep as they too don’t like to sleep by the smell!
If you have a larger home or multiple dogs, having more than one litter box for your dog(s) can also help to prevent accidents.
Do Dog Litter Boxes Smell?
You’re bound to get some stink when it comes to litter boxes. After all, they are going to the bathroom inside. Some litter boxes do a better job at containing the smell than others. Those have multiple layers, and container trays will help to keep the urine scent away from the surface. Absorbent options also help to reduce the smell.
But, if you clean up right after your pet and regularly clean the litter box, the smell of waste won’t be bad at all. Stopping bacteria and waste from collecting will go a long way in not only keeping the smell down but making sure your dog still likes to use it and that it lasts.
How Do Dogs Know Where to Pee?
Just like humans, once we frequent a place often enough, we know that’s where we should go. Ideally, your dog will understand that the best place to pee is outside. When they tend to go inside or can’t hold it in, well, that’s where the litter box comes in handy!
Dogs will often urinate in the same area because they have been there before or that it smells like them. When training, you want to keep bringing them back to the same area as before, and they will pick up on “their spot” quickly. They will also want to pee where other dogs have been, so you can expect another one to follow suit shortly if one is using a litter box.
How Often Should You Change Pee Pads?
If your litter box uses pee pads or you added one, you may have to change it quite frequently. If the pee pad is all your dog uses to go to the bathroom, you can expect to change it a few times a day.
But, if your dog also goes outside and only uses it every now and then, you can change the pee pads only when necessary. If they look soiled, have a smell, or have sat around for a while, it’s time for a change.
Final Thoughts About Dog Litter Boxes
Now you should have everything you need to know to get started on litter training your dog!
Remember, it will take some time for them to get used to using a litter box rather than going outside. If possible, start them as a puppy, and you will get to enjoy the convenience of dog litter boxes for their lifetime. Every litter box provides a very different experience.
If one doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to give another one a try. All the best with your training!