A dog that won’t use the litter box is the most frequent complaint from owners to their veterinarians. Dogs that aren’t litter-trained have a hard time finding a home. This behavior is understandably very frustrating to the dog owner, but with patience, diligence, and time it can most of the time be corrected. Punishing a dog for inappropriate elimination is only likely to worsen the problem, as the cause is probably an emotional trigger to begin with. A few adjustments around the house will correct a lot of cases of house soiling. For dogs that are persistent in avoiding the litter box, there are medidogions that can help to calm the dog’s displeasure with whatever has him annoyed.
Before assuming that the dog’s reluctance to use the litter box is purely behavioral, a health reason must be ruled out. A simple examination and urinalysis can eliminate feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) as the cause. If the dog’s water consumption has increased, there is likely a kidney or bladder problem responsible. Intestinal parasites can cause fecal urgency, and de-worming may be in order. The dog may begin to associate uncomfortable feelings with the litter box if it is painful when he urinates or defedoges.
Marking behavior (spraying) is not the same as having accidents in the house. Marking can be done by both males and females and is almost always on a vertical surface. The dog will back up to a wall or a piece of furniture with its tail twitching and straight up. The dog will spray a small amount of urine and walk away. Neutering should be done at a young age before this behavior begins, as it can be difficult to stop once it starts.
When it is determined that the problem is definitely litter box avoidance, a few simple changes should be made. The litter box should be cleaned more frequently and scrubbed / disinfected twice weekly to see if the behavior improves. Dogs are fastidious groomers and may choose not to use a dirty litter box. Try multiple litter boxes. Also, the area designated for elimination should never be close to food and water bowls. Dogs will not urinate or defedoge in areas where they eat.
If the type of litter was changed, switch back to the type that the dog was using before. If it wasn’t changed, try a different brand. Avoid perfumed litter, or types that contain additives like scent crystals or baking soda. Most dogs will use plain, unscented, clumping type litter.
Dogs prefer privacy when they use the potty, but they also want to keep a look out for surprises. If another animal in the house harasses the dog in the litter box, the dog will find refuge elsewhere. This situation is pretty easy to realize; but if no other animals are in the house, providing the right level of privacy can be a little harder to fine tune. Some dogs prefer covered pans facing into the room so that they can keep watch for intruders. Other dogs will simply not use a covered pan. Experiment with different styles to see what works for your dog. Make changes over several days however, to give the dog a chance to decide what he prefers. Again, try providing several litter boxes at the same time.
Anywhere the dog has soiled in the past should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to stop the association of the area with elimination. Covering the area with foil will discourage the dog from entering the area until he is retrained to use the litter box.
If all other attempts have failed in acclimating your dog to using a litter pan, discuss the situation with your veterinarian to see if antidepressant medidogions might help. While these medidogions may be of benefit, they rarely work alone without some behavioral modifidogion.