There are so many good reasons to teach your puppy to go to the bathroom outside, but that is not always the most practical option. Particularly during the first few months with a young puppy, the constant trips outside during potty training may be too much of a challenge. Elderly or mobility-challenged owners may find frequent walks too difficult. Apartment dwellers without access to a yard may find the trip on the elevator and out to the boulevard takes longer than their puppies can hold it. Also, when you don’t have a yard, keeping a puppy that is not yet fully vaccinated away from public areas limits your outdoor options. If having the toilet area outside is too difficult for successful potty training, then moving the toilet indoors might be the answer.
There are several ways of creating an indoor toilet for your dog. It can be as simple as using an area covered with newspapers or potty pads. But the cleanest and most hygienic solution is a litter box. You can purchase doggie litter boxes, some even come with artificial turf on the top, or you can simply use a large cat litter box. Make sure the box has shallow sides, so your dog feels comfortable stepping in and out. You can even cut a small doorway in one of the sides to help smaller puppies.
Line the box with newspaper, potty pads, artificial grass, or even cat litter. Some puppies will chew on anything, so be sure whatever you use is safe if your dog decides to eat it. And think about hygiene. The box liner should be either disposable or easily washed. Puppies also form preferences for the surface under their feet when they are going to the bathroom. If your puppy is uncomfortable using one surface, try something else.
When you first introduce your puppy to the litter box, concentrate on helping him become comfortable stepping in and out. Lure him in with treats and reward him for interacting with and then entering the box. Once he is happily going in and out, you can start using the box for potty business. The same techniques used for potty training outdoors are also used indoors; the only difference is that instead of taking your puppy outside, you will take him to his indoor spot. Supervise him and limit his freedom until he is showing reliability, just as you would for outdoor training.
Place your dog’s indoor spot in a low-traffic area of the house for your convenience, as well as for your dog’s privacy. Most dogs prefer some peace and quiet when it comes to doing their business. Wherever you place the indoor toilet area, be sure that it is where you want it to stay. Although you can move it later, you may need to move it very slowly, perhaps only inches a day, to prevent your dog from having accidents. Also, choose a location with an easy-to-clean floor, such as tile or linoleum, because accidental misses will happen.
Once your puppy is a bit older and can hold it for longer, you might be ready to transition him to doing his business outside. Consider taking some of the litter box liner to the outdoor toilet area. This will help him understand what is expected of him in this new location. The use of a potty cue, like “Hurry Up” or “Go Potty,” can also help you tell him what you would like. Alternatively, you can teach your puppy to have both an indoor and outdoor place for doing his business, which can be handy in bad weather. But to avoid confusion, teach one location and then the other, rather than expecting him to learn both places at the same time.
If you decide to keep your puppy’s toilet inside, please remember that getting him out and about in the world is an essential part of his socialization. It’s still important that he get the physical exercise and mental stimulation that walks and outdoor play provide. Indoor potty training can be very convenient, but shouldn’t keep your puppy from experiencing the wonders of the world at large.