Why Don’t Dogs Use Litter Boxes?

why don't dogs use litter boxes

Most dogs don’t use litter boxes, but this isn’t because they are incapable of learning to relieve themselves in a specific spot. In fact, on rare occasions both puppies and adult dogs successfully learn to use litter boxes just as well as your average pet cat. However, in general dogs don’t use litter boxes for reasons of smell, convenience, shape, design and the sheer size of our canine companions. Not to mention the fact that half of all dogs don’t aim their pee straight down, but instead shoot their jet over to the side.



Dogs need regular exercise, and most of this takes place outside of your home. Either in the backyard, at a dog park, or walking around the local neighborhood. We don’t leave dogs alone all day like cats, and they are regular visitors to the outside world.

Outdoor vs indoor living

In the USA most cats live indoors. They might have a secure backyard to visit, but they won’t normally have access to it all of the time. Cats therefore need litter boxes in order to not spend the majority of their time with their legs crossed waiting for the next opportunity to pee or poop.

Dogs however are very rarely indoor only pets. Much of their time is spent in the backyard, or out and about with their human family. They have multiple occasions throughout the day to do their business, in perfectly hygienic outdoor spots.


Dog poop stinks. There is no getting away from it. If your pup is fed on kibble or canned dog food, when they poop, you know it. Raw fed dogs often have drier, less stinky poop, but this isn’t guaranteed. And you still psychologically probably don’t want it anywhere near your kitchen diner. Especially if you have more than one dog making use of it!

The smell of dog poop indoors is strong and often highly offensive to their human family. It’s not going to be neutralised by your average kitty litter, and it’s going to very quickly attract flies and other bugs. Not to mention turning their human families stomach over.

Dogs eat their poop

Canine fecal matter might stink awfully to us, but to many of them it smells, well, delicious. Poop eating isn’t an uncommon habit in dogs, and if you let your pooch poop somewhere they will have access to later on chances are they might be tempted to have a taste.

I’ve had dogs that would try their absolutely best to get into the room where our kitty litter box was, and others that would wolf down their poop if you weren’t quick enough with the scoop.

Angle of pee

Female dogs usually squat down to pee, urinating in a jet that streams directly to the floor. Male dogs, as you almost certainly already know, send their pee at an angle. It’s usually aimed at the nearest popular tree or lamp post, but just imagine if the target was a box on the floor. I know a lot of men that have trouble hitting the back of the bowl. I’m willing to bet your dog won’t have comparatively improved aim.

why don't dogs use litter boxes

The shape and size of litter boxes doesn’t work for most dogs

To work for a male dog your litter box would need to have sides higher than their knee joint at a minimum. They would also need to potentially fit, say, an adult Bernese Mountain Dog, if that’s your breed of choice. Very few adult dog sized litter trays will fit into the average family home.

Look at your kitty and her litter box. Then look at your Labrador and imagine a comparatively sized one. Where on Earth would that fit in the average family home? Probably only in the kitchen or living room, if that. And frankly, no one wants that near the family hangout parts of the house!

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

Why Don’t Dogs Use Litter Boxes?

Dogs can use litter boxes in an emergency situation. Some toy breeds might even have long term success with their use. But you’ll probably need to raw feed your dog to prevent their poop from smelling too bad to you, or tasting too good to your dog. Your cleaning routine will also need to be one of epic proportions, and the rest of your family to be on board with your unusual method of puppy potty training.

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website