Ask the Trainer

HOW TO: Keep your Dog out of the Cat Litter Box

There are certain unique issues that multi-pet households struggle with.  One of which is having their dog trespass in the cat’s litter box.  Not only is this extremely stressful and annoying for cat and owner, but it causes bad breath and can potentially transmit parasites.

Keep the dog out of the litter box

Even though the dog means no ill intent, many cats find it to be an invasion of privacy.  As a result, they may seek a safer place to go to the bathroom, such as under the bed or sofa.

So what is a pet parent to do?  This is one of those situations where training techniques are an option, but proper management may be the easier and preferred choice.

Here are a few options to consider:

A clean litter box is best.  Scoop at least once per day and completely clean the box as often as possible.  Lingering waste increases in scent, which is more enticing for your dog.

If frequent and timely cleaning of the box is not possible, consider an electronic litter box.  An automatic box leads to prompt cleaning, but transition gradually so your cat becomes acclimated and not scared of the box’s new functionality.

Reposition the litter box from the floor, to a second level.  Placing the box on a table, countertop, or in a small cabinet with the door slightly ajar, are great ways to keep it out of reach of your dog, but in the perfect position for your cat.

A baby gate is great containment for many dogs.  If your dog honors the gate (without knocking it down or jumping over) you can use it here.  Set the gate so your cat can safely slide through the bars, hop over, or even elevate it a few inches off the floor, so your cat can go under.

Covered litter boxes are a solution for many cats while preventing your dog from getting into mischief.  One consideration is that some cats find covered boxes too confining, so assess your cat’s receptiveness.

For new puppies, teach them from the very start that a cat’s litter box is off-limits.  It’s always best to be proactive in teaching your puppy what is appropriate than it is to “retrain” an adult dog.

Teach your adult dog a reliable “Leave It” command

Practice and develop this command using lower-level distractions, prior to implementing it with the litter box.

In order to do this:

  • Have your dog on leash
  • Put a distracting item on the ground (ex. dog toy, pieces of dog food, etc.)
  • When your dog goes to get it, prevent them from doing so with the leash
  • Say “Leave It” and guide them to you with the leash
  • Once they get to you, reward them with a high-value treat.

Pattern this until it becomes reliable and you can tell your dog to “Leave It” when they become inquisitive of the litter box.

It is common for slight issues to arise when owning multiple pets.  The key is to find a strategy that works for your unique family situation.  Early intervention with a puppy, teaching a reliable “Leave It” for an adult dog, or simply employing a management technique can solve your dog’s eating from the litter box problem.  Resulting in less stress and a happier living environment for the dog, cat, and owner!

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Steve Reid is a professional dog trainer and owner of S.R. Dog Training in Westchester NY and authors the popular “Ask the Trainer” column for The Dogington Post.  For more info about S.R. Dog Training, visit Become a fan of Steve on Facebook at



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