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Crate Training Your Puppy

A crate can make your puppy feel comfortable in their own den

The thought of placing their new puppy in a "cage" isn’t appealing to most new pet parents. However, to your puppy, the crate is a very natural and comfortable experience. As a den animal, your puppy will feel safe and secure in small, confined area. A crate acts as an artificial den. It makes housetraining much easier, and protects the dog and your home when you are not able to closely supervise your new companion. You will even find your puppy retreating back to the “den” for a nap. They find comfort in having a place of their very own.

Selecting a Crate

A crate should be big enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around, and lie down in, and that’s about it. For puppies, it is important that the crate not be big enough to allow the puppy to eliminate in one corner and sleep in the other. If you decide to buy a crate that will fit your puppy when it is full-grown, simply block off the back of it with a large box. As your puppy grows, you can replace the blocker with something smaller, so the floor space continues to be sized correctly.

Wire dog crates often fold for storage or travel, but may be heavy. Also, wire dog crates do not afford the same security for your dog as plastic dog kennels. To your dog, the crate is open on all sides, and provides no protection from attack. If you have a wire crate, cover the sides and back with a blanket for warmth and added protection.

Plastic dog kennels are more similar to a den so they feel more secure for your dog. They are warmer inside, and many are airline-approved. These plastic options are lightweight, but they are bulky to store or bring in a smaller car.

  • Advantages: No intermediary steps; uses dog's natural instincts to control bathroom habits and provides a safe and secure place to call their own.

  • Disadvantages: Must go outside regardless of weather or time of day or night; dog must wait until parent can take him outside.

A Puppy's Perspective

Understanding your dog’s instincts will help your training. All dogs are den animals. Their instincts encourage them to keep their dens clean by eliminating somewhere outside of their sleeping place or den. Your puppy’s urine and feces have strong scents. Having this scent in or around the den could scare away prey or attract predators. This instinct makes housetraining possible.

Routine is key. start one, and keep to it. A consistent schedule for eating, drinking and potty breaks is the key to establishing good bathroom habits for now and the future. Within 15 minutes of eating, drinking, waking or play sessions, your puppy should have the opportunity to go potty. If you don’t give them the chance, they will go anyway.

Some experts believe that puppies may not be developed enough physically to completely control their bladder and bowels until they are at least four months of age. A housetraining routine can and should begin before that, but don't expect your puppy to have total control until sometime after four months.

Patience. It may seem like you are the one being trained. Some breeds, especially certain toy breeds, are more difficult to housetrain than others. Patience and persistence are always important. Seemingly stubborn cases may actually be the result of a medical condition. Always talk to your veterinarian if you are having difficulty housetraining your dog or if your previously trained dog starts having accidents.

Clean up after accidents, always. If an area of your house smells like a bathroom to your puppy, it is a bathroom. If you find an accident, use a stain & odor remover to reduce the chance of repeats.

Training

Although your puppy instinctively wants a den, they may not immediately fall in love with their new kennel. Gradually introduce it to your puppy. Throw a treat into the crate and allowing them to go in, eat it and come right back out. Praise your dog each time they enter their crate. Feed your pup in their crate. Don't close the door until your puppy seems very comfortable. Then, open it immediately. Gradually increase the length of time the door is closed.

Once your puppy is used to the crate, allow them to spend longer periods of time in it while you stay nearby. Never open the door of the crate while your dog is whining, barking, scratching, or doing anything you don't want to encourage. When you let your puppy out of the crate, do so nonchalantly.

Never use the crate as a punishment and don't even drag your dog over to it. Your puppy will react poorly to the crate if it is seen as punishment. Never allow children, or anyone, to tease a crated dog, bang on the crate, or enter the crate with the dog. The crate is your puppy’s private space. If it is respected, your dog will love it.

Time for training your puppy
With your dog safely kenneled, you can begin the process of housetraining. Anytime you are unable to actively supervise your puppy, place it in the crate with a Kong stuffed with treats or some other fun toy. Each time you take your dog out of the kennel, take them straight outdoors or to the litter box, whichever location you have chosen. Do not play with your pup until it has gone potty. Praise your puppy profusely, then play.

Anytime you see your puppy sniffing and circling, chances are good that it needs to go to its bathroom spot. Act quickly and get your puppy to the proper place. If you catch your pup in the act of squatting in an inappropriate location, give a loud, sharp "NO!" and pick it up up, sliding your pup’s tail between its back legs. This will often stop the elimination long enough for you to get them to the proper spot. Then praise, praise, praise when he or she finishes there.

The 3 second rule
Refrain from punishing your puppy after an accident. It will not help. It will teach your dog to fear you, and see you as unpredictable. Remember the “3-second rule”: praise or punishment will be connected with whatever the dog or puppy was doing three seconds before it occurred. Rubbing your dog’s nose in accidents that have already happened will only teach it to leave the scene as quickly as possible

Stick to it and you will find success. Use the tips found in this guide and you and your puppy will be accident-free soon. Remember, your puppy’s instincts are an important part of training. Knowing what your puppy wants to do will keep them happy and will help you both achieve a positive routine.