The Crate as a Housetraining Tool

The essence of house training is being a good doggie time manager. That means making sure your dog is in the right place (outside or inside on paper) at the right time (when your dog needs to eliminate)

In order to get your dog to the right place at the right time you need to know when he needs to eliminate. A crate is one of the most efficient and effective aids to house training because it helps you to more accurately predict when your dog needs to eliminate.

Most dogs don’t like to soil their resting/sleeping quarters if given adequate opportunity to eliminate elsewhere. So, temporarily confining your dog to a small area strongly inhibits the tendency to urinate and defecate. If your dog does not eliminate while in the kennel, then he is building bladder and bowel control and will need to eliminate when he is released. In this case you are present to reward and praise him for going in the appropriate spot. A repetition of this will result in your dog developing a preference and habit of doing so. That is the essence of a house trained dog!

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When you are home but can’t attend to your puppy, let him rest in the crate and take him on leash to his doggie toilet every hour for very young puppies and a little less frequently as he grows up.

To begin, take your puppy/dog to the same area to eliminate and give him five minutes to do so. This will facilitate developing a dog that goes promptly rather than needing to walk round and round the block before going (you will appreciate this on a rainy night).

When he goes, praise him and offer three tiny food treats as a reward. The more times your dog is rewarded, the quicker your dog will learn to go in the right spot. Now you can take your empty dog for a reward walk or go inside for a play/training session.

Note: Be sure to crate your puppy a few times each day when you are home, so that kenneling does not always predict that you are leaving.

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To begin, your puppy or dog will presumably be able to ‘hold it’ in the crate for only brief periods of time. So, if when you must leave your pup for longer than this you can use a long –term confinement area in conjunction with the crate as a short term confinement area.

Long Term Confinement
The major purpose of long-term confinement is to restrict “mistakes” to a small protected area. It is unrealistic to expect a young puppy to have sufficient control to “hold it” for more than a few hours. So, when you need to leave your puppy for longer periods of time, confine him to an area where he has access to a doggie toilet, such as paper or a square of artificial grass turf in a pan. This is a temporary measure until your dog is old enough to be able to “hold it” for longer (unless you intend for your dog to be pad and outdoor trained for life).

It is important to cover the entire floor with paper so your pup learns to go on paper, not the flooring underneath. While your puppy is confined in this manner, he is developing a habit of eliminating on paper because no matter where he goes, it will be on paper.

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After a week or so, gradually reduce the area that is covered with the intended potty surface. Eventually you will only need to leave a few sheets down in that area. If your puppy ever misses the paper, then you’ve reduced the area too soon. Go back to papering a larger area or even the entire room.

Unless you intend on having an adult dog who eliminates on paper (as well as outside), you can plan on getting rid of the paper by the time the pup is about 5-6 months old and/or has developed sufficient bladder and bowel control to be able to hold it in his kennel for 3-4 hours in between walks.

On Leash Supervision
When you are home and want to spend time with your puppy, keep him on a leash by your side or tethered right near you while he rests or play with toys. This way your puppy can’t run around the house and make mistakes. Just as with the long-term confinement area, this is a temporary measure until your dog is house- and chewtoy-trained and can be trusted to spend time alone loose in the house. Until then, he/she can’t get into trouble if you are attached to the other end of the leash.

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Every 45-60 minutes take your 8-10 week old pup to his toilet area. The older your pup gets, the less frequently you need to take him to his toilet.

All three training aids, short-term confinement, long-term confinement and on leash supervision, are used in an effort to create a dog that can eventually be trusted to spend time in your home when you aren’t there. As a general rule, most dogs should not be allowed to roam unsupervised in even one room until they are 9 months old. However, some dogs can handle such freedom sooner, and some dogs can’t until they are well over 1 year old.

Once you feel your dog is eliminating consistently in the appropriate spot and focused on chewing his chew toys, you can start to give your dog unsupervised access to your home. Start with very brief absences with the dog loose in a “puppy-proofed” room (Don’t leave any particularly enticing items within easy reach).

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Another option is to close doors of certain rooms or setup up some gates. If your five-minute absence results in any misbehavior, your dog is telling you he isn’t ready, yet. However, if your brief absences are successful, increase them gradually. Be careful not to move too quickly, though. Moving slowly is actually the fastest way to develop a dog that can safely enjoy freedom in your home.

If you find an accident in the house don’t reprimand your dog. All this will do is teach your dog that you don’t like to see him eliminate, in which case, your dog is unlikely to eliminate in front of you outside. Instead, he will do so when you aren’t looking, or in a hidden spot – such as behind the couch.

Instead, see accidents as a learning opportunity. Your pup is telling you they aren’t yet ready for so much freedom and you need to increase the use of management tools (i.e. on leash supervision, the crate and/or long term confinement area) to set your dog up for house training success.