Potty Training My Puppy

Potty Training My Puppy

Potty Training My Puppy

Dogs are highly social animals who make wonderful pets. They can be effective as watchdogs, are excellent companions for play and exercise, and are sources of affection and comfort. However, with the lifestyle and schedule of the majority of families, dogs must learn to spend a portion of the day at home, while their human family is away for school, work, shopping, or recreational activities. During the times you are unavailable to supervise, the pet may still feel the need to chew, play, explore, eat, or eliminate waste.

Preventing such inappropriate behaviors when you are absent involves both scheduling and preventive techniques. Proper scheduling requires ensuring the pet has had the opportunity to play, eat, and eliminate before you leave it in a confinement area or crate. Prevention involves keeping the pet in a confined area where it is secure, safe, and can do no damage to itself or your possessions.

Depending on the structure of your home, it may be possible to dog-proof the house by closing a few doors or putting up some child gates or barricades. The dog can then be allowed access to the remaining areas of the house. If this dog-proofing is not possible when you must leave, confine the dog to a single room, pen, or crate. This smaller confinement area provides a safe environment for the dog and helps protect the home from damage; it also provides a means of teaching the dog what it is supposed to chew and where it is supposed to eliminate.

Crate training uses a dog’s natural instincts as a den animal. A wild dog’s den is his home—a place to sleep, hide from danger, and raise a family. The crate becomes your puppy’s den, an ideal spot to snooze or take refuge during a thunderstorm.

A pet crate can offer important benefits when training your puppy:

  • The primary use for a crate is house training. Dogs don’t like to soil their dens.
  • The crate can limit access to the rest of the house while your puppy learns other rules, like not to chew on furniture.
  • Crates are a safe way to transport your dog in the car.


Isn't crate training cruel?
Crate training is neither cruel nor unfair. On the contrary, leaving the dog unsupervised to wander, investigate, destroy, and perhaps injure itself is far more inhumane than confinement. Ensure the crate is large enough and that the dog gets sufficient food, play, exercise, and attention before it is confined. Also ensure you return before the dog needs to urinate or defecate.

What are the benefits of crate training?
The two most important benefits are the safety it affords the pet and the damage that is prevented. The cage also provides a place of security—a comfortable retreat where the dog can relax, sleep, or chew on a favorite toy. By confining the pet to a crate or room, when the owner is not available to supervise, behavior problems can be immediately prevented. Then, when you are home, supervision and rewards can be used to prevent undesirable behavior as well as to teach the dog where to eliminate, what to chew, and what rooms and areas are “out of bounds.”

Will cage confinement help with house training?
Yes. Crate training is one of the quickest and most effective ways to house train a dog. Since most dogs instinctively avoid eliminating in their sleeping and eating areas, dogs that use a crate as a bed or den will seldom eliminate inside unless they have been left in the crate for too long.

Crate training can also help teach the dog to develop control over its elimination. As soon as your dog is released from its crate, take it to the designated area and reward elimination at acceptable locations. Since the crate prevents chewing, digging, and elimination on the owner’s home and property, owners of crate-trained dogs have fewer behavior concerns. The dog also receives far less discipline and punishment, and the overall relationship between pet and owner can be dramatically improved.

Will the crate provoke barking?
No. The crate can, however, be a useful way to reduce or eliminate distress barking. Rather than locking the puppy up and away from the owners at night or during meals, the puppy can be housed in its crate in the bedroom or kitchen. This prevents the puppy from mischief, and it is less likely to cry out or vocalize if the owners are in the room. If the puppy is locked away in a laundry room or basement with no access to the owners, distress vocalization is far more likely. If the owner then goes to the puppy to quiet it down or check it out, the crying behavior is rewarded.

What type of crate or confinement area works best?
A metal, collapsible crate with a tray floor works well, as long as the crate is large enough for the dog to stand, turn, and stretch out. Some dogs feel more secure if a blanket is draped over the crate. A plastic traveling crate or a homemade crate can also be used. Playpens or barricades may also be successful, assuming they are indestructible and escape proof.

Where should the cage be located?
Because dogs are social animals, an ideal location for the crate is a room where the family spends time—such as a kitchen, den, or bedroom—rather than an isolated laundry or furnace room.

How can crating or confinement become a positive experience?
Most dogs quickly choose a small area for relaxing. Such areas include a corner of a room, in a dog bed, or on or under a couch. The key to making the crate the dog’s favorite retreat is to associate the crate with as many positive and relaxing experiences and stimuli as possible—think food, treats, chew toys, and bedding—and to place the dog in its crate only at scheduled rest and sleep periods. You must therefore be aware of the dog’s schedule, including its needs for exploration, play, food, and elimination. Proper scheduling lets you place your dog in its crate only after each of these needs is fulfilled. You must then return to the dog to release it from its crate before the next exercise, feeding, or elimination period is due.

A radio or television playing in the background may help calm the dog when it’s alone in its crate, especially during the daytime. These may also help mask environmental noises, which can stimulate the dog to vocalize. The crate should never be used as punishment.

How do I crate train my new puppy?

  • Introduce the crate as soon as you bring the puppy home and as early in the day as possible. Place a variety of treats in the crate throughout the day, encouraging the puppy to enter voluntarily. Offering your puppy food, water, toys, and bedding when the crate is open is also effective.
  • Choose a location outdoors for the puppy to eliminate. Take the puppy to the location, wait until it eliminates, and reward it lavishly with praise or food. After some additional play and exercise, place the puppy in its crate with water, a toy, and a treat before closing the door.
  • If the puppy is tired and calm, it may take a nap shortly after being placed in its crate.
  • Leave the room but remain close enough to hear the puppy. Escape behavior and vocalization are expected when a dog is first placed in a crate. If the “complaints” are short or mild, ignore the dog until the crying stops. Never release the puppy unless it is quiet. This teaches that quiet behavior, not crying, will be rewarded. Release the puppy after a few minutes of quiet or a short nap.
  • Punishment may be useful to deter crying if it does not subside on its own. A shaker can (a sealed can filled with coins or marbles) can be tossed at the crate when the pup barks. Other methods include water sprayers or alarms (audible or ultrasonic). The owner should remain out of sight. By plugging in an alarm, tape recorder, water pik, or hair dryer beside the crate and turning it on with a remote control switch each time the dog barks, the dog can be taught that barking leads to punishment whether the owner is present or not. When the barking ceases, the punishment is stopped. Bark collars and alarms or water sprayers that are activated by the barking are also available for persistent problems. Punishment must always be used with caution, since it can exacerbate the vocalization problem of a very anxious pet.
  • Repeat the crate-and-release procedure a few more times during the day before bedtime. Place the puppy in its crate a few times before the end of the day. Each time, increase the time that the dog must stay in the crate before letting it out. Always give the puppy exercise and a chance to eliminate before locking it in the crate.
  • At bedtime, the dog should be exercised, locked in its crate, and left for the night. Do not go to the dog if it cries. Remote punishment can be used to deter crying. Alternately, the crate can be kept in the bedroom.
  • If the pup sleeps in one end of its crate and eliminates in the other, a divider can be installed to keep the puppy in a smaller area.
  • Never leave the puppy in its crate for longer than it can control itself, as it may be forced to eliminate in the crate.
  • If the pup must be left for long periods during which it might eliminate, it should be confined to a larger area such as a dog-proof room or pen, with paper left down for elimination. As the puppy gets older, its control increases, and it can be left longer in its crate.
  • Although there is a great deal of individual variability, many puppies can control themselves through the night by 3 months of age. During the daytime, once the puppy has relieved itself, a 2-month-old puppy may have up to 3 hours of control, a 3-month-old puppy up to 4 hours, and a 4-month-old puppy up to 5 hours.
  • A crate is not an excuse to ignore the dog!