Crate Training (Option 1)

Before you crate-train, please be aware: a dog left in a crate all day long gets let out in the evening after work for a few hours and put back in the crate for the night can become neurotic, destructive, unhappy, and noisy. If you work all day, it is recommended that you find someone who can take your dog out for a long walk in the afternoon. Dogs are not fish. They need something to occupy their minds. Dogs are den animals and like the crate, but even a den animal would go crazy if locked up all day long. Keep in mind that a puppy can only physically hold it for so long before its body cannot hold it any longer. Until the pup's bladder is fully mature, it will need to be taken out often.

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You must be willing to invest time and energy for just a few short weeks of house training. The effort you put in now will last for the rest of your pet's life.

The crate training method is as follows. Buy a crate and for the first three to four weeks, keep your puppy in it when you are not with him. Make sure the crate is not too big. It should be large enough for the puppy to stand up and easily turn around but no larger.

Dogs do not want to soil their beds, and the use of a crate teaches them to control their urge to eliminate. You must maintain an eagle-eye at all times. As soon as you see him pacing, sniffing around, and turning in circles, immediately take him outside. He is telling you, "I am going to go pee-pee somewhere, and this carpet looks like as good a place as any." NO, you do not have time to put on your shoes. Just go.

Be patient and do not rush the little guy. He may have to go several times in one "pit stop." Give him about 10 minutes before taking him back inside. Please do not play with him while you are on this mission. Let him know this is a business trip.

Ensure you take him out after every meal and play session BEFORE you put him back in his crate. Be consistent and establish a schedule. Pay attention to your puppy's behavior, so you can develop a schedule that works for you and the pup. When does your puppy naturally defecate? In the morning? Ten minutes after eating? Around bedtime? You may have to make some compromises.

Be fair to your puppy. He cannot be expected to stay alone in his crate for endless hours and not relieve himself. During your workdays, you will need to have someone go to your home at least once (lunchtime is good) to let the puppy out and take him for a long walk. Your dog is not a fish, and he needs something to occupy his mind.

Ensure everyone involved in the housebreaking process uses the same spot in the yard and the same word. Everyone should agree on the place they will take the puppy. The odor from the previous visits will cause the puppy to want to go in that spot. Use a simple word like "outside" when taking your puppy to the chosen spot. Use this word consistently, and later this word will help build communication between the family and the dog. When you notice him going toward the door and you say "outside," he can say,

"Yup, that's where I need to go."

Until your puppy is about five months old, you will need to take him out frequently and keep that eagle-eye on him. But before you know it, you are going to be able to trust and communicate with your new pet. And he will learn that when he pleases you by going out to do his business, and he gets more freedom in the house.

If you plan to take him for a walk, he should eliminate at home before you go. Many people take their pups for a walk, and as soon as they eliminate, they bring the dog home, thus sending the message that they are going home because the dog was eliminated. If you want to start your walk right away, do not turn around and head home as soon as he poops.

After a half-hour of play, crate him for a nap. Every hour (or so as he ages), take him out to pee. If he pees, give him playtime. If not, back into the crate. Just remember prevention of mistakes and rewarding for good behavior.

  • Six weeks - elimination every hour
  • Two months - pup should have 2 to 3 hours of control
  • Three months - 4 hours
  • Four months and up - 5 hours
  • Many young dogs can go all night at three months
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Always take the puppy out the same door, the one you will want him to signal at. Bells work great for some owners. Hang bells on the door and kick them every time you open the door. Some dogs can be quiet and stand at the door and look at it, some will let out a little yip, but others rely on you to see them standing at the door. So, bells can be a marvelous tool. They will learn to swat them to get the door to open. Others use doggy doors. But a young pup can never be sent out to pee, and he must be taken out.

Many people are concerned about whether it's cruel to leave their dog in a cage for any amount of time. Most dog trainers agree that it is no crueler to leave your dog in a crate than to leave a baby in a playpen or crib. Crates allow dog owners peace of mind of knowing their dog is safe when they are not there to supervise.

Also, dogs are known to be den animals. They like having a safe and secure place to call their own. If crate training is done correctly, crates can provide this haven. Dog owners often report that their dogs continue to seek out their crates long after house training has been accomplished. For others, once the dog can be left alone for several hours without having an accident or becoming destructive, they stop using the crate and allow their dogs free run of their homes while they are out.

There are several different types of crates to choose from, including a wire cage, a plastic pet carrier, and a soft-sided canvas or nylon crate. The wire crate is the most commonly used. It allows your dog to see what is going on around him, and many have an extra panel that allows you to make the crate bigger or smaller depending on the size of your dog. This type of crate is collapsible, and it has a sliding tray on the floor, making it easy to clean.

A plastic pet carrier is also a good option for crate training. This is the kind you most often see used for airline travel. The drawback to this kind of crate is that it is enclosed on three sides, so it does not let in as much light as a wire crate. It is also a little harder to clean.

The soft-sided crates are a good option for dogs who are not big chewers. These are lightweight, so they are great to carry along when you are traveling with your dog. The problem with the soft-sided crates is that a dog who likes to chew or scratch at the sides will be able to break out. It is not a good choice for young puppies.

Whichever type of crate you choose to use, size is important. The crate should not be too large. You want your dog to have enough room to lie down comfortably and turn around. If the crate is too big, your dog may use one crate area to sleep and another spot to eliminate. Many of the wire crates are sold with a divider. This is perfect if you are crate training a growing puppy. The divider allows you to confine your puppy to a small crate area and then make the crate larger as your puppy grows.

Crate training should be kept very positive. Introduce your puppy or adult dog to the crate slowly. Put something soft in the bottom of the crate, along with some of your dog's toys. Throw some treats inside. Let your dog explore the crate at his own pace without forcing him to go inside. Praise him and give him a treat when he goes in on his own. Until he seems comfortable with his crate, keep the door open and let your dog wander in and out as he wishes.

Once your dog is comfortable going in and out of the crate, it is time to start getting used to being confined. Throw some treats in the crate, and once your dog is inside, close the door. Please wait a minute or so, and as long as your dog is quiet, let him out of the crate. Slowly extend the amount of time you leave your dog in the crate while you are at home until he is comfortable being confined in the crate for up to an hour or more.

Once your dog is comfortable with being confined, begin to get him used to be left alone while in his crate. When he is calm in his crate, step out of the room for a few minutes and then step back in. Gradually build up the amount of time you are out of the room until your dog or puppy is comfortable being left alone in his crate for an hour or more.

There are a few simple rules to keep in mind to make crate training successful. First, never use your dog's crate to punish him. Your dog should consider his crate a happy, comfortable, and safe place. If you use his crate to punish your dog, chances are he will be fearful and anxious when left in it.

It is also important that you never let your dog out of the crate while whining or barking. He should be completely calm before you release him. Opening the crate while he is barking, or whining teaches him that he will be let out if he makes enough noise. Making this mistake can lead to many sleepless nights as you wait for your puppy to settle down.

Finally, never leave your dog crated for longer than he is physically able to hold his bladder or bowels. You cannot expect the impossible. Puppies can usually hold it for no more than 3-4 hours. An adult dog who has never been house trained should also not be left for longer than 3-4 hours. Older dogs may be able to hold it a little longer. Dogs should not be left crated for more than this length of time without being taken out for exercise, playtime, and time to cuddle with you.

Unless you can monitor your puppy 24 hours a day, don't expect the house training process to be completed until your puppy is at least six months old. It's normal for a young puppy to be a little 'input-output machine’. Since puppies are growing and developing rapidly at this stage, they eat more food, burn up more energy, and seem to need to eliminate constantly! They also have not yet developed bowel and bladder control, so they can't 'hold it' as long as adult dogs.

Confine your puppy in a small, 'puppy-proofed room and paper the entire floor. Put his bed, toys, and food/water bowls there. At first, there will be no rhyme or reason to where your pup eliminates. He will go everywhere and anywhere. He will also probably play with the papers, chew on them, and drag them around his little den. Most puppies do this, and you have to live with it. Please don't get upset; accept it as life with a young puppy. The important thing is that when you get home, clean up the mess and lay down new papers. 

While your puppy is confined, he is developing a habit of eliminating paper because no matter where he goes, it will be on paper. As time goes on, he will start to show a preferred place to do his business. When this place is well established, and the rest of the papers remain clean all day, then gradually reduce the papered area. Start removing the paper that is furthest away from his chosen location. Eventually, you will only need to leave a few sheets down in that area only. If he ever misses the paper, then you've reduced the area too soon. Go back to papering a larger area or even the entire room. Once your puppy is reliably going only on the papers you've left, then you can slowly and gradually move his papers to a location of your choice. Move the papers only an inch a day. If the puppy misses the paper again, then you're moving too fast. Go back a few steps and start over. Don't be discouraged if your puppy seems to be making remarkable progress, and then suddenly you have to return to papering the entire room. This is normal. There will always be minor setbacks. If you stick with this procedure, your puppy will be paper trained.

When you are home but can't attend to your puppy, follow the same procedures described above. However, the more time you spend with your puppy, the quicker he will be house trained. Your objective is to take your puppy to his toilet area every time he needs to eliminate it. This should be about once every 45 minutes, just after a play session, just after eating or drinking, and just upon waking. When he does eliminate in his toilet area, praise and reward him profusely and enthusiastically! Don't use any reprimand or punishment for mistakes or accidents. Your puppy is too young to understand, and it can set the house training process back drastically. Please don't allow your puppy freedom outside of his room unless you know absolutely for sure that his bladder and bowels are empty. When you do let him out, don't let him out of your sight. It is a good idea to have him on a leash when he is exploring your home. He can't get into trouble if you are attached to the other end of the leash. Every 30 minutes, return your pup to his toilet area. As your puppy becomes more reliable about using his toilet area and his bowel and bladder control develops, he can begin to spend more time outside his room with you in the rest of your home. Begin by giving him access to one room at a time. Let him eat, sleep and play in this room but only when he can be supervised. When you cannot supervise him, put him back in his room. 

The most important thing you can do to make house training happen as quickly as possible is to reward and praise your puppy every time he goes in the right place. The more times he is rewarded, the quicker he will learn. Therefore, you must spend as much time as possible with your pup and give him regular and frequent access to his toilet area. 

Consistency and Patience. Never scold or punish your puppy for mistakes and accidents. The older your pup gets, the more he will be able to control his bladder and bowels. Eventually, your pup will have enough control that he will be able to "hold it" for longer and longer periods. Let your puppy do this on his own time. When training is rushed, problems usually develop. Don't forget, most puppies are not reliably house trained until they are at least six months old.