If you’re looking to house train a new puppy, try crate training. This method is gaining popularity over the once-popular paper training, because once you teach your dog to potty inside, it’s difficult to reverse this behavior.
Dogs are naturally den animals. Take advantage of that by crate training. Den animals won’t soil the area where they eat and sleep, so you should be safe from accidents in the crate when you use this method. Through crate training, you help your dog gradually build bladder control until he can be trusted to roam the house freely.
When you purchase a crate, keep in mind how quickly your dog will grow. Buy a crate that fits the size he’ll become not the size he is as a puppy. A larger crate can be partitioned off to fit your puppy’s current size. The dog should have enough space to stand and stretch out comfortably — don’t give him too much room or he’ll do his “business” on one end and sleep on the other.
Make the crate a happy place by adding a comfy blanket and putting the crate near the place where the family spends the most time— don’t isolate your dog by keeping the crate in a basement or dark lonely room.
Lure him into the crate the first few times by throwing in a treat and toys or feeding meals to your dog inside. After giving lots of treats and praise, close the door for short periods until your dog is at ease, working up to longer stretches inside the crate. If she barks or cries, don’t let her out until she stops. If you let her out when she whines, she’ll learn that’s the way to get out.
When you open the crate, always take the dog immediately to her designated bathroom spot outside. Remember to give a reward after she eliminates in the right place. Teaching dogs a special command to do their business — for example, “Go potty” — will come in handy for years. Afterward, let her enjoy at least 30 minutes of playtime with you before she goes back in the crate.
Most dogs learn the basics of house training by four to six months of age. The general rule of thumb is that a puppy can hold it for as many hours as she is months old. Keep this timeframe in mind when crating your dog. Enlist a friend, neighbor or pet sitter to help when you can’t be at home. In a pinch, place the crate with its door open in a larger enclosed area in which you’ve placed absorbent pee pads.
Eventually, the crate will become his safe spot where he goes during a thunderstorm or to relax for an afternoon nap.
Crate dos and don’ts
- Do provide water in the crate. A crate water bottle will work if your dog constantly knocks over a regular bowl.
- Don’t have your dog in the crate all day and all night. Try to keep it to less than four-hour periods at a time.
- Do provide chew toys such as Kongs to keep your dog occupied.
- Do keep the crate near you overnight so you can hear your dog. Puppies especially may need to go out in the middle of the night.
House training dos and don’ts
- Do maintain a regular schedule so your dog can learn more easily.
- Do learn the signs that indicate your dog may need to go outside such as sniffing, circling, whining, scratching and walking to the door.
- Don’t scold or physically punish your dog for accidents. This will only cause confusion, since dogs do not make connections to the past. Only act if you catch your dog during elimination. Try clapping or a saying “No!” sharply to startle your dog into stopping, then immediately take her outside to finish.
- Do offer lots of praise when she does go outside.
- Do clean accidents well with an enzymatic or pet-specific cleanser to prevent dogs from returning to the same scene of the crime repeatedly.
- Don’t use the crate for punishment. Your dog will start to associate the crate with fear and he won’t want to use it.
- Don’t keep your dog in the crate too long. Dogs need a lot of exercise and human interaction or they become anxious and depressed.
- Do use a happy voice when bringing your dog to the crate.