Crate Training Your New Puppy

The goal of crate training is to teach your puppy or adult dog to go to the bathroom outside, so begin training the moment you bring them home. (A crate will also give your new puppy a comfortable, controlled area in which to sleep when you’re not able to supervise or interact with them and will minimize destructive behavior.)

Dogs avoid going to the bathroom near their eating and sleeping spots, and a large crate may give the space to go in a corner away from his sleeping or eating area. To avoid this, choose a crate that can be partitioned so you can limit his space. Look for this feature when choosing a crate. (Economically, it is also a good idea to choose a crate that will accommodate your puppy’s adult size.) Allow your dog enough space to comfortable lay down and stretch out.

Be sure chew toys and bedding are in the crate. After your puppy has investigated their new “den” area and goes in the crate on their own, praise them excitedly. Let them go in (always with lots of praise) and out of the crate at will. Then give a command such as “kennel up” in a firm voice and entice them into their crate with a chew toy. A puppy won’ t understand this command at first, but with repetition over time, they will come to learn that ” kennel up,” means it’s time to go into their crate.

Praise them once they are inside, leave the door open and remain in view. Once they are comfortable going inside the crate and stay there for a few minutes at a time, close the door for several minutes while remaining in view.

Repeat this action several times a day, allowing for plenty of play between ” kennel up” commands. Gradually increase the time your puppy is in the crate and move out of sight. If they become upset when they are unable to see you, give them a moment to settle down. Don’ t let them out of the crate if they start to fuss. Wait until they have calmed down. Otherwise, they will start to associate making a fuss with getting out, and they may never learn to calm themselves in the crate. With consistent, repetitious commands and praise, the crate will quickly become your dog’ s new den.

Bathroom Breaks

A 6- to 8-week-old puppy should be taken outdoors every couple of hours. Older puppies can generally wait longer between outings. And in general, most puppies should be taken out:

  • After working in the morning
  • After naps
  • After meals
  • After play or training
  • Immediately before being put to bed

Choose an Area

Use these suggestions to promote successful training

  • Choose an appropriate bathroom area outdoors
  • Always walk your dog to this spot while he’ s on his leash
  • Give praise when they are done
  • By giving praise and affection as a reward immediately after your dog finishes, you can encourage them to go to the bathroom in the desired area
  • The odor left from previous visits to that area will quickly mark it as the place for the pup to do their business, but it’s important to keep the area clean. Promptly remove your dog’s solid waste and dispose of it properly.

Crating Tips

  • Covered crates naturally create a den-like space, but for wire crates, drape a blanket over
  • the crate to create an artificial den in which to sleep.
  • Place an article of clothing with your scent on it to provide your new puppy with a comforting item.
  • Your new puppy is like a baby, so they will need to go to the bathroom frequently. Start a strict feeding and bathroom routine – at the least, they should go out every three hours. Take them out the same door and to the same spot every time.
  • Young puppies need constant supervision just like an infant. Make up a responsibility schedule for each member of your family and assign each person time to supervise and play with your new puppy.
  • Be patient. You may have to spend 10 minutes outside waiting for him to go. When they do, give lots of praise and excitement.
  • Learn to recognize your puppy’s body language. Watch for circling and sniffing as well as restlessness, whining or approaching the door.
  • During the night, if possible, place the crate in or near your bedroom. They will feel more secure with you close by.
  • Puppies under 3 to 4 months of age will need to go to the bathroom at least once during the night. You will have a couple options, KH recommends the first…
  1. As your puppy grows, work to get them used to “holding it” through the night – you will sleep much easier at night. You will have accidents for the first month or so, but this keeps them from getting into the habit of going out in the middle of the night.
  2. Try to establish a schedule by setting your alarm and taking them outside the same time each night. Be patient. If they do not go in 10 minutes, take them back to their crate, wait 10 minutes and take them out to try again.
  • Progressively set your alarm 15 minutes each week to train our puppy to ” hold it” for longer and longer periods of time.
  • Confine your puppy’ s mobility to the room their crate is in. As time passes, their bowel movements will become more predictable, which will allow granting them more freedom and access to other rooms in the house.

Going to the Bathroom on Command

To avoid spending a lot of time waiting for your puppy to get the job done, you may want to teach them to go to the bathroom on command. While they are going to the bathroom, simply repeat a unique command, such as “hurry up” or ” go potty” in an upbeat tone of voice. After a few weeks of training, your puppy will begin sniffing and circling and then go shortly after you give the command.     Give them lots of praise when they respond and successfully go potty. Remember they love praise and feel your “excitement”.

Handling Accidents

If you have a very young puppy (from 3 to 12 weeks old), accept the fact that they are going to have accidents. They simply do not have adequate bladder control. Consistent praise along with the “go potty” command will promote proper bathroom behavior.

In the early stages of housebreaking, it is important to be able to catch your dog in the act of going to the bathroom if they are inside. When this happens, give a short, firm “No,” pick them up and take them outside to finish. When they are done, praise them to reinforce the idea that going to the bathroom outside is what they are supposed to do.

When your dog has an accident, use these steps to clean up the mess:

  • Step 1: To clean up a soiling, remove solids with a plastic baggie and soak up urine with a paper towel
  • Step 2: Apply a mold detergent solution or carpet cleaner that does not contain ammonia. Do not over saturate the area or you’ll drive the substance deeper into the carpet backing and spread the stain.
  • Step 3: Don’t rub the solid spot. Gently blot the carpet to retain the look of the fibers.
  • Step 4: Work from the outside to contain the stain.
  • Step 5: If odor remains use a commercial cleaner made to neutralize odors, or have a professional cleaner treat the area.

Points to Remember

  • Don’ t rub your dog’ s nose in their stool. This will not help. Instead, it will make them afraid of you and they will start going to the bathroom only when they are sure you’ re away or out of sight.
  • Do not scold. Say “No” during the accident, then pick them up and take them outdoors so that they can finish in the appropriate area. When they are done, give them lots of praise.
  • If possible, block off the area where the accident occurred or keep your dog out of this room permanently. He may return to this spot because of the scent he has left behind.
  • There are usually two reasons why a puppy has an accident:
  • They were not being watched closely and we missed their signs.
  • They were not in their crate where they would rather not go to the bathroom.

The “Rattle Can” Distraction

  • Rather than punishing inappropriate chewing, or any other undesirable behavior, distract your dog and interrupt the behavior with a “rattle can” process.
    • Fill an empty soda can with 5 to 10 pennies and tape the top completely to contain the coins and cover any sharp edges.
  • When you see your dog is engaged in inappropriate behavior, shake or toss the can near – not at – them. This will startle them and distract them from unwanted behavior.
  • Follow up by giving your dog a chew toy, a play session or a quick walk. With enough repetition, they will learn that the bad behavior produces a disturbing noise.

Praise, Play, and Rewards

The importance of these three techniques cannot be stressed enough when it comes to crate training, commands and bonding with your dog. The old-fashioned use of punishment is counterproductive to any type of training. Never push your dog’ s nose into his own waste shout at him or strike him. Positive reinforcement will promote good behavior.