Crate Training Made Simple 

One of the biggest questions new puppy owners have is "how do I teach my dog not to use the bathroom in the house?" I always tell them it is simple – and give them a sheet of paper containing the following information. The most important thing that you will notice as you read through the instructions is that patience is a virtue – and especially useful when trying to potty train your puppy!

Crate training is one of the easiest and most rewarding activities you can do for you and your puppy. Remember, repetition is necessary. Your puppy will not understand what you want unless you repeatedly show him or her the behavior you are wanting to see - and show it many, many times.


Before you start, it is important to keep in mind that your puppy does not know what you expect from him – therefore, he must be showing the proper place to eliminate and when the proper time to eliminate is.


The best thing for potty training is a crate. When you cannot watch your puppy, use a crate. A crate needs to be looked at the same way as you use a playpen for a human child. When you  are only leaving the room for one minute, you either need to take the puppy with you or use the crate. Just like with a child – you would not leave him in the house alone for a minute, would you?


Crate training can be very rewarding and fun for your puppy as long as it is a good and positive experience for him. A crate needs to be viewed as a wild dog views his den – which is a main part to a dog’s upbringing and safety area. So, you can introduce the puppy to his crate by giving him special treats when he is in the crate – and only when he is in the crate. This will make the puppy associate the crate to a special and rewarding treat.


How you use the crate is also important. It needs to be used both when you are home and when you are not at home. This way the crate is used as a safety zone as well as time out periods. Using the crate both when you are home and away also lets your puppy get used to and feel comfortable in the crate – instead of being worried that you are leaving him alone and will not return. This will help him feel better as he gets older about being left alone.


Most puppies – like humans – will not soil their den – or crate. There will be some accidents at first – but you should not get upset. This is normal and you must keep trying. The best way to prevent accidents – especially at night – during the first few weeks is to follow this routine:


First, set your alarm for about three (3) hours after bed time. Get up the moment the alarm goes off, pick your puppy up and take him outside to eliminate. (Have your robe and slippers handy.) Place him on the ground so he can eliminate. When he is finished, praise him and put him back inside in his crate – and return to bed.


Second, set the alarm again for another three (3) hours. Repeat the steps above the next time the alarm goes off.


After you follow this routine the first week, and IF the routine has been successful with no accidents, then you can set the alarm for about halfway through your sleep instead of every three (3) hours. Then when  you get up the next morning, make sure your first order of business is take your puppy outside and let him eliminate. Then you can feed the puppy and put him back in the crate. It is also good to walk the puppy – both in the morning and at night before bedtime.


Repeat the feeding, walking and crating at lunch time. Pups between two (2) and four (4) months cannot control themselves from eliminating for over four (4) hours. It is important for you to be able to follow this routine at lunch again – if not, have a neighbor or friend help you.


About the crate: if it is too big, then the pup will find it acceptable and easy to soil one side and be able to sleep on the other side. Of course, you don’t want to buy a small crate for a puppy and then have to buy another crate for your mature dog. So you can buy a crate that will fit your dog when he grows up – but put a box inside the crate to house the puppy until he is grown. This box only needs to be big enough to allow the pup to stand up and lie down comfortably. You may need to change the box as the puppy grows. And as the puppy gets good at following the routine of eliminating only when outside, you may find that you can remove the smaller box altogether. If the puppy then messes in the crate, you can replace the box size back to the point where the puppy was reliable about eliminating only when outdoors. Then just give your puppy a little more time to learn.


Now we need to review what dog experts call potty training – which needs to be going on the whole time you are crate training your puppy. There are several actions that need to be followed, such as:

-         Use the same door to go outside every time you take your puppy outside to eliminate. You should allow your puppy to go outside every time he is taken out of the crate – to give him a chance to eliminate whether he needs to or not.

-         You can teach your puppy to let you know when he has to eliminate by teaching him to ring a bell each time he wants to go outside. This can be done by tying a bell to a string and hanging the string on the door handle. The bell should be let down to the height of your puppy’s nose. Each time you start to go outside, get the puppy to touch the bell with his nose, causing the bell to ring. When the bell rings, give the puppy a treat and enthusiastically say the word “outside” so he can start associating all this together. Then take the puppy outside on a leash.


It is important that you stay with your puppy during all these processes. The puppy should not be let outside to eliminate alone – or let to run around the yard by himself. Regardless of the weather, you need to be with him. And you must be patient. Rushing the puppy will not work. If the puppy urinates or eliminates  outside, give him praises, tell him “good outside” and return inside. If the puppy does not use the “potty” in 15 minutes, return him to his crate, wait 15 minutes and follow the same procedure of going back outside again.


This training process will take only two (2) weeks for the puppy to understand if followed as written above. And the best part is that it can work for any dog – regardless of their age or if they have ever been kept inside before. You just follow the same rules as above – and most importantly of all, be patient!



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