Puppy housetraining tips - using a crate

sizingacrate

Learn how to size a crate and the basics of crate training a puppy. 

This video discusses the basics of choosing and using a crate. Look for all the crate training videos for a complete understanding of house training your puppy. Leave comments and ask for your favorite topic. I will be adding more and more videos. 

Happy Training!

Crates

Crates are one of the important tools for crate training. A long-term confinement area is the other. See my other post about long term confinement areas. Crates are used for periods of time that are within a puppies ability to hold their bladder. A long term confinement area is used if your puppy is going to be alone for a period that is longer than he can hold it. 

There are many reasons why crates are so important:

  • Prevent destruction to your house
  • Speed up house training
  • Teach your puppy to be alone
  • Help prevent separation anxiety 
  • Give you flexibility in your schedule

Sizing a Crate

Select a crate that is big enough for your puppy to walk in, stretch, turn around and lie down. The reason crates are so small is that you want to motivate your puppy to hold his bladder. You can't use it for times that are completely above his physical ability to hold it, but you can motivate him to hold it for slightly longer periods of time each week. 

If your puppy will be big when he is an adult, you can purchase a full-size crate and buy a divider to allow room for expansion. Put boxes or blankets in the back of the crate to make it look smaller, or your puppy might urinate in the back of the crate thinking that it is an open space. 

Get Your Puppy to Love the Crate

Your puppy will think the crate is part of his normal routine if you teach him that is the way it is. Here are some tips to get him to love his crate. 

  • Randomly put treats in there with the door open
  • Close the door with your puppy on the outside and put something REALLY good on the inside until he shows interest, and then open the door and let him go in and get it
  • Use the crate periodically throughout the day. Not just when you are leaving. 
  • Feed your puppy in the crate sometimes
  • Put Kongs stuffed with yummy treats in the crate
  • Treat him periodically when he is in there and quiet. Ignore barking.

What to Do if Your Puppy Barks

It is really important to ignore normal barking in the crate so your puppy doesn't learn that this behavior gets him attention. Dogs can bark all day long if their barking gets periodically reinforced.

You also should not reward the following behaviors:

  • Jumping on the crate
  • Digging
  • Whining
  • Scratching on the side
  • Putting a paw on the crate

Any of these behaviors can lead to your dog learning that getting excited or anxious might result in freedom. This can lead to long durations of these behaviors and could even lead to separation anxiety. 

Don't ask your dog to "Quiet" either. This is a form of attention. 

If your puppy barks, you need to ignore the barking. When your puppy is quiet, you can do any of the following:

  • Talk to your puppy
  • Pet him
  • Let him out of the crate
  • Treat him
  • Give him a safe toy to play with
  • Give him a stuffed Kong or other toy
  • Give him a safe chew toy

Using the Clicker

Clickers are used in all the videos at Watch and Train, but you don't have to use one. If you are using one, you will 'click' when you want to mark a behavior that you like. In this case, I marked being quiet and then gave a treat. Clickers are used by dog trainers as well as zoo trainers and other animal trainers all over the world. 

In Case You Need a Refresher

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Exception to the Barking Rule

The only exception to the barking in the crate rule is if your puppy has to go potty. Barking signals are a GOOD thing, when it means he has to go potty. But, how do you know when he has to go potty?

Download my Housetraining Chart and chart your puppy's progress. When he goes potty, in the crate, out of the crate, etc. Keep track of his schedule and you can start to tell if he is "crying wolf" or if he really has to go. 

Take him to one location, say, "Go potty" and stand there for 3-5 minutes, if he goes potty, he gets some freedom out of the crate, and if not, you should put him directly in the crate. Chart all the details. If you have to leave the house, you can put him in the long-term confinement area. 

But My Puppy Goes Potty Every Time!

I get this comment a lot. Some puppies would urinate if they are taken out 15 times a day! This is not necessarily bad (you are preventing accidents) but you do want to start gently pushing your little pup's bladder a bit. Look at the Housetraining Chart and notice the time in between breaks. Try and push it 5 minutes or so per day to see if you can start adding more time. Also keep in mind that puppies can usually hold it one hour longer per month of age. So, your puppy should be able to hold it 15 minutes longer per week. 

If there are accidents in the crate, learn from it and take your puppy out more frequently until he gets on track. 

Keep using the crate and look for other videos at Watch and Train. 

Happy Training!

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