Puppy potty training is, without a doubt, one of the most daunting tasks that comes with becoming a dog owner. It takes some puppies a while to understand where they can and can’t do their business. It can take some even longer to learn to ask when they need to visit their potty spot by barking or running to the door. In the first few weeks of puppy potty training, new pet parents will clean up more than a few accidents. Crate training your dog is an incredibly effective way to make potty training puppy easier, cleaner, and quicker—and it’s easier than you think. Follow these simple steps and your puppy will be crate trained and housetrained in no time.
THE BENEFITS OF CRATE TRAINING
Crates serve numerous purposes for puppies. First and foremost, a crate serves as your puppy’s “room” in your home. His crate can be a place to nap or enjoy some relaxing time away from the commotion of the rest of the home. Owners who invest in a crate should not be surprised to find their dogs in their crates at various times throughout the day. Your dog may even use his crate as a cozy place to sleep overnight.
Crates are also a convenient place to feed your dog, especially if you own more than one. Food is one of the biggest triggers for altercations among otherwise friendly pets in a multi-dog household. Keeping dogs separate during meal time eliminates this problem. Crates also keep mischievous puppies from getting into trouble. A crated dog can’t chew up your favorite pair of shoes, raid the trash can, or pee on the new carpet.
Dogs have a natural aversion to soiling the areas where they sleep. This makes the crate the perfect spot for puppies when their owners cannot watch them. It also makes the size of your puppy’s crate very important. If your puppy is in a crate that is too big, he could use the far end as a makeshift bathroom. Of course, you also don’t want the crate to be too small, either. Your pet should be able to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably within his kennel. To avoid having to buy a bigger crate as your puppy grows, simply buy the size your pet will need as an adult and block off one end of the crate with a cardboard box.
INTRODUCING THE CRATE
Ideally, your puppy’s crate should be set up before you bring him home. Keep the crate away from high-traffic areas, like the front door, but not too far from where the human family members spend their time. A corner of a kitchen or dining room often works best.
Line the crate with a soft blanket to make it more comfortable. When your pup has moved past his teething phase, you can invest in a comfortable crate liner. Finally, place a toy or treat inside the crate to help your puppy see it as a happy place.
Encourage your puppy to go inside the crate, but do not close the door just yet. As your pup becomes more comfortable in his crate, start closing the door for short periods, gradually lengthening the amount of time. If your puppy cries when you close the door, wait until the crying stops before you open it. It’s important not to give your puppy the impression that fussing and barking are the key to being let out of the crate.
Eventually, your puppy will tolerate being inside his crate for longer periods of time. Remember, though, that no dog should be stuck in his enclosure for too long. An eight-week-old puppy should spend no more than two hours at a time in a crate during the day. An adult dog can safely stay crated for about four hours between potty trips.
THE HOUSETRAINING PROCESS
Puppies generally need to potty about 20 minutes after they eat or drink, as soon as they wake up, and after each play session. Promptly take your puppy to his potty spot at these times. If your pet relieves himself, praise him enthusiastically. Phrases like “Good dog!” or “Good boy!” help encourage his good behavior with positive reinforcement. Saying “Good pee-pee!” as soon as your dog begins urinating, for example, helps the animal link the act with the word. This is how dogs eventually learn to potty on command.
If your puppy does not potty, place him in the crate when you go back inside. Wait about 20 more minutes and take your pup to his potty spot again. By now, he should feel the urge to go. If your puppy goes at the potty spot, you do not need to return your pet to the crate.
TRACK YOUR SUCCESSES—AND FAILURES
It can be helpful to keep a chart to track your puppy’s housetraining progress. Include the times your pet eats, when he potties in the proper location, and when he has accidents. Doing so will help you pinpoint the times where you may need to make some adjustments. For example, you might need to remove your puppy’s water bowl about an hour before bedtime each evening. Once your dog has become reliably housetrained, the crate should become a pleasant place for your pet to hang out when he wants to rest or spend some time alone.