ALL CREATURES ANIMAL CLINIC, LTD.
Mark Hale, DVM
WHAT IS CRATE TRAINING?
HOW CAN IT HELP HOUSEBREAK MY PUPPY?
Forget everything you have ever learned about housebreaking a puppy by using a rolled up newspaper, hitting your puppy, showing him his mess then rubbing his nose in it, etc.
Ask yourself "why did my pup potty in the house?" Well, why not? Your puppy has absolutely no clue that the living room carpet is a "no-no" and outside in the grass is "good." This is something you have to teach him. And don't expect him to get it for a while!
The first thing you should do is schedule his meals at the same time every day. Don't let him "free-feed" all day long. This will allow you to know what time he will need to defecate (it should be about the same time every day.) Next, realize that your puppy will need to urinate at least every two hours. This means that you need to accompany him outside at least every two hours before he eliminates in the house. Don't push your puppy out of the door and expect him to know what to do. Go with him. It will also be helpful if you take him to the same area every time. Remember that this is "potty time" and not "play time."
While outside for this "potty time," let your pup know what is expected of him. When he eliminates outside, say "Rover, good potty," or some other phrase. Be consistent so he will learn what the command means. Praise him lavishly every time he eliminates outside or lets you know he needs to go out.
Now, here is where the crate comes into play. Your puppy should spend a lot of time in his crate. Anytime you cannot have 100% visual contact with your puppy, he should be in his crate. Think of your puppy as you would a toddler who just learned how to crawl. You wouldn't give a baby total roaming privileges of your home, no matter how childproof it is. Your pup should not be able to roam without supervision.
His crate acts like a natural den or doghouse where he can be placed for his own protection. Most dogs will become accustomed to their crates and go in even when the door is open.
The crate will aid in housebreaking. Most dogs will not defecate where they sleep, so as soon as you let him out of his den, immediately take him outside. If he does have an accident in his crate, clean it thoroughly with a pet-safe cleaner and wash any bedding that was dirtied. Never leave a messy crate. It will slow down your training.
If you catch your pup in the act of eliminating in the house, never give a harsh correction. Interrupt him with a mild scold, scoop him up and take him outside. Then ask yourself, "Why did he potty inside?" Were you not paying attention? Did you neglect to take him outside? Did you bring him in too soon last time? Remember, it is more than likely not the puppy's fault.
Be patient with your puppy. The average dog will take up to six months or longer to become fully house trained.
The crate should never be used to punish your dog.
A crate used correctly can be the most important and beneficial tool you can use in helping you to "civilize" a young pup. Your possessions will be safe from him and he will be safe from them.
You can enjoy peace of mind when you leave him unattended, housebreak him more quickly, safely confine him, give him a safe haven from children or other pets, travel safely, and know that he will be accepted almost anywhere because you can guarantee that he won't be destructive.