Placing a puppy in a crate may sound restrictive and unkind, but when used positively, it can be effective for house training. By nature, dogs don’t like to potty in the same place that they sleep or eat.
Now you know why the newspaper you put in the kitchen next to the dog bowls isn’t as appealing for a potty as your living room carpet. Crate training only gets the desired response if done when you’re at home and supervising the time limits.
Confining a puppy in a crate while you’re at work all day defeats the purpose. Unable to hold the urine, the puppy will potty in the crate and lose that natural instinct to separate the potty place from sleeping and eating spots.
By keeping the puppy in the crate for limited time, when you release him, he’ll be ready and willing to potty where you say to go. That’s when you want to be ready to take the puppy outside or bring him to the location where you have potty paper.
If the puppy soils inside the crate, make sure you clean it up before returning the puppy to the crate. Otherwise, you will set back your housetraining efforts. You have to be consistent in the times that you take the puppy out for a potty break.
With a puppy, don’t go longer than an hour and half to two hours at the most so you can reinforce that going to the potty happens in a certain location, not just anywhere. If the dog quickly does his business, reward him enthusiastically with praise.
You may add a food treat – however, it’s a good idea to offer different reinforcements for specific activities. Doggy cookies are great, but your affection and approval is by far the reward that your dog wants the most.
Unless you have a fenced yard, you can also use these frequent potty breaks to reinforce walking on the leash. Don’t roam aimlessly during potty breaks. Give the dog five minutes to do the job, and then go back inside.
That will teach the dog that casual walks are just for fun, but potty walks are short and purposeful. You’ll be glad you taught that lesson when the dog wakes you up at 3 o’clock in the morning in a desperate need to potty when the outside temperature is freezing.
To help you monitor the crate training, keep a log of times your dog spends in the crate and how often you take the dog out. In the beginning, you may need to take the dog out every 45 minutes to an hour for short breaks.
When you find that this is working, extend the time by 15-20 minutes each period. In a few weeks, you’ll learn the times of day the dog most commonly needs to potty and how long he can wait between breaks.
Don’t punish him for having accidents. Simply revise the training schedule to shorten the time between potty breaks. If your dog fails to potty after several breaks, be smart and restrict his access to a kitchen or bathroom.
You don’t want a dog with a full bladder to start active play or get excited. Those distractions often result in accidents. After a successful potty break, you can give full run of the house as an additional reward. This will train the dog to see that after potty, he gets to have fun with the family, which is another reward.