Your kids have been begging you for a puppy for years – you finally cave and you are so excited to surprise them for Christmas! Everyone is so excited about their new family member and then the puppy decides your rug looks like the perfect place to relieve himself! Now what? Are you prepared with the proper tools to start house training your new fur baby? You will see a lot of information out there on the best ways to start potty training your puppy, but the very best way in our opinion is to learn how to properly crate train.
When properly taught, your puppy will learn that the crate acts as a place where your puppy will feel safe and secure and learn that they need to “hold it” until they go outside. Of course, this takes time! Puppies need to go at least once an hour as they are learning outside is the place where potty happens! Generally, dogs/puppies do not like to take care of their business in the same place they are sleep or relax so crate training helps the puppy understand he/she sleeps here and this isn’t a place to do their business.
Here are some helpful steps to take when crate training!
Step 1: Where to start? Well, first you’ll need a crate! There are many crates out there on the market ranging from metal/wire crates, plastic crates, and fabric crates as well. The most convenient type of crate is the metal wire crates as most of them are collapsible which makes it easy to move or store. These crates have a removable plastic pan at the bottom which makes them easy to clean in case there is an accident. A crate should not be too big, but large enough for your puppy to move around and stretch freely. You can also purchase a crate with a divider so that you may increase the size of the crate as your puppy grows.
Step 2: Just as you will be learning how to teach your new puppy how to walk on a leash, how to sit, and how to have manners, you will also need to teach them how and when to use their crate. Introducing your new puppy to the crate is a very important step for them. This is the time to show them this is a safe place. First, add their bed and maybe a blanket. Allow them to check out their space and be sure to give a treat when they show interest and go in. Letting them know they did a good thing by giving them a treat is a great reinforcement. You can even feed them in there too. This is a great way to let them build their confidence to go in and out.
Step 3: Practice crating your puppy while you are home, not just when you leave your house. You’ll want to teach your puppy a key phrase they recognize that will signal you want them to go into the crate. You can use a simple term like “crate” or “space” or “bed” for them to start to recognize what you are asking them to do. Use training treats when they go instead so they begin to recognize what you are asking of them and giving them praise when they go inside the crate. Crate training through the night will come with it’s growing pains. You may have some crying when it comes time to sleep through the night. This is normal and once your puppy learns this is where he will sleep, he should stop. Be sure to take your puppy out to go potty right before he goes into his crate at night. Your puppy may wake up crying in the middle of the night, this usually means they need to go outside. Quietly bring them out and allow them to do their business and return them to the crate.
Step 4: It’s time to leave the house and see how your puppy does in the crate. Keep in mind puppies are just like babies and they cannot hold their bladder like an adult dog can. Be sure not to leave them in there for more than a couple of hours at a time. As your puppy gets older, you can start leaving them for longer periods of time. With a lot of positive reinforcement, your puppy will grow to love their crate and look at it as a safe place for them!
Remember crates are supposed to be a safe and happy place for your dogs. Never use your crate as a punishment and never leave your dog in their crate for long period of time. Be sure you are taking them on lots of walks and frequent potty breaks outside until they learn that the outside is where they need to go to do their business. Remember to praise them and make a big deal out of them going potty outside! Happy training!