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Using a Crate for Potty Training
Many professionals use crates to housebreak a dog


People who think crates are bad for dogs don't understand the canine mind. Dogs like dens. Putting a puppy in a crate is no more cruel than putting a baby in a playpen, and it's for the same reason. You want to keep them from accidentally hurting themselves when you can't watch them.

This does not mean a puppy or dog should be crated hour after hour. Crates are a den and safe haven for a dog, not a place of punishment. They're also the fastest and best way to housebreak a puppy.

For housebreaking:

Why it works

  • Crates work because dogs instinctively do not want to soil their dens. That's why you don't pick one too large. You don't want your dog to have a back area he can pee in and still have a nice clean area to lie down in front.

What to buy

  • Select a crate large enough for your dog when he's fully grown to turn around 360-degrees and to lie down comfortably. Many crate brands come with a metal inside door that can adjusted and eventually removed so the crate can grow along with your puppy.
  • A crate with two doors will be easier to get your dog in and out and to clean up inside when needed.
  • Folding kind are nice for trips but some people may prefer wood type that look like pieces of furniture.
  • Use anything soft for the inside pad - old towels, old blanket, an old pillow with a waterproof cover - as long it can be machine washed. If you want to buy something a little nicer, click here.
  • Sheepskin and fleece look great but don't wash well especially if your puppy has
    an accident either pooping or throwing up.
  • I also use a crate cover so only the front door is visible inside or out. That reinforces it as a den and gives my dog privacy and safety. Buy one ready made or use a throw or blanket that's large enough to cover three of the four sides.

Process

  • Get your puppy or dog used to the crate by feeing him a treat or his regular meal in it. Leave the crate door open and unlocked.
  • Once he's familiar with the crate, start locking the door for a minute or so at a time. After 4-5 days, he should be ready to be crated for real.
  • When it's potty time, take your puppy outside (or wherever you want him to potty) and let him do his business. When he does, praise him lavishly.
  • WARNING: Don't leave your dog's collar on, especially if it has tags on it, when you put him in the crate. It's rare but it does happen that a dog will catch his collar in the wire bars and choke. Better safe ...

How long

  • No puppy can stay in a crate all day without a potty break. The rule of thumb that many veterinarians use is one hour per month of age up to a 8-months. So a 3-month old puppy could stay in a crate up to 3-hours; a 5-month old could stay in a crate up to 5-hours.
  • This is just a rule of thumb. Many small puppies can't go longer than one hour until they're 4-months old. See how your puppy reacts.
  • No dog should be crated longer than 8-hours. That means 8-hours, not your work day plus commute time. Sometimes people tell me they leave their dog in a crate while they're at work and forget that the real time is about 10-hours.
  • If you work, you or someone else should let your dog out for a walk/potty break at lunch time. I personally consider 5-hours the maximum time a dog should be crated without a break. Doggy day care would be better choice if you can't or won't have a mid-day dog walker.
  • Keeping a dog in a crate longer than 8-hours, according to my veterinarian, makes the dog at risk for a secondary urinary infection if the dog is 'holding' his urine.

Once housetrained, I leave the crate door open all the time. My dog goes in when she wants to get away from the rest of the family and sleep or just have some alone time.

Any puppy or dog can be housetrained with a humane schedule and a crate.

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