Puppy Crate Training Harder Than Expected?

Is the honeymoon period is over? If this is your reality you figured out that crate training a young puppy is a lot of hard work! I tell my clients to not get discouraged but to set the puppy up for success. First, and most important, use a crate. Crate training is the best way to contain your puppy safely. Crates are not bad-they contain your puppy so he or she doesn’t get into trouble-much like a baby’s car seat.  The crate becomes a place of security for the puppy. When introduced correctly, it becomes the puppy’s safe spot and his or her happy place.

Crate choice and treats

Choose a crate that is big enough for your puppy to lay down, stand up and turn around in. They do not need extra room as most puppies sleep 20 of the 24 hours in a day.  Each time the puppy goes into the crate, give him a treat, so the crate is associated with a good thing (treat.) Crate training means you are training him to love his crate. When you repeatedly do this, he will run to the crate to get the treat! Use very small treats like small pieces of cooked chicken or turkey, its fresh and puppies respond well.

Use the crate if you can’t watch your puppy!

If you can’t watch your puppy leave him in his crate! Each time your puppy goes outside to pee he learns this is the spot to pee. Every time your puppy pees in the house, he learns this is the spot to pee. Every behavior that is repeated is reinforced. You want to reinforce the behavior of urinating outside, not inside.  If you can’t watch him, leave him in his crate! Do not reprimand him when he pees inside the house. If you do, the puppy sees this as attention and the behavior becomes reinforced (and repeated.)

After your puppy does his business you have only 20 minutes of free time!

Take your puppy out of the crate and go directly outside to pee, this way the puppy learns “out of the crate” means  “go outside to pee.” If he does pee or poop, treat him immediately-don’t wait until you get back inside-because you must reinforce the immediate behavior. When you go back inside, your puppy has 20 minutes of free time. After  20 minutes it’s either constant watching him or back into his crate.

Control food and water consumption.

If you control what goes in, you control what comes out. Pick up the water and food and offer it at designated times. Every time your puppy drinks he needs to pee 10-20 minutes later, so pay attention. Leaving free choice water down all the time guarantees your puppy will drink and pee all the time. Offer water 4 times daily and never after 5-6 pm in the evening. Be sure to take him out before bedtime and place him in the crate before you go to bed. He should be able to hold it all night. Once your puppy is fully potty trained he can have free choice water. If your puppy is over 5 pounds it can eat 2x a day. I do not recommend free choice food, this typically leads to obesity and difficulty with house training.

If you reinforce a behavior it will be repeated.

Finally, I said this before but it is really important, whatever behavior is reinforced is repeated. If your puppy goes outside to pee and has no accidents inside the house, he will become less and less likely to have an accident in the house. Sometimes we reinforce behaviors like urinating inside because we are too lazy to watch for the signs that the puppy needs to go outside. Be proactive and set your puppy up for success, use a crate, be diligent about watching him when out of the crate and be sure to reinforce the behaviors you want.