Professional dog trainers hear it all the time. Owners don’t want to use a crate because they believe it is cruel to the dog to keep them locked up. Unfortunately, it is the dog who ends up suffering in the end with behavioral problems that are completely preventable from an early age, such as poor potty habits, with the proper use of a crate. Misinformation about the crate, it’s purpose and how to implement it into housebreaking a puppy, or even an adult dog is far more abundant than the correct usage of this valuable tool. If you can use a crate correctly, your puppy’s training will go faster and you will gain a more reliable and trustworthy dog who won’t potty in the house!
What does a crate do?
A crate is nothing more than a tool. How it is used is completely up to the owner of the dog or puppy. It is sad that so many owners believe that crating a dog is cruel and inhumane, when in fact leaving an untrained to his own vices causes stress, leading to undesired behaviors. Dogs, unlike humans, do not understand nor want to be left guessing as to what it is their humans want from them. While humans use words such as freedom, a dog would rather be taught what to do and when to do it to please the human. After all, that is what makes dogs so amazing to begin with, their strong will to please us as companions and canine workers!
A crate, as a stand alone object is neither negative nor positive. How it is used and the associations made with it is what will make a dog love his crate or fear it. If you ever put a puppy or dog into a crate because he did something wrong, and you mix it in with your anger, frustration, yelling at him or otherwise punishing him he will see the crate as a scary place. This will cause just as much if not more stress than not using one at all. Instead, the crate should be a place in which only good things happen. Make it comfortable with a bed or blanket and a special toy or chew that your pet only gets while inside his crate. Feed him his meals in the crate and play training games, tossing a treat into it and letting him fetch it so that he will associate this tool with positive emotions.
Crating for Housebreaking
Using a crate during training your dog to not potty in the house is far easier than it may seem. Please don’t lock your dog up in a crate for very long at all. Instead, think of it as an option to use whenever you cannot give your dog 100% of your attention during the day. If you need to divert your attention away from him, such as during household chores, your own meal times, or running a quick errand your puppy should feel safe and comfortable in his crate alone with a safe toy. The crate, in this use, is a preventative measure. If your puppy is relaxing in his crate, how can he develop a habit of going potty on your rug? He can’t!
Remember, though, that using the crate is only useful if you provide the opportunity for your dog or puppy to relieve himself multiples times. This means at least every hour, up to 20 minutes after eating or drinking, directly after playing and training, and first thing in the morning and last thing at night before bed time. If at any point he does not potty when you take him to his designated spot, calmly return him to his crate for about 5 minutes, and give him another chance. He will do his business eventually! When he does, reward him with a very brief play session so that he will understand that he did the right thing!
A consistent schedule for potty breaks and meals as well as using the crate to prevent accidents will not only quickly train your dog to make the choice of going potty in the right place, but will also dramatically reduce any accidents you must clean up. Imagine the reduction of stress levels when you have no smelly messes to clean on a daily basis! This gives you more time to bond with and love your puppy and less time stressing over stains on the carpet.