Housebreaking and Crate Training

THE ADVANTAGES TO KENNEL TRAINING YOUR PUPPY
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There are many advantages to crate training your puppy. For instance, housebreaking is accomplished much faster with a minimum of hassle for you and your puppy. Generally a puppy does not want to mess in the area in which he sleeps and eats. If you follow the general guidelines of housebreaking, your puppy should be housebroken within a week or less, with a minimum of cleanups for you. If you are a working pet owner, the job of housebreaking your puppy is more difficult, but not impossible. It will take longer to accomplish housebreaking your pup because essentially you will have to wait until the puppy gets a little older and can hold his bladder and bowels for extended periods of time. However, the advantage to the kennel in this situation is the fact that all you have to clean up upon returning home is the kennel pan instead of the entire kitchen floor. Also, your furnishings, woodwork and belongings are still in one piece! The kennel provides a safe, secure area for your puppy, away from household hazards and prohibits the puppy from destroying woodwork, wallboard, furniture, etc. You can return home relaxed, knowing your puppy is safe and so are your possessions. The advantages of the kennel trained dog are many, as you will experience as time goes by.

When training a new puppy to “kennel”, you may want to line the bottom of the kennel pan with newspapers until he is housebroken. However, do provide a large towel or small blanket that you can place in one corner of the kennel for the puppy to use as a bedding area. If the puppy shreds the towel or blanket, remove it until he accepts the idea that chewing his bedding is unacceptable. To prevent boredom, provide the puppy with a chew rope or rawhide bone or other sturdy toy in his pen. This should help to prevent the chewing and shredding of his bedding.

If you are only gone for short periods of time there is no reason to leave food and water bowls in your puppy’s cage. If you will be gone more than 8 hours during the day you will need to keep water in the crate. Fasten the bowl to the side of the cage or use a non-spill bowl to prevent messes. It is best to not feed your puppy in its crate, as they usually have a bowel movement after eating. Meals should be fed only when you are home and can take your pup outside afterwards.

Find a location in your home where the kennel is out of the way yet not totally secluded from household activities. Never use the kennel as punishment. Do not banish the puppy to the kennel for improper behavior. The kennel should always be associated with happy, comfortable, secure feelings for the puppy. Once you put the puppy in the kennel, do not take him out if he starts to whine and cry. If you are sure that he doesn’t have to go outside, allow him to have his tantrum. Eventually, he will lie down and sleep. Once you start to take the puppy out of the kennel because of his insistence, he will insist louder and longer each time. As your puppy grows older, you will notice that the kennel becomes his private retreat, a place to sleep, relax or eat his meals in a place that he actually likes to be.

When purchasing a kennel for your puppy, determine the puppy’s height and weight when full grown, and then purchase the size kennel that will provide your dog with the most comfortable amount of space, yet not oversized. Kennels are available through catalogs, most pet stores, retail stores, and can sometimes be rented from your local humane society. Renting is a good option if your pup will have free run of the house once he is grown.

Puppy house training guide
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How long will it take to housetrain my puppy?

All it requires are a few basic rules to house-train puppies within a short amount of time, sometimes only a few days to a few weeks. This does not mean that the puppy will be able to be trusted to wander throughout the home without eliminating. What the puppy should quickly learn is where it should eliminate, and the consequences of eliminating indoors when the owner is supervising. However, anytime your puppy is unsupervised and eliminates indoors, this can further delay successful housetraining since the puppy will have learned that there are alternate indoor elimination areas that can be used without untoward consequence. The goal of housetraining is to encourage and reinforce desirable elimination. Do not focus on trying to teach your puppy where it is not allowed to eliminate, as there are literally hundreds of locations in your home where your puppy might have to be deterred.

What site should I choose?

It is advisable to select a site that has an easy access to a direct route to the outdoors. Puppies may more easily learn where to eliminate if a single location is used. Over time, the location, the substrate and the small amounts of residual odor help to establish a more regular habit of returning to the area. If you do not have immediate access to the outdoors (e.g. high rise living) or your schedule requires that you leave your pet longer than it can control itself, you can follow the same procedures outlined below, but will instead take your pet to its litter area, rather than to the outdoors. Paper training, discussed below, is another option. However, it may be more difficult to train your pet to eliminate at one site (e.g. indoor litter) and also expect it to eliminate in other sites (e.g. outdoors).

How do I housetrain my puppy?

Puppies have a strong urge to eliminate after sleeping, playing, feeding and drinking. Take your puppy to its selected elimination area within 30 minutes of each of these activities. In addition, although some puppies can control themselves through the entire night, most puppies need to eliminate every 3 to 4 hours during the daytime. With each passing month, you can expect your puppy to control itself a little longer between elimination times. The puppy should be taken to its elimination area, given a word or two of verbal encouragement (e.g. ‘Hurry up’) and as soon as elimination is completed, lavishly praised and patted. A few tasty food treats can also be given the first few times the puppy eliminates in the right spot, and then intermittently thereafter. This teaches the puppy the proper place to eliminate, and that elimination in that location is associated with rewards. Some puppies may learn to eliminate when they hear the cue words (‘Hurry up’).

If you take your puppy to the elimination site and your puppy is only interested in playing and investigating the environment, after about 10 minutes take the puppy indoors and strictly supervise until you can try again approximately each

half hour. Always accompany your puppy outdoors, so that you can be certain that it has eliminated. Be certain to reward elimination immediately upon completion and not when the puppy comes back indoors.

When indoors, your puppy must be supervised so that you can see when it needs to eliminate and immediately take it outdoors to its elimination area. One of the best techniques is to leave a remote lead attached. Should pre-elimination signs (circling, squatting, sneaking-off, heading to the door) occur, immediately take the dog to its elimination site, give the cue words, and reward the puppy when it eliminates. If the puppy begins to eliminate indoors you must be supervising so that you can immediately interrupt the behavior, such as with a verbal reprimand or shaker can. Then take the puppy outdoors to complete elimination at the proper site. Rather than use punishment to deter undesirable elimination, the goal is to train the puppy where to eliminate though supervision and rewards. Watch the puppy closely for signs it needs to eliminate and soon the puppy will learn to exhibit these signs to get your attention that it needs to go outdoors.

When you are not available to supervise, the puppy should be confined to its confinement area (see our handout on ‘Crate training’). Be certain that your puppy has eliminated, and has had sufficient play and exercise before any lengthy confinement. If the confinement area is small enough, such as a pen or crate, many puppies will have sufficient control to keep this area clean. This means that when you come to release the puppy from confinement, it must be taken directly to its elimination area. Puppies will generally avoid soiling their crate if they are used to their crates as a sleeping or play area. However, puppies that are anxious or distressed about being confined to the crate are likely to soil. In addition, if the area is too large the puppy may soil in a portion of the confinement area. If the puppy needs to be left for longer than it can control itself, it should be confined to a small room or pen where paper is spread over the floor for elimination except for a corner in with the puppy’s bed and feeding area. Once the puppy starts to limit its elimination to some selected areas of the paper, unused areas can be taken up. For owners that intend to continue to use paper for training, the puppy should be supervised when released from confinement, and returned to the paper (and reinforced) for elimination.

Why does my puppy refuse to eliminate in my presence, even when outdoors?

Puppies that are disciplined and punished for indoor elimination rather than reinforced for outdoor elimination may soon begin to fear to eliminate whenever you are present, regardless of the location. These puppies do not associate the punishment with indoor elimination; they associate the punishment with the presence of the owners. For some puppies, standing quietly off to the side may allow them time to eliminate. It is best if you can be close by, but each puppy is an individual and some may need more space than others before feeling comfortable enough to eliminate.

What do I do if I find some stool or urine in an inappropriate spot?

There is no point in punishing or even pointing out the problem to the puppy. Only if the puppy is in the act of elimination will it understand the consequences (rewards or punishment). In fact, it is not the puppy that has erred; it is the owner who has erred by not properly supervising. Put the puppy elsewhere, clean up the mess and vow to supervise the puppy more closely in the future.

How can I teach my puppy to signal that it needs to go out to eliminate?

By regularly taking the dog outdoors, through the same door, to the same site, and providing rewards for proper elimination, the puppy should soon learn to head for the door each time it has to eliminate. If you recognize the signs of impending elimination and praise the puppy whenever it heads for the doorway, the behavior can be further encouraged. Puppies that have been interrupted or reprimanded on one or more occasions as they begin to eliminate indoors, may begin to try to sneak away, whine or show some form of anxiety when they feel the urge to eliminate, but cannot escape from the owner’s sight. If you can pick up on these cues, and take the puppy directly to the outdoors for elimination and reward, the puppy may consistently begin to show these signals when he or she needs to eliminate, and may even begin to take you to the exit door. Further into the process, some puppies can be taught to ring a bell prior or bark to let you know it needs to go outside to eliminate. For either of these to be effective, you first must constantly supervise your puppy so you can see the signs of a full bladder or bowel (restlessness, agitation) and quickly take them to the exit location, ring the bell or get them to bark and go outside. Over time the puppy should learn that the signal would get the door open. However, do not rely on signaling until it reliably happens or the puppy will end up eliminating indoors instead.

When will I be able to trust my puppy to wander loose throughout the home?

Generally you will want your dog to have been error free around the house for about a month before you can begin to decrease your confinement and supervision. The first time you leave the puppy unsupervised should be just after taking the dog outdoors for elimination. Gradually increase the length of time that your dog is allowed to roam through the home without supervision while you are home. If the dog has been able to go unsupervised for a couple of hours without an “accident”, it might then be possible to begin going out for short periods of time. Of course, if the dog still investigates and chews, then confinement and supervision may still be necessary.