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Wednesday
Jan192011

The Benefits of Using a Crate During House Breaking

The Crate:  The crate is by far the best tool for housebreaking there is.   The crate works so well because the dog understands that if he has an accident, he will have to sit in it.  Because of this, the crate taps into the dog’s natural desire to be clean and not soil his den.  Through this desire, the dog learns muscle control and leans to “hold it.”

There is still quite a bit of negative feeling surrounding the use of a dog crate.  People view these training tools as undesirable because they are reminded of a “cage.”  The crate, when used properly is a lot more like a den than a prison.  We often use an analogy with clients who are also parents.  When a toddler can’t be supervised, where do they go? Playpen.  How is a playpen ok for your child, but a crate is cruel for your dog?  The playpen and the crate essentially serve the same purpose, to keep the kid or dog out of trouble and safe when your attention is elsewhere. 

People also have a hard time with the idea of crating because they think their dog “hates the crate.” This idea has two sources. 

A brand new puppy WILL cry in the crate the first few days.  He is crying because he missed the companionship of his siblings, NOT because he hates the crate.  The problem is that well-meaning new puppy owners give in to the attention seeking crying and let the dog out.  This becomes a vicious cycle of: Crate- cry- release- attention.  Do yourself a huge favor from the start.  When you get your puppy home, use your crate and ignore the crying.  Your puppy will stop in 24 – 48 hours as long as you completely ignore the crying.  You will be happier in the future if you just suck it up for two days.  If you have neighbors that may be bothered by the new puppy’s crying, tell them that you are getting a dog, apologize and explain  the disruption will be temporary and bring the puppy home on a Friday.  By Monday, he’ll have stopped.

The second reason owners may think their dog hates the crate is: If the dog wasn’t properly socialized to the crate or the crate was used in an abusive way, the dog may indeed hate the crate.  This does not mean that the dog cannot be resocialized to call the crate home and be very happy about it. 

Tips for using your crate to housebreak your dog:

-          Know your dog’s developments level.  A large breed dog can hold their bladder in a crate for as many hours as they are in age (months).  For example an 8 week (2 month) old golden puppy can be expected to hold his bladder for approximately 2 waking hours. (Overnight doesn’t count.  They can hold much longer when they are asleep).  If they are out of the crate, they may urinate more frequently.  This formula is the upper limit of what is physically possible when the dog is motivated to hold it, as when they are in a crate. The formula doesn’t quiet hold for a small breed dog.  They have to go more often.  An 8 week old yorkie may need to go out every 90 minutes. As the small breed dog gets older, he will eventually be able to hold all day like a big dog, it just may take longer to achieve that level of muscle control. 

-          Get a crate that is an appropriate size.  The dog should be able to lay down, stand up and turn around comfortably.  If there is too much room, he will pee in one corner and sleep in another.  Why hold it if you don’t have to and still stay clean?

-          We highly recommend plastic airline style crates. They are a lot cozier as they are enclosed on three sides. They are easier to clean if your dog does have an occasional accident.  They are quieter (metal crates make a lot of noise when the dog moves which can be annoying to both you and your dog).  You will have to replace the crate as your dog grows, but its well worth the added expense.  If you are looking to save a few bucks in this area, try resale sights like craigslist or ebay.  People sell used crates all the time.  Just bleach and rinse well before use. 

-          Do not put blankets, towels, plush toys or bedding in the crate.  For one, the dog may chew these things and cause medical problems, but they often urinate on these absorbent materials, which will undermine your housebreaking efforts. 

-          Feed your dog in the crate.  This will further strengthen your dog’s desire to keep his den clean. 

-          Every time your dog comes out of the crate, bring him outside (or bring him to wee wee pad, litter box, potty spot etc.).  Even if the dog has been in the crate for a short time, the first stop should be to go to the bathroom. 

-          When your dog is not in his crate, he must be supervised.  Supervision means literally WATCHING your dog.  If your dog walks behind the couch, get up and follow him.  If you are on the phone, watching TV, working on the computer, making dinner… or otherwise not WATCHING the dog, he should be in his crate. If you find it difficult to keep track of the puppy because he’s always walking away, put him on a leash.  This will help you keep tabs on your puppy’s whereabouts.   

-          If you are watching your puppy the way you need to be you should be able to tell that he has to go to the bathroom.  Sniffing a lot with nose to the ground, walking in circles, and acting agitated are all signs that your dog needs to go to the bathroom.  You should drop everything immediately and bring your puppy to his potty spot. 

-          If your dog starts to go in the house, immediately pick him up and bring him to his potty spot.  After the interruption, your puppy often won’t finish right away.  Put him in his crate for a few minutes and then take him out. After he goes to the bathroom he can have some supervised time back in the house.

-          If you find an accident on the floor that you did not witness, clean it up and make sure you do a better job watching the dog in the future.  Do not yell at the puppy, stick his nose in the mess or hit him with anything. This only teaches your dog to be afraid of you and does nothing for your housebreaking.

Hope this helps a bit please visit often for more tips and fun dog stories.

Dr. Mary Travers-Smith

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Reader Comments (2)

my husband gave me a blue nose pitpup 4 chritmass & i have an7 year old yorkie ,they'r somewhat ok together.now sinde he saw that the yorkie sleeps in the bed so does he.his name is tyson anyway the cage was purcased i have tried to keep tyson in the cage but i can't handle the crying etc
...i take both dogs out in the yard tyson dose his duty & still goes in the house .the cage is in full vu of or bed and nearest to the back door.help

February 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermaria

should the cage be moved & sould i use a muzzle to keep im quiet while training?

February 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermaria

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