3:53 am   
Using Crates to Help Train Your Canine Family Members


* Important principles
* Do not overuse the crate
* Uses for crates
* Crates can be used for mature dogs as well as puppies
* Choosing a crate
* Where to set up the crate
* How to make a crate a safe, comfortable and happy place
* Introducing your dog to a crate
* Teach your dog to "go to your crate" (or "room" or "place")
* When you depart...when you return home
* Whining, barking and howling in the crate
* If your dog continues to whine, bark or howl in the crate
* More tips for converting crate-hating
* More tips
* Using crates as housetraining aids
* Housetraining hints in conjunction with crate-training
* Accidents in the crate
* More words of wisdom
* Alternatives to using a crate
* Other resources

Many pups and even adult dogs benefit from crate training during the first weeks in their new home. If you properly train your new canine family member to use a crate, your dog will think of the crate as his safe place and will be happy to spend time there when necessary. It will take knowledge and patience on your part to help your dog adjust, but the benefits make the effort worthwhile.

The cost of a new crate can range from approximately $40 to $200. This investment pales in comparison to the cost of chewed up shoes and furnishings, not to mention the value of a having a safe haven for your canine family member.

Important principles:

* A crate is a management and training aid, not a substitute for teaching your dog acceptable behavior. It is also no substitute for teaching family members and visitors how to interact properly and safely with a dog.

* A crate is not a jail cell, not if you are using this tool correctly and humanely. Confinement need not be unpleasant. Keep in mind that we confine our babies and young children for their safety and security.

* Humane and responsible confinement is helpful in the process of guiding the development of good behavior and habits, and preventing the development of undesirable and risky behavior. That's why it's important to confine your new pup at times when you are not around to supervise him. Once undesirable habits form, they are hard to eliminate.

* The type and size of the crate should be geared to your individual dog. One crate does not fit all.

* The crate should be set up as a safe, comfortable sanctuary in an area of the home in which the sights, sounds and smells of family activity are present. A family room is appropriate. A dark and/or cold basement is not. Tight on space? Some folks place the crate, or kennel, beneath a kitchen, dining room or other table, creating a tidy sanctuary for the dog. And some folks have placed a tabletop on top of a crate to create more table space.

* If you're going to use a crate, introduce the dog to the crate on the first day the dog joins the household.

* Dogs like retreating to a cozy, secure den. In fact, puppies who are allowed to roam freely when alone tend to become anxious. That's why some get destructive; physical action such as chewing shoes and scratching up floors and walls gives the pup an outlet for her tense, anxious feelings.

* By using a crate, you can support the development of positive behaviors.

* However, crating is not a cure for separation anxiety. It can be part of a behavior modification program, but crating is not a stand-alone solution. In fact, for some dogs suffering from severe separation anxiety, many canine experts do not recommend use of the crate. If your dog suffers from true separation anxiety, gather information on this syndrome and be sure to consult a professional canine behaviorist. The longer you delay getting professional help, the worse the problem, and your dog's anxiety, will become.

* Keep the crate clean. If your pup messes in the crate, change the bedding immediately. You don't want her to being so accustomed to sitting in or near urine, fecal or other matter that she thinks that's part of everyday life. That's no way to teach a dog to "hold it".

* Never use the crate for punishment. You want your pup or dog to have only positive associations with the crate. You do not want your dog to associate fear and anxiety with the crate. You can use the crate as a time-out spot, but keep the crate encounters positive.

Do not overuse the crate:

* Do not commit the sin of over-use. Limit time in the crate to only 3 to 4 hours for puppies and 8 hours maximum for mature dogs. In fact, some canine experts advise that 6 hours is the longest that canines can reasonably endure in a crate each day. There is a limit to how long canines can control their bladders and bowels. And even though you should strive to make the crate a truly safe, comfortable, pleasant den, it still isolates the dog from the family and environmental stimuli. Without sufficient daily exposure to people and environmental stimuli, and without sufficient daily exercise, your dog will suffer mentally and physically, and this will have an adverse effect on temperament and behavior.

* You need to teach your dog how to behave properly in the house, and interact properly with people and other companion animals in the home. Your goal is to gradually reduce time the dog spends in the crate and increase the freedom of movement in the home. You do not have to give your dog total access, but the dog should be able to spend time in some parts of the home.

* The effects of excessive use of the crate include environmental deprivation, anxiety, hyper behavior (due to lack of exercise and limited movement) and socialization problems, since dogs truly need interaction with people and exposure to a variety of stimulation (people, places, other animals, experiences) to become a good, stable, well-mannered companion.

Uses for crates:

People use crates to:

* Aid in housetraining. Crating takes advantage of the canine instinct not to soil where one sleeps.

* Protect the pup or dog when strangers or multiple visitors come into the house.

* Provide a puppy-proofed, safe haven for young dogs when the people are out.

* Provide a secure, quiet environment for a dog recovering from an injury, medical treatment, surgery or any unusual or traumatic experience.

* Keep a newly adopted pup or dog from getting into trouble when you cannot supervise him. In a crate, the dog cannot chew on off-limits items or get ahold of something that can lead to injury or illness.

* Keeping your new pup or dog by your bed at night, close enough so that you know when she might have to be taken outside to relieve herself, but confined sufficiently so that she can't wander off to relieve herself in the house or get into trouble.

* Transport dogs safely in cars, planes and other vehicles.

* Create a home away from home when traveling and staying in hotels or with friends. Your hosts will probably feel more comfortable having your dog as a guest if you bring and use a crate, particularly for those times that you go out without your animal companion. In the crate, your dog will have considerably less opportunity to chew up your host's possessions...and wear out the welcome mat. (Be sure to push the crate far out of reach of bedspreads, chair cushions and anything else an anxious dog might try to pull into his crate.)

* Again, remember what a crate is not: it's not a pet sitter, it's not a long-term solution, and it's not a substitute for proper training and management of your dog.

Crates can be used for mature dogs as well as puppies:

Crates can be useful for housetraining and safeguarding a mature dog who has newly joined the household.

Even adult dogs can feel more secure in crates or a single room than with freedom to roam throughout a house. In the dog's view, it can be a relief to have a smaller domain to watch over in his person's absence.

Choosing a crate:

* Select a crate that is large enough for your dog to turn around and stretch out comfortably. If you have bought a larger crate because your puppy will grow larger, use a divider to confine him to one portion of the crate until housebroken.

* Crates come many styles. Plastic crates, such as those designed for airplane use, limit visibility -- which can be a positive or a negative, depending on the dog. For most dogs, wire crates are recommended. Be aware that the wire used comes in different gauges and quality; some dogs who try to escape crates require heavy duty wire. However, by properly introducing a dog to a crate, and allowing him to acclimate to this den environment, you can help ward off the development of crate anxiety.

Some metal wire crates are collapsible, which can be especially convenient if you travel with your dog. The sizes vary from pup- and toy breed size to super-size.

* Crates can be purchased in pet supply stores, by mail order and over the internet.

Where to set up the crate:

* Keep the crate in a highly accessible room, and leave the crate door open, so that the dog can enter and exit the crate when he wishes. Many people leave their crates set up even after they are done housetraining the dog so that the dog has a "room of his own" at all times.

* Keep the crate in a in a room in which family activity takes place. Not only is this a good idea for socialization reasons, but also, the dog will be more inclined to stay in, and stay quietly in, a room that you're frequently in. Dogs typically want to be near their people. Don't banish the dog to the basement. Place the crate in a spot in which the dog can observe family activity, but not in the path of traffic.

* Make sure the crate is not positioned near noisy spaces and that the dog will not be exposed to drafts, direct heat or cold airflow. Make sure the room is not hot or cold.

* Some people keep an additional crate in their bedroom in which the dog can sleep until they have taught the dog good house manners and can trust the dog to stay put in his own open bed. You can keep the crate door open unless you have a young pup prone to roaming or having accidents.

How to make a crate a safe, comfortable and happy place:

You want to make the crate a den that is attractive, comfortable and comforting for your dog.
Some items to place in the crate:

* A comfortable mat or bed or a couple of thick, comfy towels lining the entire bottom of the crate. Choose washable material.

* Toys. Safe, mentally stimulating toys include various types of Kong toys, which can also be stuffed with some foods and treats to occupy the dog when you're leaving the house. Chew toys are good unless your dog can bite off pieces, turning the toy or treat into a choke hazard. You can limit the crate toy to one or two, but consider rotating new toys into the mix to entertain and mentally stimulate your dog.

* Water. For most dogs, it is recommended to leave a bowl of water in the crate, particularly if the dog is spending more than an hour or two in the crate. You can use a bowl that rests in a metal holder that you can screw onto the wires of the crate. You can also attach a water dispenser to the crate and fill it with ice water.

* Some people remove collar and tags to prevent possible entanglement and strangulation. However, it may be enough to simply make sure the entire bottom of the crate is covered by good padding (and crate pan/liner) and to make sure the collar is not loose and thus prone to getting caught on things. Snug but loose enough to easily insert two to three of your fingers is a good rule of thumb for fitting collars.

Introducing your dog to a crate:

Too many people start by forcing the new pup or dog into the crate, locking the door and leaving. No wonder many dogs hate crates. Doing it right simply requires some patience, common sense, empathy -- and a good, positive attitude. Don't expect overnight success, since crate training can take a few days or even a few weeks. Factors include the dog's age, temperament and any previous experiences with being confined.

* First, introduce the dog to the crate on the first day the dog joins the household. You want to create the impression that the crate is where good things happen.

* Secure the crate door so that it can't swing open or closed, which could scare your dog and create negative associations with the crate.

* Sit by the crate and toss small treats near the crate. Once the dog begins approaching the crate, toss treats into the crate. At first, the pup or dog will probably respond cautiously, exiting the crate immediately after fetching the treat. Do not force the dog into the crate.

Eventually the pup will stay inside the crate for a longer time and anticipate receiving a treat. Some dogs respond as well or better to a favorite toy or ball instead of treats. Make sure to reward this behavior. Be aware that this step of the crate training process can take 15 minutes or a day or a even a few days, depending on the individual dog and any past experiences he has had with confinement.

* As your pup gets more comfortable inside the crate, close the crate door briefly. Then gradually increase the length of time you keep the crate door shut.

* Staying close by when you begin crate training is important because to help your dog acclimate to the crate, you need to give him verbal praise (such as 'good dog!') and a tasty edible tidbit as soon as he settles down and/or stops any whining or barking. Clicker training can also be used to facilitate crate training.

* Stay in the room at first, then eventually begin leaving for a few seconds, gradually increasing your time out of the room. Then leave the house. Over time, the dog will learn that the crate is a pleasant and safe place.

Working up gradually is important. Each time you crate your dog at the beginning, try carefully not to exceed the time your dog can quietly stay in the crate. This approach helps avoid setbacks.

* A crate training exercise: keep your dog in the crate for about ten minutes. Do not praise him immediately after release, or else you could unintentionally reinforce the idea that the crate is a bad place to be. After 30 minutes have passed, repeat the exercise. Help your dog extend his calm time in the crate to 30 minutes. Gradually extend the duration of time you are absent so that you can eventually leave the dog alone in the crate for several hours.

* A common mistake: crating the pup or dog only when you're away from the house. During the initial crate training period, be sure to place your dog in the crate for short periods (of varying duration) when you are at home. Make it a point to spend time in the room in which the crate is located during some of the times you randomly tell your dog to go into the crate. That way, you'll avoid creating the association of "crate equals my person deserting me."

* Teach your dog a new command: "Go to your crate." This is covered in detail in the next section.

* Eventually, practice with leaving your dog in the crate as you spend a few minutes engaged in activities in another room. Return and sit near the crate. Calmly praise him from time to time. Let him out of the crate, put him back in, let him out again. Gradually add minutes to these little exercises,working up to an hour, so that your dog learns that staying quietly in his crate is part of everyday life.

* Reminder: although you can leave the crate set up as a haven for the dog's use after the housetraining period ends, you should plan on crating as a temporary training measure. Your goal should be to wean your pup or dog from the crate so that he has some freedom to roam when you're away. There are some exceptions, such as in multi-dog households in which two of the dogs do not get along, or if you foster dogs as a volunteer. However, it is usually better to establish separate rooms in these cases so that your own dogs will eventually have some additional freedom of movement once they are housetrained.

* Particularly for puppies, establish a routine using the crate for nap times and whenever the puppy must be left alone for a few hours. Again, avoid overcrating. A young pup might not be able to stay calmly in a crate for more than two hours, since pups must urinate frequently. And mature dogs also can suffer socialization setbacks and be adversely affected by overcrating; six hours really is a long time to be confined in such close quarters.

* After releasing your dog from the crate, quietly put on her leash and take her outside for a walk, or to her potty spot in your yard, then praise her for eliminating and being a good dog.

* Many trainers suggest to start off on the right paw by making the crate "the place where all good things happen." From the start, feed the pup or newly adopted dog in the crate, feed her her treats and favorite toy or chew treat in the crate. See the next section for details about teaching dogs to feel comfortable eating in the crate. Make the crate super-comfortable. Praise the dog every time she enters the crate. These tricks will help the dog quickly learn that the crate is a great place.

Teach your dog to "go to your crate" (or "room" or "place"):

Teach your dog a new command: "Go to your crate." As with other commands, it's effective to start off with the dog's name to get her attention. (You should teach her that her name means, effectively, "pay attention"). You can use the word "room" or "place" instead of "crate", but whichever name you choose, be consistent so that your dog learns what you mean. To help lure your dog to, and then into, the crate, place small, tasty treats or a favorite toy by, and then inside of, the crate as you give the verbal command to "go into your crate". As soon as she approaches and enters the crate, reward your dog for listening with enthusiastic verbal praise in addition to the treat. You can also click with the clicker if you are clicker training, when she comes.

As you progress in this exercise, start closing the crate door. Stay near the crate and engage in an everyday activity such as reading the paper, making a to-do list, cleaning or preparing a meal. At first, or if the dog is anxious, keep your activity to something quiet such as reading.

Remember, you need to teach your dog this command before expecting her to know how to obey it. Too often, people assume their dogs somehow instinctively "know" what they are talking about, when in reality a dog depends on his person to teach him good and specific behaviors.

Turn learning into a game. At random times, place a treat in the crate and tell your dog "find the treat". If necessary, guide your dog to the crate; pretty soon, she will know to check out the crate during hide and seek games. Also at random times, you can leave a treat in the crate and let your dog simply find it on her own. These practices reinforce the idea that good things happen in the crate. A note of caution: randomly leaving treats in the new dog's crate may not be a good idea if you have more than one pet.

When you depart...when you return home:

* Another common mistake is to hurry the dog into the crate and then rush off to work. But doing this guarantees that your dog will associate the crate with "my favorite person disappears." Instead, tell your dog to go to her crate approximately 15 minutes before you leave for work. And make sure you have given your dog sufficient exercise and the opportunity to fully relieve herself before confining her in the crate.

* You can vary the pre-departure time in the crate from 10 to 20 minutes. Keep your departure routine very low key, and change it around a bit so that your dog does not get so tuned into the cues (such as, "I hear him picking up his keys; now he's going to disappear and leave me alone!").

* Keep all departures calm and low-key. You can quietly praise the dog, and even give her a treat, but refrain from emotional or dramatic goodbyes.

* Upon coming home, ignore your dog for a few minutes after you enter your home. Be sure not to reward anxious or hyper behavior, even with negative attention (which is still attention). Instead, wait 10 or so minutes, then, when your dog is settled down, praise her and open the crate door. Take her outside for a walk or to her potty spot.

* Remember to sometimes put your dog in the crate for short periods when you are home, so that she does not associate going in the crate only with you going out the door and leaving her alone.

Whining, barking and howling in the crate?

It is common for a pup or dog not accustomed to a crate to whine, bark or howl in an attempt to persuade his person to release him. A well-exercised dog who has been properly introduced to the properly sized and outfitted crate will typically give up after a half-dozen or so attempts to get your attention.

So, do not give in. Keep the dog in the crate or she will learn that she can convince you to release her by making noise. The only exception is if there is a chance that the dog does have to relieve herself. In that case, take her outside to her potty place right away. Then return her to her crate.

If your dog continues to whine, bark or howl in the crate:

Make sure you have introduced the dog properly to the crate. So many people fail to do this. It pays to start over, following the crate training tips in this tipsheet as well as the detailed guidance in the books and webpages listed at the end of this guide.

There are various approaches for responding to a dog who protests being crated:

* The most recommended, effective approach is to ignore the vocal protests.

* The exception: if there is a chance your pup or dog has to relieve himself. In that case, take him right outside, give him the chance to eliminate, praise for eliminating, and gently but firmly instruct him to reenter the crate. Make sure you limit the outing to strictly letting the dog do his business; don't let the pup persuade you to turn the outing into playtime.

Here is one way to see if a dog really has to eliminate. First, teach your dog a phrase or command that connotes with going to the bathroom, such as "potty". Then, for those times your dog expresses anxiety or restlessness in the crate that might be signs of needing to relieve himself, say the phrase ("potty?") and observe careful. If his response indicates that, yes, he might have to relieve himself, take him right outdoors and limit the outing to just pottying.

* If the whining continues after you've ignored him for several minutes, use the phrase he associates with going outside to eliminate. If he responds and becomes excited, take him outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time.

* Ignoring usually works, though not always immediately, since any type of acknowledgment of the dog -- talking, eye contact, touch -- is usually construed by the dog as attention. Usually, if the behavior is just ignored, instead of rewarded, it will stop...since dogs, like people, have a natural instinct to "do what works".

* The protest behavior may get worse before it gets better. But it will usually taper off and stop all together. That is simple behavior modification, notes trainer Cinimon Clark. If a behavior is not rewarded, it will not continue. There will be no reason for the dog to engage in the behavior if he gets nothing out of it.

* Another approach: you can employ clicker training techniques. When the dog is quiet, click and treat. When the dog is noisy, leave the room and shut the door. This is a positive reinforcement approach.

* Some folks have success using a squirt bottle, though many canine behavior experts recommend using such aversive approaches. When the dog is noisy in the crate, quietly squirt the dog without looking or saying anything. Then quietly shut the door and walk away. If using an aversive technique, you would respond the same way, such as by squirting, every time the dog made noise, since consistency is key to training.

* Another aversive approach: giving a correction in a loud and/or firm voice. Or knocking on the side of the crate in a manner that startles the pup, interrupting his barking. When using this approach, the goal is to have the dog associate his barking, whining behavior with the loud noise...so that he comes to realize that to avoid the loud noise, he should quiet down. Realize that a truly anxious or scared dog probably will not be able to make the association. Again, it is critical for you to properly, gradually and humanely introduce your dog to his crate, so that he learns that it is a place of security, not a place of anxiety and not a lonely, boring place devoid of environmental/mental stimulation.

* Cinimon's overriding philosophy is to find behaviors to praise, instead of focusing on the negative, scolding and/or aversives. If the anxious dog stays quiet for 60 seconds, realize this is an accomplishment. You can, without fanfare, release him from the crate and gently praise him. Then continue helping help increase his quiet times from there.

* Stay calm yourself. Do not scold the dog; that only makes your dog more anxious.

* Realize that if you respond by giving your dog attention and/or releasing him, even briefly, from the crate while he is engaging in barking, whining or other undesirable protest behavior, that you are rewarding that behavior. Do not, however, let this keep you from taking a dog out of the crate if he needs to go to the bathroom. And you can also quietly, gently praise the dog when he settles down, even for a minute...since it helps to reward baby steps toward better behavior.

* Also, make sure the dog has had enough water. Realize that when nervous, a dog can quickly get dehydrated. Do not deprive your dog of the water he needs.

* After the pup quiets down, keep him in the crate for about ten minutes. Do not praise him immediately after release, or else you could unintentionally reinforce the idea that the crate is a bad place to be. After some 30 minutes have passed, repeat the exercise. Help your dog extend his calm time in the crate to 30 minutes. Gradually extend the duration of time you are absent periods so that you can eventually leave the dog alone in the crate for several hours.

More tips for converting crate-hating dogs, from canine behaviorist Cinimon Clark:

* Never shove the dog into the crate. Yes, be firm and be a good leader, but shoving and pushing a scared or anxious dog will not help your cause. Instead....

* Feed the dog only in the crate. Create the association: all good things happen in the crate. Begin by placing the food bowl near the front door of the crate, gradually moving the bowl a little further back day by day as the dog gains confidence. Push the bowl back only as far as you can without the dog expressing anxiety. Keep the crate door open at this stage.

When the dog is comfortable eating in the crate, start shutting the crate door as he eats. Open the door when he finishes eating. Being careful not to advance too quickly, begin leaving the door shut a minute or so after he has eaten. Don't extend the confinement period too quickly or your dog will feel anxious, which is a setback in the training process.

* Take the dog's favorite plaything and give it to him only when he is inside the crate. Put it out of sight at other times, taking it out only when it's time to use the crate. Eventually, most dogs will come to regard the cue of the favorite toy and/or food treat as the cue to trot into the crate. Cinimon uses sterilized, non-splintering marrow bones for her dogs. Such bones can be stuffed with treats. You can do the same with hard rubber Kong toys; fill them with kibble or treats, smear the insides with peanut butter or cottage cheese, etc. to create an enjoyable, long-lasting preoccupation for your dog.

* "I also use 'Buggs Bunny' psychology." says Cinimon. "Do you remember when Buggs said, 'Oh no you're not!' and another character would say, 'Oh yes I am!'. It's basically reverse psychology. I'll make a game of the crate. I'll tell the dogs to 'get in there!' then tell them to 'get outta there!' Soon, they're running in and out, with big smiles on their faces. Use treats, it works wonders!"

* Put the dog in the crate for reasons other than when you have to leave. This will help the dog learn to enjoy or at least tolerate her crate. Says Cinimon: "I put my guys in for every kind of goodie they get, other than treats they receive while training." Choose goodies that appeal most to your individual dog. For some dogs, it's biscuits. For others, it's pieces of healthy veggies or a few spoonfuls of pumpkin mash. Have faith: your dog can learn to love the crate.

More tips:

* Gradually increase the dog's freedom as you teach the dog house manners and acclimate him to being alone.

* Be sure you have given your dog enough exercise and playtime before confining her in the crate. Ideally, she should be somewhat tuckered out and ready to take a nap. If you don't give your dog sufficient exercise, it is likely she will rebel against the confinement.

* Metal crate floor pans typically rattle -- which can, in turn, rattle your dog. The solution: slip a towel, eggshell mattress-type foam or a thick piece of cardboard beneath the floor pan.

* If the puppy chews up the bedding, remove it and any pieces so that the pup cannot choke.

* Don't store a leash inside the crate, or else the dog can get caught up in or choke on the leash.

* While you really do want to avoid forcing a dog into a crate, if you absolutely must put a dog in a crate against his will, and luring with fantastic treats fails, try to help the dog back in, backside first, instead of shoving in head first. If there's a chance the dog may try to bite you, it might be best to use a muzzle or gently bind his jaws during the process with a strip of cloth or leash. In any case, do not verbally cajole the dog, since it is best to stay calm and quiet. As you can see, it is so much better to take the time to teach a dog to accept going into a crate.

* Avoid use of plastic water bowls in a crate, since an anxious or chew-happy dog can chew off pieces of the bowl. Use metal bowls instead.

Using crates as housetraining aids:

* Crate training takes advantage of the natural canine instinct not to mess where one sleeps.

* This technique is good for housetraining puppies as well as retraining many more mature dogs.

* However, in either case, crating is a temporary measure, and not a substitute for teaching the dog and allowing the dog time to learn good behavior.

* And remember, pups can hold their urine only a couple of hours, and even mature dogs cannot be expected to hold their urine for hours on end. So it's unfair -- and cruel -- to leave a dog crated for too many hours. In addition, making a dog keeping a dog from relieving himself when necessary can lead to urinary infections and other health problems.

Housetraining hints in conjunction with crate-training:

You'll find more detailed, helpful guidance in the resources listed at the end of this tipsheet.

* Here's a snapshot description of the tethering approach: when you cannot supervise your new pup, keep her inside the crate. Whenever she is outside the crate, she is either being held by you or another responsible family member, or you put her leash on and keep the leash tethered to yourself or another responsible person. That way, you will always know when she is getting anxious, which typically is a sign that she has to eliminate.

* At the first sign of restlessness, take her outside to potty. That way, she will quickly learn that the place to potty is outside, not inside. If you can maintain this routine overnight, you will be able to housetrain your pup within just a few days!

In other words, a little upfront investment in super-close supervision will save you hours of housetraining time and drastically cut the number of accidents that any pup or dog has during the house/potty-training stage.

* Be sure to keep a schedule starting from the beginning of your relationship with a dog or puppy. Feed your puppy three times a day, gradually reducing to twice a day, at the same times each day. Instead of "free feeding," put the bowl down, encourage the pup to eat, and after 15 minutes or so, take up the bowl...even if the pup didn't finish the food. The pup will soon get the message to eat when her person offers the opportunity. More frequently, give her opportunities to drink. You can keep the water bowl down at all times, or provide it several times a day (don't forget...since pups and dogs need water just as humans do).

Particularly with puppies, you will need to take your dog outside within 15 minutes or so of eating and drinking.

Canines thrive on routine, so do your best to keep to the routine and your pup will naturally learn to trust and count on you.

* The first thing to do whenever you release your pup or dog from the crate is to take her outside to relieve herself.

* Stay outside with your pup in the yard, so that you will be able to take the opportunity to praise her verbally and with petting when she eliminates. Try to encourage use of the same potty spot at the beginning. These approaches will help the pup learn when and where to go...and that she can depend on you, her leader, to take her out before she feels the urgency to urinate or defecate. If your dog does not eliminate right away, realize that this is not unusual. Linger outside, or go for a walk, for 20 minutes.

* Some canine experts recommend limiting water access in the evening before bedtime, particularly for pups during the housetraining phase. You can give your pup a little bit of water before bedtime. A smart tip: give some ice chips instead. This will occupy and satisfy the pup. Before bedtime, be sure to take the pup or dog back outside for up to 20 minutes so that she can relieve herself and get a bit of exercise, which will help her more easily settle down to sleep through the night.

* A reminder: puppies typically cannot hold their bladder through the night any more than human babies can. Be prepared to take your pup outside in the middle of the night for a few nights. This has many advantages over just letting the puppy piddle in his crate or on her bedding. Not only will you have fewer accidents to clean up, but more importantly, your pup will become housetrained much faster. Really.

* Avoid feeding snacks between meals, and no table scraps. Use plain treats formulated for puppies. Do, however, reserve a number of little tidbit treats (plain, healthy bits of biscuits or pasta or kibble pieces) to use for supplementing verbal praise throughout the day whenever the pup engages in behavior that you want to reinforce.

Accidents in the crate:

Never scold or punish a dog of any age for having accidents in the crate, or elsewhere in the house. Calmly remove your dog from the room, then clean the crate with a cleaner formulated specifically for cleaning and removing odor from pet messes. Do not use ammonia, since ammonia smells similar to urine to pets, and your dog may feel compelled to mark over that smell.

If the dog starts having accidents in crate, here are possible reasons:

* You might be confining your dog too long. Address the excessive confinement periods: enlist a trusted acquaintance or pet sitter to take your dog outside during your workday.

* You are not giving the dog sufficient opportunity to relieve himself before crating him. See the guidance elsewhere in this tipsheet.

* The dog's diet does not provide adequate nutrition, or the diet is too fatty.

* The dog might have a bladder infection, a prostate condition, or parasites, requiring treatment from your vet.

* Past experiences might also be the problem. For example, some pet shop puppies become used to sitting and sleeping near their urine/fecal matter during their formative weeks. Puppy mill and pet shop pups typically are much harder to housebreak due to this reason. Female dogs formerly used for breeding in puppy mills are kept in tiny cages, and thus become used to being surrounded by waste. And some young as well as older dogs came from environments in which they were penned in or chained in restrictive spaces, and thus forced to remain in contact with their own waste. These dogs can be retrained; what they need most are caring new owners.

* The dog might suffer from true separation anxiety. The separation-anxious dog can suffer digestive upset and lose bladder and bowel control.

* As in any aspect of teaching and training your dog, keep and demonstrate a positive attitude.

More words of wisdom:

* Before you can attempt to modify a dog's behavior, advises canine behavior expert and author Sarah Wilson, make sure that you are not creating the problem. If you don't give the dog what he needs -- a proper diet, plenty of exercise and daily interaction -- or if you give him more of something than he can handle -- crate him for long hours, constantly excite him or frighten him frequently -- he will not be able to give you his best.

* Some dogs figure out how to push out the crate pans through the bottom of the crate. So check the latch that is intended to keep the pan in place; it's likely that you'll need to reinforce the closure. Putting a crate liner and bedding that covers the entire bottom of the crate will help too.

* Some folks cover their puppies' crates with a sheet or blanket, particularly at night, to help the pup relax and get needed sleep. However, keep watch, as some dogs will get anxious and pull the material into the crate.

* Don't let anyone tease or otherwise bother your dog when she is in the crate. Be aware that even seemingly docile children are capable of accidentally or purposely teasing dogs. Some children, and some adults, feel compelled to stick fingers through crate wires and doors. Therefore, you must take responsibility for teaching your children and other family members proper behavior around dogs. And you must keep visitors to your home from bothering your dog. Last but not least, never leave children alone with your dog, even if she is confined in a crate. Remember, your dog can't tell you want goes on when you're not looking...and some folks (young and old) can take advantage of that fact.

Alternatives to using a crate:

* You can establish a comfortable, puppy-proof room in a family-oriented part of your home. Ideally, this space should have a durable, easy to clean floor and minimal woodwork/trim that might look like something appealing to chew.

* You can also use pens and/or baby gates to create a space for your puppy that allows some more freedom of movement. You can set up a crate in this space, leaving the door open. Choose an area by the crate for water and food. Place newspaper in another area apart from this living/sleeping area. Use mesh/wire enclosures so that your pup can see beyond his "room" and observe family activity.

Other Resources

Crate training:


Books with good guidance on crate use:

Crate Training Your Dog by Pat Storer. Make crate training a simpler, better experience with this wise advice on choosing the right crate, step-by-step instructions for using crates, dealing with crate-related behavior problems, and how to keep a positive, loving attitude while being firm and consistent with your dog.

Way to Go! How to Housetrain a Dog of Any Age by Karen London and Patricia McConnell. A clear, concise and economical booklet to use with dogs of any age and breed.

I'll Be Home Soon! by Patricia McConnell. If you worry about leaving your dog home alone, here's step-by-step guidance to prevent and treat separation anxiety, a condition in which dogs panic at your departure and while you're away. Called a tremendous resource, this book can help you raise a dog with good house manners. It will take some work, but you can transform your dog's behavior.

Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog by Pat Miller. Learn how dogs think and learn ... keys to housetraining, basic training, preventing problems and managing your dog's behavior ... and how to use positive, fun techniques such as clicker training to make the behaviors you want more rewarding than the behaviors you don't want.

Adoptable Dog: Teaching Your Adopted Pet to Obey, Trust and Love You by John Ross and Barbara McKinney. Tips to help your pre-owned dog get along with children and older adults and other pets...retraining approaches to stop excessive barking, separation anxiety, housebreaking problems and fear biting.

Second-Hand Dog: How To Turn Yours Into A First Rate Pet by Carol Lea Benjamin. Great, straight-talk about the care, training, and rehabilitation of abandoned dogs, focusing on their special problems and needs. For adults as well younger readers.

Your Outta Control Adopted Dog by Eve Adamson. Clear, step-by-step instructions on how to deal with common problems that make living with your adopted dog a challenge, such as housetraining, separation anxiety, hyperactivity, shyness and fearful behaviors, aggression, barking, chewing and digging. Gives you the tools to turn your pet into a trusted friend.

MetroDog: The Essential Guide to Raising Your Dog in the City by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson. These dog experts have adapted proven dog-rearing techniques to city living. How to keep a puppy and neighbors happy while you're away from your apartment or condo...how to teach your dog good city manners and more.

Crate Training in General and with Puppies:


Robin's Dog Tips is a free feature providing tips and guidance on dog behavior, health, management, safety, humane treatment and other issues of interest to dog folks. For other Dog Tips, see the index at http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/dog_tips.html


Permission granted for use for nonprofit educational purposes only.

Last Updated: April 26, 2018 (LET) PawSupport