Crate Training - One Approach to Housebreaking, Part 2
Crate Training the 8 to 12 week old puppy
     Young puppies have very small bladders and can not control them very well. They have to eliminate much more often than older puppies or adult dogs. To have a successful crate training program, follow the guidelines below.
     Place a cardboard box or some other material in the crate to allow the puppy only enough room to lie down and turn around. A blanket or old towel can be placed in the remainder of the crate as the puppy’s bed. Leave the crate door open so your puppy has access to his bed (crate) and a small area right outside the crate door allowing for a “bathroom spot” outside of his crate. You may line his “bathroom area” with newspapers for easy clean up. The papers are there for easy clean up but not to deliberately teach the puppy to go on them. Paper training your puppy is not recommended. Make sure the barricade is sturdy enough to prevent the puppy from climbing out and relieving himself in an inappropriate spot. This “bathroom spot” should not be a large area, usually two feet square is plenty of room.
     As the puppy approaches three months of age he can be expected to “hold it” longer. A four month old puppy can usually spend an entire night without having to relieve himself, as long as he did his business right before going to bed and he has not had any water at least two hours before bedtime. At three months you can begin shutting the door of his crate and leaving him for four or five hours at a time, BUT make sure your puppy has relieved himself first, had a good exercise session, and has a pleasing chew toy in his crate when you leave. Most puppies that have had access to their crates from beginning have no complaints. The first time they are shut in, they may cry a little, but ignore them and soon they will give up and go to sleep.
     DO NOT LET YOUR PUPPY OUT WHEN HE IS CRYING RIGFHT AFTER YOU HAVE SHUT THE DOOR ( the exception to this is if you have forgotten to take him out to do his business first before locking him in). If you let your puppy out while he is crying, you will have taught him that crying gets his way (emotional blackmail!). Always wait until your puppy is quiet before you let him out of his crate.
    The only other exception to this is when you first get up in the morning and your puppy is probably “loaded” and needs to go out immediately. Take him out right away. Also if you have been gone during the day for any length of time,. You want to take your young puppy out immediately upon your arrival home. As your puppy physically matures and gains bladder and bowel control, you can expect him to “hold it” longer. A rough gauge of how long your puppy can hold it during the day is how ever many months your puppy is in age, is equal to how many hours he can hold it safely in the daytime. So if your puppy is four months old, he can probably hold it safely for four hours at a stretch during the daytime and so on.
     Your puppy’s crate should only contain an old towel, a special chew item such as a stuffed Kong toy or stuffed sterilized beef bone. Do not leave food or water in the crate with your puppy. You can teach your puppy to enter his crate upon command. Read the section on crate training the adult dog to find out how.
Crate Training the 5 month old puppy and adult dogs
     Although crate training the older puppy or adult dog is not as easy as a young puppy, it can still be done with less hassle than would be expected. Most dogs resent being confined at first, but soon learn to love and enjoy the security their crate provides.
     Patience, persistence, some small yummy treats your dog enjoys, a squirt bottle and a good set of ear plugs are the only requirements to begin crate training. The first step is to let your dog investigate the crate with the door securely tied open. Throw his favorite toy or one of his treats just inside the lip of the crate and watch what happens. As soon as your dog goes in after the treat or toy, praise enthusiastically with a happy tone of voice (do not try to shut the door at this point). Keep tossing the treats or toy into the crate so your dog has to go further in each time. Remember to praise as your dog goes IN the crate. Ignore him once he steps out of the crate. Keep this up until your dog quickly and easily goes into the crate whenever you toss his toy or treat into the very back of the crate. Next try putting his food dish in the crate so if he wants to eat he has to go in. DO NOT TRY TO CLOSE THE DOOR JUST YET. At this point you are still trying to build confidence in your dog that this indoor doghouse is his and will not “eat” him. This procedure may take a few minutes to a week or more.
     The next step is to actually shut him in the crate. Do not shut your dog in the crate until he is easily going in and out of the crate without any hesitation or fear. Give his command such as “ZONE OUT”, and as soon as he goes in, give him a special chew toy (like a stuffed Kong, Tuffy or a rawhide bone) or feed him his meal and quietly shut the door. Be ready for the verbal onslaught! Stay in the same room for a few minutes and then when your dog is quiet, open the crate door and let him out.
     If your dog is being very vocal, quickly rap on the top of the crate while you give the command “QUIET”. Wait until he is quiet for a minute or two, THEN let him out while he is still quiet. If rapping is not working, try a water-filled squirt bottle set on straight stream. Aim it right at his nose and squirt him several times as you give the command “QUIET”. Again wait for several minutes of silence BEFORE YOU LET HIM OUT. This is where the persistence and perseverance part comes in
    The more consistent, firm and unyielding to his complaints you are, the faster your dog will crate train. If at any time he refuses to enter his crate, just gently push him in and once he is in there, give him a treat and shut the door. If you have a large dog, put his leash on, thread the leash through the back or far side of his crate and gently guide his front end in as you push the rear in. YOU MUST LET HIM KNOW THAT HE HAS NO OTHER CHOICE. Don’t yell or threaten him, just quietly put him in his crate. Once he is there, praise him enthusiastically, shut the door and the give him his treat through the door.
     Practice the above five or six times a day, each time increasing the time our dog has to spend in his crate by five minutes each time you try it. Try moving into a different room when he is in his crate. Be ready to stop the verbal insults when you do this. By the time you reach up to twenty minutes, your dog can safely be let in his crate for several hours at a stretch. Leave him for an hour or two inside his crate while you watch TV or clean the house. Let him feel secure that he will not be left in there forever, that he will be let out eventually and that you are not going to go away and forget about him forever. Just make sure he has been exercised, has eliminated first and gets his special chew toy when he goes in his crate for longer periods.
What are some of the other advantages to having a crate trained dog?
     Well, a dog that feels secure in his crate is much easier to take on long road trips than a dog that is left to jump excitedly around the inside of the car. Your dog does not get hit by falling camping gear and is much safer should an accident occur.
     Hotels or motels are much more willing to allow dogs to stay if you bring your dog’s crate, plus the maid isn’t likely to accidentally let your dog loose into the streets of a strange city should your dog be crated while you are out. Dogs being shipped by plane or train feel much more secure and can handle the stress of traveling much easier if they have their own crate to travel in.
Crate training sounds like a great idea, but should everyone crate train their dog?
     Not necessarily, but if you are considering crate training as a method of housebreaking, you should ask yourself these questions:
1. Do you find yourself constantly punishing your dog for the same misbehaviors?
2. Is your dog spending more and more time outside and less and less time with the family because of destructive or uncontrollable behavior?
3. Do you have children under the age of ten in your household? Is the once placid Rover now becoming snappish or too rough with your kids?
4. Are you declining dinner invitations and only scheduling errands when you know someone else will be home to make sure the dog doesn’t destroy the house while you are gone?
5. Does your dog think his name is “BAD DOG”?
     If you answered YES to any of these questions, then perhaps you should think more seriously about crate training. Even if you have none of these problems, crate training is a nice thing to do for your dog. Dogs love their crates. Plus you are preventing your dog from developing unwanted behaviors such as chewing and digging. So, give it a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Crate training is one approach to house breaking and the prevention of destructive behaviors.