How does crate training work
Never punish your puppy if he messes in his crate (or anywhere else)! Young dogs can’t help themselves because they haven’t yet developed bladder or sphincter control, which can take up to 16 weeks. Remember, your puppy’s just learning about his new home at this point; crate training should only begin once he’s old enough to control himself.
Obviously, crate training isn’t meant to be used as an excuse to confine a puppy for long periods of time. In fact, it’s best to start with simple observation: Use a journal to keep track of what time of day your dog eliminates – a pattern should quickly emerge. Once you’ve got a clear idea of when he’ll usually want to be taken out, crate training works by placing him in the den (remember, he won’t want to eliminate there) shortly beforehand. At elimination time, you’ll leash him and bring him outside immediately. Of course, he’ll naturally be motivated to eliminate, and since you’ve helped him choose to do so in an appropriate area, you’ll lavish him with praise and treats. This method helps to quickly reinforce your dog’s natural desire not to mess in its own home, and creates motivation not to mess in yours. ‘Crating’ time varies with your dog’s age – here are some general guidelines:
- 9-11 weeks • 30-45 minute
- 12-15 weeks • 1-2 hours
- 16-17+ weeks • 3-4 hours
Most puppies are almost completely house trained by this point, but remember that accidents do happen! Never punish your puppy if one should occur. Remember not to choose a crate that’s too large, because your dog may eliminate in one section and “live” in another, negating your training efforts. Crating in this way is a natural, simple housebreaking solution that’s easy for you and enjoyable for your puppy.
Encouraging outdoor elimination
To help your dog understand what you’d like him to do, it’s best to bring him to the same area to eliminate, at least until he learns that “outside” is “OK”. He’ll recognize the smells, sights and sounds and start to behave habitually. One thing to remember is not to rush immediately indoors once he’s finished, because he may learn to put off doing his “business” in order to get more time outdoors! Who’s training who? As you learned earlier, young puppies aren’t able to fully control themselves. Sometimes they might not even make it to the door at elimination time – if accidents happen between crate and door, try carrying your puppy outside. Remember not to leave your dog crated longer than the recommended guidelines, and even less if he’s unable to physically control his bladder or bowels this long.