Dogtown Kennels
A righteous man provides for the needs of his animals. PROVERBS 12:10
El Paso, IL                309-232-9500



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Dogtown Kennels
Crate Training

   Using the crate method of housebreaking your puppy is probably the most effective and most humane method available. Most veterinarians and animal behaviorists endorse it. As a side benefit, the crate will also become your best method for preventing destructive behavior. In the wild, dogs are creatures that spend a lot of time in their dens. They enjoy the security of a small area of their own. The majority of dogs also have a natural instinct that keeps them from soiling their den area. This really makes crate training an easy way to housebreak puppies.

  First you should choose a crate only large enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around, and lie down. If the crate is too large, your puppy will soil one corner and rest comfortably in another corner, and you will not have a successful housebreaking. Most people buy a crate that is large enough for the adult dog that their puppy will grow into. For this reason you may have to block off the rear of the crate so it is the correct size for the puppy, which can be done simply by inserting a cardboard box of the right size in the back of the crate. Many puppies prefer the security and privacy of plastic airline crates. Wire crates have the advantage of being collapsible for travel, but you should drape a towel over the top to give the dog the illusion of privacy. The crate should be located in a quiet area. Avoid high traffic areas like kitchens, hallways and doorways. A good place is in your bedroom, where your puppy can have the security of your presence at night. During the day you might want to move it into the living room.

  Although most puppies accept the crate easily, there are some that have to be convinced that this is a good place to be. The quickest way to teach this is with treats. Begin by placing treats in the crate for your puppy to find, and soon your puppy will go into the crate on his own in search of treats. The next step is to lure your puppy into the crate with a treat, giving a command. I use "Night-Night time", while other people use "kennel up." There are several different commands that you can use, but make sure that you continually use the same command every time. All we have to say is "It is Night-Night time" and they all go to their kennels for bed time. Also try to keep their bedtime the same time every evening. Our dogs go to bed between 9 and 9:30 pm. There has been times that we have ran late and they are already in their beds.

  Especially at night, it is important not to return to a whining puppy to "offer comfort." If you do, you will end up with a puppy that whines and cries whenever it wants you near. Instead, return to your puppy when it is quiet, and the next time return before the whining starts. In addition, try not to make returning to your puppy too exciting, or you will exaggerate your absence and possibly contribute to separation anxiety in your dog. Just quietly greet him with something like "Hi puppy." Then open the kennel door and quietly walk away. The most important thing to remember is the crate must be a safe haven for your puppy. Never punish in the crate or use the crate for punishment. Eventually, if you leave the crate door open the puppy will start to voluntarily use it for naps or quiet time.

  If the puppy is comfortable with the crate, housebreaking is fairly straightforward. Feeding must be on a strict schedule. If you feed him/her at the same time each day your puppy will soon eliminate on a fairly reliable schedule. This will allow you to anticipate when he/she will need to go outside and eliminate. Young puppies and untrained dogs need to go outside after napping or being crated for a while, since increased activity often can trigger elimination. This means that the first thing in the morning when you take him/her out of the crate he/she needs the chance to eliminate. After a long night, puppies often can't even make it to the door before they have to go, so you may have to carry him/her to the door for a week or so. Sometimes just actively playing, eating or drinking large amounts of water, can also trigger elimination in a puppy.

  Your puppy should be taken out on a leash to the same designated spot each time. Choose this spot carefully. This is not walk time or play time, stand in approximately the same spot and wait for your puppy to eliminate. If he/she does, praise enthusiastically. Don't immediately rush back into the house with them, or he will learn to hold on and not eliminate so that he/she can get more time outdoors. Instead walk a few minutes or give him/her a minute or two of playtime. Don't fully clean up the spot, but leave a trace of urine or feces to provide a scent that will remind the pup what he/she is supposed to do there.

  You may find it useful to crate your puppy whenever you can't be available to supervise it and to prevent accidents. When you are able to supervise your puppy take it out on schedule, you should be able to prevent accidents by keeping an eye on them. Housebreaking is for the most part owner training, where you learn your puppies schedule to avoid accidents. However, the more successful, praised elimination outside, the quicker your puppy will become housebroken.

  There may be an occasional "accident" in the house with puppies. If there is one don't hit him, yell at him or rub his nose in it. The puppy won't make the connection between your punishment and his earlier behavior. This means the puppy may learn to be afraid of you, or the simple situation where you approach him. Simply clean up the mess and then use a commercial odor eliminator (like Natures Miracle or other enzyme containing products) or simply clean the area with white vinegar. Don't use products containing ammonia, since that smells enough like urine that it actually attracts the puppy to eliminate in that place again.

  If you actually catch your puppy in the act of eliminating inside the house, interrupt him and take him outside to the proper place (without harsh words or punishment). One way of interrupting the puppy is to clap your hands or make sure to use a very firm voice to get their attention, what this will do, is the puppy will stop, because of the noise that was made or your voice. If he eliminates outside, praise him. Remember to be patient, some puppies take longer than others to housebreak. If your dog is slow at housebreaking, check with your vet since dogs that are ill or suffering from parasites often have elimination problems. If you are consistent, watchful and use the crate, the puppy will usually be housebroken in a couple of weeks. An occasional "accident" will usually be your fault, for leaving the pup to long, or not keeping to the routine. If so, just take a breath, clean it up, and remember that this phase of life will quickly pass.