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Crate Training (& Housebreaking)
For complete info on housebreaking see the housebreaking page.
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The purpose of a crate is to give a puppy a safe place of it's own, to teach it to be contained - without feeling imprisoned - when it needs to be contained (and it will need to be) and it can be a great help in housebreaking. At some time in its life your dog will need to be in a cage: When your puppy goes to the vet to be neutered or spayed and when it is at the groomer waiting to be groomed or picked up, when construction people are working in your house or you move to a new house are just a few examples of when puppies will need crates.

In the past I have attempted to train puppies to spend the night alone in crates and to litter box train them. Although this works with some it does not work with most of them. They need to have the litter box available to them at night and early in the morning and if they are all in separate crates that doesn't happen. Also, it is also unnatural for a young puppy to sleep alone in a crate. Puppies cuddle. It's a large part of what they do. From the time they are born puppies cuddle together (sometimes in a pile) and cuddle with their mom. As they get a little older (6 - 8 weeks) they will sleep sometimes in pairs but almost never alone.  I think that having a puppy sleep with you at night is far preferable to having him sleep in a crate. (Besides being good for the pup it feels good. I love sleeping with puppies!) If you elect not to do this it's OK but don't be surprised if you have a pup that spends the first couple of nights crying.  If you do have the pup sleep in a crate put it in your bedroom. Even better, put in on a night stand or other place that is level with your bed. If the pup can see you he will be more comforted than if he is alone in a room or on the floor of the room.

If you do have the pup sleep in your bed and are worried about him peeing on it - which he might - just put a folded towel under him.

Whether or not the pup spends the night in the crate he needs to be crate trained. If the puppy does sleep with you it does not mean he has to for his whole life. Once he is well crate-trained for periods during the day you can train him to sleep in the crate at night if you want to.

My dogs all use their crates during the day for a two hour "nap". Some days they get their beef ribs at that time. Sometimes they get a little bit of chicken or some other goodie and sometimes they get nothing. When I say "naptime" they all run to their crates. Until I began feeding them beef ribs (see the Nutrition page) they would stay quietly - for the most part - in their crates for a while but they never went voluntarily. After a few ribs they began looking forward to naptime. I was surprised to see that they do not seem at all deprived or disappointed on the days they get nothing. I can tell you that this is the best way to crate train pups because my dogs taught me that it is.

At night about half of my dogs sleep in crates and the other half sleep with me. We alternate who gets to sleep where but truth be told, it's not unusual for them all to sleep with me. 

What I Did and What You Need to Do

When the pups are six weeks old I give them a short nap in individual crates every day, usually with a beef rib. At the beginning I cut most of the meat off the rib so it won't be too much for their little systems. At seven weeks they get two naps a day in the crates. I alternate the times they get the beef rib. Sometimes morning, sometimes afternoon. I will sometimes give them Bully Stix because for many pups (but not all) these are a favorite chewy and I want them to have some other positive association with the crate in case you are adamantly opposed to giving them ribs.

What is supposed to happen (and usually does) is that by the time they get to your house they will be accustomed to spending some time in a crate and will not balk - as long as they aren't there too long. You can work up to longer periods of time but I do not like to see any pup or dog crated too much of the time.

I use a playpen or exercise pen for my pups at night. (See below) This works well because they have the litter box in the pen with them. (It  also means you don't have to get up in the middle of the night or at the crack of dawn.) If the pup will be spending much time alone during the day (while you're at work for example) you should have a place at least as big as the exercise pen below but not too big. (If it's too big they pup is less likely to use the litter box.)

Hopefully it won't be too long before your pup will be housebroken and well mannered to be given the run of the house while your gone.

 

 
 
 

Newer Style Play Pen. These can usually be found at Kids' Consignment Stores. WalMart sells them new for around $50.

Exercise Pen. There are many ex-pens. Most won't work for our little climbers. This one folds down pretty flat, is lightweight and almost escape proof. You can also get a top and a bottom for it.
Best price I've seen is at dog.com

This pen creates a square that is 4' long on each side.

This is the old fashioned playpen with the wider mesh. You can see why this doesn't work. Brighid was only 2 pounds when she took this little climb.

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Revised: 02/04/07.
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