Housebreaking a Puppy or Dog Utilizing a
Crate and a Schedule
The proper use of a crate is essential in the developing of good behavior patterns. Using a crate will train a puppy or dog to keep out of trouble until your dog understands. Many of my clients and people I have talked to feel very comfortable using a crate, however, some think it is inhumane to use a one. In response to these feelings, I say “It is more inhumane to leave the dog loose in the house at night or while you’re gone, knowing the dog is going to get into trouble, then punishing the dog for doing the very same thing you expected him to do, than to just leave the dog in a crate until not only does he understand what desirable behavior is but consistently chooses to do the right thing.”
There are two issues regarding housebreaking. First, a puppy or dog may not know it is wrong to go to the bathroom in the house. Second, a puppy or dog may know exactly what is expected of him and will choose to do the wrong thing anyway. Crate training combined with obedience training addresses both of these scenarios, without having to deal with property loss or damage during the training process.
Dogs are den animals, if a dog is lost or in a strange area they will naturally find an enclosed area with a top and bottom and all sides closed, leaving only the front to defend. Plastic dog crates most closely resemble this and that is why I always suggest a plastic crate over a wire cage. If you use a crate properly you will find that when the dog no longer needs it for training, you can leave the door open and they will go in and out of there on their own. A crate is never to be used as punishment; a crate is to a dog like a playpen is to a baby. It is used simply to keep them out of trouble when you cannot keep in a constant eye on them. Now they can be educated on what trouble is and be entrusted to stay out of trouble after they understand right from wrong.
Scheduling is very important in using a crate. Feeding time should be consistent and convenient to your schedule. Feeding a puppy or dog on a schedule promotes consistent bowel movements. Water should be accessible at all times while a dog is out of his crate, but should not be left in his crate.
Your dog should be left in the crate at night; you should not let him out of his crate until you are ready to take him directly outside. Take your dog from the crate directly outside to the spot you would like him to use the bathroom. Once the dog uses the outdoor 'bathroom' to pee and poop you should verbally praise him and give him a treat on the spot right were he has gone. Giving him a treat upon coming into the house rewards them for coming in, not using the bathroom outside.
Should your dog not use the outside bathroom punctually he should be brought back inside and put in the crate. The time can be as little as half an hour and then take him outside again. The only time you should let the dog run loose in the house is when you have just seen him use the bathroom outside. Most people do not do this very important step. You should also take your dog outside every hour. Put him back in the crate until he uses the bathroom outside, then let him run around the house, as long as you can keep an eye on him for an hour to an hour and a half. Then put the dog in the crate for a few hours repeat step one.
The crate encourages the dog to hold the need to pee or poop. Now since they have to go to the bathroom when you take them outside, they go punctually and empty all the way out. Instead of trying to watch the dog and potentially getting sidetracked, and having the dog sneak off and use the bathroom in the house, we use the crate to encourage and promote waiting to use the bathroom until they get outside.
In review, the only time the dog should run free in the house is when you have just seen the dog use the bathroom outside. After one hour to one and a half hours your puppy or dog needs to go back in the crate, even though you are home. From the crate take the dog straight outside. Leave him in the crate until you are ready to take them immediately outside. Finally, by putting your dog on a good feeding schedule you’ll know when a dog has to have a bowel movement or just has to pee. Note, cheap foods produce two to three times the amount of stool than better foods.