Crate Training & House Training Tips
by Foster Dogs, Inc.
- Introduce the dog to your house or apartment in small steps. A shelter dog is usually used to very small spaces, and so when you first bring her home she will likely be overwhelmed. Do not let her roam the house or apartment freely, and instead confine her to a small space at first. This will be one or two rooms, being sure to close off the rest of the house (with baby gates or closed doors). Gradually, over a few weeks, allow the pup access to more of the home space. If you overwhelm the dog with too much space at first, she will likely have more problems or issues with house training or chewing/eating human belongings.
- Make the crate a happy, safe place where the dog wants to be. The crate will act as your pup’s safe space. You do this by encouraging the dog to associate the crate with high value, delicious treats and fun toys that they ONLY get when they are in the crate. We like to use Kong toys or Bionic Bone toys with peanut butter or non-fat yogurt inside, and safe/sturdy chew toys that the dog loves, like Nylabones. The dog only gets these things when they are inside the crate, and as soon as the dog is taken out of the crate, the toys are removed and not accessible to the pup. Try putting a lightweight, flat sheet over the crate, covering the entire crate (except for the door side), and put the crate in a quiet room when you are away, like the bedroom, with blinds down or the lights dim. All of this helps to make the crate feel more den-like, but also takes away any visual stimulation that could trigger a dog to whine or cry. It’s also important to provide background noise; like the television or radio.
- Be consistent with crate training. See the below link for a useful schedule (both for those who work from home OR are at work during the day). The trick is to use the crate all of the time, not simply when you are gone. When you are home and using the crate, it is fine to put the crate in a living room or kitchen so that she is aware you are home. When the dog is taken out of the crate, take her immediately outside (if they are small enough or young puppies, you can carry them outside that they cannot pee or poop while in the elevator or walking to through the house to get outside). If the dog goes to the bathroom outside, then once you are back inside they can roam free around the house for a few hours and play. Then, they go back in the crate for an hour or two or three (depending on age and their ability to hold it), and repeat the process. If, when you take them outside, they do not pee and/or poop, you put them directly back into the crate upon returning inside. Wait 45 minutes to 1 hour, and try going outside again. Repeat this until they go to the bathroom outside. Sometimes, it is difficult to put a pup in the crate when you are home because you just want to play and spend time with them, but not only is it important to keep consistency, but it also makes the crate a normal place for the pup, as opposed to them only associating the crate with you leaving. You want your dog to like her crate, and have positive associations with it.
A good schedule/guide to potty training for dogs of any age: here
- Reward a lot when they go outside! Again, you are going to use high-value, smelly, delicious treats they don’t normally receive. Some good ones are turkey/beef/salmon jerky or hot dog slices. As soon as they pee and/or poop outside, you praise them a LOT and give them treats. This, again, helps them associate going outside with fun, positive things. NEVER punish, yell, or hit a dog when they go to the bathroom inside/somewhere they shouldn’t. Simply ignore it, and immediately take them outside. Sometimes, dogs need 10-15 minutes of walking before they go to the bathroom outside, so be sure to give them enough time and walking. Ask the trainer: Potty Training.
- A note on whining/barking in the crate. If the pup is whining or barking a lot in the crate, you should pick a day or two when you are home and spend the day crate training her. Begin by going through your normal routine when you are leaving (i.e. put a coat on, get your keys and purse, etc…). Once the pup is in the crate, walk outside of the room or front door (make sure to be completely out of sight) and wait. As soon as the pup starts crying, walk inside the room so that she can see you, but be sure to not get too close. Once you make eye contact, some will say “this is unacceptable behavior” in a non-aggressive, stern voice; or, you can say “SHHH” non-aggressively. Then, stand and wait until the dog is in a calm state again. This does not just mean that they stop whining or barking, but that they are relaxed, sit/lie down, and seem relaxed. This can take a few minutes sometimes. Once the dog is in a calm state, go outside of the room/door, and repeat each time the pup begins to whine or bark. What tends to happen is the more that you do this exercise repeatedly and in a row, there is more time in between when you leave and when the pup starts whining or barking again. Do this for a solid 2-3 hours at a time. It sounds exhaustive, but the repeated nature is what helps the dog learn the routine. The pup will begin to understand that, eventually, you come back each time, and they stop whining or barking. Never take the dog out of her crate when she is actively barking or whining, because that teaches her that if she barks or whines enough, she will get out of her crate. This method is essentially Cesar Milan’s technique from “How To Raise the Perfect Dog: Through Puppyhood and Beyond”. It is a helpful, easy read, and I suggest it for anyone going through house training/crate training.
- Remember that the first week is the toughest. When you are house training or crate training, it can be a frustrating process. You have to remember that the dog has most likely come from a stressful situation, oftentimes directly from a shelter or passed around between foster homes. Even though you may get overwhelmed, try to stay calm and remember that, eventually, the pup will learn to feel safe in her crate and become house trained. Your dog picks up on your energy, so if you are frustrated and overwhelmed, then she will feel the same. This time, while stressful, is an important bonding phase with you and your pup, where she is learning to trust and listen to you. So try to relax, and look at this time as an important learning process for both dog and human, alike.