Every dog owner knows the responsibility that comes with introducing a new puppy into the home environment. Having been separated from their mothers only weeks after birth, each new puppy arrives in his new home as a blank slate – a fresh canvas upon which its owner must paint his or her rules and expectations. When you bring a new puppy home, it is up to you to teach it which areas of the house he will be allowed to access, when and where it can play, and where he should go to the bathroom. Learning how to housebreak a puppy is often one of the biggest challenges facing many owners – but there are some simple ways to accomplish the housetraining goal. One of the most effective is to use a crate.
Learning how to housebreak a puppy using a crate is not difficult, but it does involve discipline from both the puppy and you. There are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration, and you must have at least some degree of organized scheduling to make crate training a comfortable experience for your new puppy. If you can meet those basic challenges, however, your puppy’s ability to be housetrained can occur in a very short period of time.
One of the first decisions you must make in deciding how to housebreak a puppy using a crate is to determine how big the crate needs to be. In general, a housetraining crate (or cage, which is what must crates actually are) should be just large enough for the puppy to lie down comfortably. If your puppy is a large breed dog, you will probably want to start with a larger crate with dividers that enable you to adjust the sleeping space as the puppy grows. The reason we suggest that the crate be only large enough to lie in is to avoid the temptation the puppy may feel to soil part of the cage. Dogs do not generally go to the bathroom where they sleep, and limiting the crate space will help your puppy learn to “hold it” until you let him out.
And you will have to let him out often – at least in the beginning. If you don’t know how to housebreak a puppy, keep in mind that it is a good idea to take your new puppy out every hour when possible. If that is not possible, then you should at least adhere to a strict schedule based on the puppy’s age. Puppies can generally wait for one hour per month of their age, plus an additional hour. If your dog is two months old, he should not be expected to hold it for more than three hours!
When you take your puppy outside try to keep him on a leash and direct him to the acceptable areas for elimination of waste. Avoid playing with him until he has “done his business” – once he has finished, feel free to lavish praise upon him, pet him, and let him know how happy you are that he went where he was supposed to.
Part of learning how to housebreak a puppy with a crate involves accepting your responsibility to regularly take the puppy outside for his bathroom breaks. That includes night time. Yes, it is a good idea to set your alarm to wake you every three hours so that your puppy does not have an accident in his crate. Don’t worry! After a few short weeks, your sleep schedule can return to normal, and your puppy will be on his way to being housebroken.
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