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One of the most difficult hurdles that any new puppy owner faces is housebreaking or as it is sometimes also referred to; potty training or doing business. Although there is no tactic that comes with a 100% guarantee, one of the most successful methods is crate training. Crate training can drastically reduce the amount of stress on the owner and the puppy that often comes with training the new four-legged member of your family.
So what is a crate? It is a cage that is usually made of plastic or wire. Wire ones are collapsible and the puppy has a great view of his surroundings. The plastic crates are lightweight and easy to clean and tend to be the most commonly used. Either can be purchased at a department or pet store. When purchasing a crate you must make sure there is enough room for the puppy to stretch right out and to stand erect. Make sure the crate is not too big though or all your potty training efforts in vain because the puppy will be able to do her business in one end and sleep in the other.
Crates can also be used for a variety of other things than just potty training. It provides the "den" security that can be traced back to their ancestors. It provides a place that is safe and cozy for the puppy. Putting the puppy in the crate when there is company or a lot of activity going on it saves her from all the reprimands from getting in the way. It is great for traveling. When you have to leave the puppy home putting her in her crate will save you from coming home to a disaster. It is also great for your puppy to sleep in through the night without the owner having to worry about her roaming around and possibly injuring herself. Puppies however, should NEVER be left alone in their crate for extended periods of time.
What makes the crate method of potty training so effective is because a puppy will not soil where it sleeps. However if you leave the puppy in the crate for too long it will have to do business and you will set your potty training efforts back to the beginning. The most important things you need to remember about crate training are consistency and routine and lots and lots of rewards. A crate is used differently to potty train then if you have to go out and you are leaving her home alone. When you are leaving your puppy home you have to put the crate in a small area, for example a bathroom and leave the crate door open with newspapers down for the puppy to do her business. Once the puppy is older and has good bladder and bowel control you can leave it in the crate but preferably not longer than 4 hours. However for potty training your puppy should stay in the crate then taken out frequently to the area that she is suppose to do her business. This can be either outside or on newspapers. For a very new puppy take her out to do her business every half-hour then after 8 weeks every hour. When the puppy goes potty where she is suppose to you can reward her with treats and lots of praise and maybe leave her out to play for awhile before putting her back in. If she does not go within around 10 minutes just put her back in her crate and try again later. If you keep a record of when your puppy goes, for instance how long after she eats or naps then you will know when to let her out and she can have more and more time left out to play. The crate will also help puppies learn bladder and bowel control.
A great idea is to either say something like "go potty" or "do your business" when you put her outside or on newspaper then when she hears those words she'll know it is time to go out. Also if you have something for her to scratch or ring or push she will learn as she gets older that that is what she needs to do to let you know that she needs to go out. Puppies want very much to please you so training them, as puppies will make things much easier for you and her as she gets older.
Of course when the puppy is initially introduced into the crate there will be lots of whining. This is not the sort of behavior you want to encourage or reward with attention. When she quiets down then you can take her out for a little playtime but the whining should be ignored. The crate should be kept in an area where she will not be alone and can be part of the family then at night take her into the bedroom with you. Be sure to have a soft blanket and a snuggle toy in the crate with her. I often put a blanket over the crate to give the puppy a very secure feeling. In the beginning you will have to get up a few times during the night to let her out but take a deep breath (or a nap) because this really will not last forever. I have seen puppies sleep through the night at 8 weeks.
Successful crate training requires commitment on the part of you the owner and it definitely is work. However, the reward in the end will make it more than worth the effort.
Cass Hope has been a writer for over 5years. Cass regularly contributes to online and offline publications in a variety of areas. She also teaches classes in basic obedience for puppies. She is currently sponsoring this site: http://www.1st4dog-training.info
(for web reprints please ensure this URL is hyperlinked)
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