House Training


Pronunciation: ‘kAj
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin
cavea cavity, cage, from cavus hollow – a cave, a den
Date: 13th century
1: a box or enclosure having some openwork for confining or carrying animals.

Dog Meets Human Reality

Certain issues that relate to raising a dog can cause a fair amount of debate. Passions tend to run high surrounding such things as whether or not to spay or neuter a dog or if microchipping is good. Crate training is one of these issues that can cause a strong reaction in people. You are either all for it or dead set against it.

Let’s face it. Most of us want our dogs to remain ‘free’. The inherent quality of a dog is that they are unaffected and honest. People want their dogs to continue to be as close to unconstrained as possible. It is one of the reasons that people get dogs.

Unfortunately, most of what is natural for a dog clashes with our human way of life. The greater population would not accept someone chewing on the leg of the dining room table or through an electrical cord. We would not be too pleased if someone pooped in our living room or ran wildly over the furniture. We would be horrified and distressed if one of our family members was doing this. Yet these are all natural behaviors of a dog.

With approximately 40 percent of all young canines being given up during their first year in a new home, we owe it to our dog friends to put more energy into helping them adjust to our way of life.

So, what we want from dogs and the behaviors that are normal for them can often be in stark contrast. Jean Donaldson, a renouned coach, speaker and author, calls it a Culture Clash and has written a great book on the topic. Please refer to the Resources section.

With approximately 40 percent of all young canines being given up during their first year in a new home, we owe it to our dog friends to put more energy into helping them adjust to our way of life. We need to ensure that they survive the experience of living with us.

There should be a balance between maintaining control of the dog and allowing him to remain as natural as possible.

The Crate

There is no negative aspect to crating a puppy if it is done properly. One of the most effective tools that a person can use is a crate. The proper use of the crate ensures that puppies can cohabitate with us successfully.

  • A crate keeps your puppy safe while you are away from home.
  • It is a powerful tool to aid in bathroom training your pup.
  • It provides your puppy with a place, much like a den in nature, that he can call his own and where he can feel safe.
  • It safeguards your home from puppy destruction.
  • The use of a crate provides your pup with structure in his day-to-day life.
  • It provides you with the ability to control your dog.
  • It is a place where your pup can go to have a nap and sleep off the exercise from socializing, playing games, and training.
  • It is a place where you know your dog is not getting into trouble when you are otherwise occupied.
  • Most dogs will have to be in a crate at some point in their lives; at the vet, at the groomers, when boarding, etc. If your dog is already accustomed to being in a crate, this can reduce stress.
A Great Crate Start

Properly introduce the crate immediately upon arriving home and your pup will embrace it as his own.

In order to make the initial introduction of the crate a successful one, use toys and treats to encourage your puppy to spend time in it. Leave the door open so that your puppy might explore it on his own. Keep the first sessions short and successful. Build the length of time you leave the dog in the crate from there.

We recommend a good quality rubber toy or hollow bone that can be stuffed with your puppy’s food for use with the crate. Fill it with a yummy soft treat, like cheese and give it to the puppy when he has to go in the crate.

Check our guide on how long you should leave your puppy in the crate at his given age.

You Control Everything – Bathroom Habits

In order to reach the objective of having a house trained dog when it becomes full-grown (or sooner), you need to have complete control of your puppy’s time. That means 100% management of what your pup is doing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We can hear a collective sharp intake of breath as you read this! Employing the use of a crate will ensure that you do not lose your mind and it will give you a realistic approach to achieving this level of control with your puppy.

If your pup has an accident in the house, it is your accident, not the puppy’s. To reduce the possibility of accidents, we strongly recommend the use of a crate. Crating a puppy allows you a break from overseeing what your dog is doing. At the same time, it ensures that your pup is safe.

Dogs are inherently clean animals. A mother dog will clean any soiled area of the nest. A responsible breeder will also be sure to keep the litter area spotless. This ensures that the puppy is accustomed to a clean environment and will carry over once you begin to crate the puppy. They are used to a clean space and they are naturally not going to soil in the confined space of their crate.

Crating is not a permanent setup. Once the dog shows he is capable of going to the bathroom reliably outside the house and he can be trusted to roam inside when you are absent or concentrating on something else, the crate is optional. When your dog is ready will depend on you, the dog’s breed, and how fast he matures.

It is valuable to maintain your dog’s comfort level with the crate throughout his life. It’s extremely helpful at the vet, groomer and during travel.

Daily Routine – Why Structure is Important

Although the use of the crate is very powerful in teaching a puppy the right place to go to the bathroom, it is not the only reason we recommend its use. Puppies will learn bad habits if they are left to wander the house alone. You can refer to the How Dogs Learn section for more information on this. Puppies will indiscriminately chew, they will indiscriminately bark, they will eat whatever appeals to them, and they will sleep in the most comfortable spot.

This in itself does not sound so bad until you consider that without your supervision, your pup would chew on your prized photo album collection, bark at friends and good neighbors, eat your child’s chocolate Easter Egg (toxic to a dog), and lie on your two hundred dollar duvet while eating it.

Another great reason for structure is motivation. If we give our puppies complete freedom and we let them have all of their toys, what are we left with? If we give them our undivided love and affection and yummy treats for absolutely nothing, we have lost a great opportunity. All of our great motivating tools have been squandered.


Avoid plush bedding in the crate with puppies that are still learning to “hold it”.

When the Puppy is Out of the Crate
  • Supervise everything he is doing.
  • Take him to the backyard (to go to the bathroom), or
  • Do some kind of socializing, or preventative styled exercise, or
  • Play a game with him, or
  • Feed him, or
  • Allow him supervised freedom.
When to Put Pup in the Crate
  • The pup goes in the crate when you are sleeping.
  • The pup goes in the crate when you need a break.
  • The pup goes in the crate when he needs a break.
  • To be fair and kind, put the pup in the crate when he is tired.

This dog is still a puppy. Puppies need a fair amount of rest. Putting him in his crate after socialization, playtime, or training or will allow both of you some time to yourself. You can give him something yummy to chew on while he is in there (a toy made specifically to be stuffed with food or treats that your dog can safely chew on). It is also a good idea to take him out to go to the bathroom before you crate him. Whenever possible, give the puppy some exercise prior to crate time. What could be better than a dog that goes to his crate to sleep!

Backyard Time

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can leave the dog outside in the backyard unattended. The same rules that apply inside will exist here. A puppy left on his own will learn and develop his own habits. He will dig in your garden…everywhere. He will bark at the neighbor. He will choose where to urinate and defecate in your yard. He may even escape. None of these behaviors will be valued when your pup grows into an adult dog.

The downside is that issues such as bathroom training, chewing, and structure & boundaries may not be as successful using these alternatives.
Crate Alternatives

We recognize that not everyone can come to terms with the use of a crate. We also know how disastrous it can be to give a puppy free rein in the household. So there are alternatives that, although not as proficient as a crate, will provide the puppy with some safety. The downside is that issues such as bathroom training, chewing, and structure & boundaries may not be as successful using these alternatives.

  • Confine the puppy in the kitchen. Ensure that there is nothing the pup can get into or chew.
  • Use an X-pen (or similar structure) to confine the puppy.

Crating a dog is a healthy responsible choice. We wish to provide you with all the information you need to have a better understanding of what a crate was designed to do and why so many dog people, veterinarians, trainers, and groomers recommend its use. It has long been established as a standard aid in raising a dog.

Points to Remember When Crating
  • Take your puppy directly outside every single time he comes out of his crate.
  • The crate should be large enough for the puppy to turn around in and lie down. It should not be huge.
  • Do not keep his feed and water dish in the crate (use a stuffed food toy instead).
  • Provide the puppy with a special chew toy or two that will keep him busy and satisfied versus ten stuffed animals.
  • Avoid plush bedding with puppies that are still learning to hold it.
  • Ideally, a crate should never be positioned where a dog can see outside the home. The puppy will see other dogs, animals, and people and want to be with them. This can cause undue aggravation and frustration for the puppy.
  • The locations should be cool and out of direct sunlight.
  • Never leave your dog in the crate for longer than he can manage.

If the puppy can pee or poop and the mess can be absorbed easily with thick bedding, the puppy will not be deterred from soiling in his crate. If there is nothing absorbent in his crate and he has an accident, he will unfortunately have to deal with the unpleasantness until you find it. This will most likely have him thinking twice about soiling in his crate. This is one of the ways that the puppy learns good bathroom habits.

Please check the Equipment List regarding crates.

1. Websters New Twentieth Century Dictionary, 2nd ed. (New York:William Collins + World Publishing Co., 1977)