Crate Training & House Training Tips

Crate training can help your foster dog feel confident in his or her new home and help prevent destruction while you’re out. You’ll thank us later. 

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 could have 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 can 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 antlers. The dog only gets these things when he is 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. Check out YouTube for dog calming music playlists that can last many hours! 

Be consistent with crate training

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 a dog is small enough or a young puppy, you can carry the pup outside so that he cannot pee or poop while in the elevator or walking through the house to get outside). If the dog goes to the bathroom outside, then once you are back inside he can roam free around the house for a few hours and play. Then, back in the crate for an hour or two or three (depending on age and ability to hold it), and repeat the process. If, when you take the pup outside, he does not pee and/or poop, put him directly back into the crate upon returning inside. Wait about 20-30 minutes, and try going outside again. Repeat this until the pup goes 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 the dog, but not only is it important to keep consistency, it also makes the crate a normal place for the pup, as opposed to only associating the crate with you leaving. You want your dog to like his crate, and have positive associations with it.

Reward! Make it rain treats when they go outside!

Use high-value, smelly, delicious treats the pup doesn’t normally receive. Some good ones are turkey/beef/salmon jerky or hot dog slices. As soon as the dog pees and/or poops outside, praise her A LOT and give treats. This helps her associate going outside with fun, positive things. NEVER punish, yell, or hit a dog when they go to the bathroom inside/somewhere she shouldn’t. Simply ignore it, and immediately take her outside. Sometimes, dogs need 10-15 minutes of walking before going to the bathroom outside, but too much time may encourage them to hold it for later on a walk. Start with more frequent, shorter walks as you get used to the potty training schedule.

Don't reward 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 him. 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. If the pup starts crying, you can walk back inside the room, but be sure to not get too close. Once you make eye contact, you can say “SHHH” non-aggressively. Then, stand and wait until the dog is in a calm state again. This does not just mean he stops whining or barking, but that he sits/lays down, and seems relaxed. This can take a few minutes. 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 if you can. 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 stop whining or barking. Don't take the dog out of his crate when he is actively barking or whining, because that teaches him that if he barks or whines enough, he will get out of his crate. 

Remember that the first week is the toughest

When you are house training or crate training, it can be a frustrating process. 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 it can be 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.