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Did you know that crate training and toilet training go hand-in-hand when housebreaking a new puppy? This is primarily due to the concept of positive reinforcement, which lies at the core of each process.
Your puppy will learn how to behave appropriately through rewards, not because of fear and punishment. This encourages them to embrace their new home and follow the rules under your roof.
In this post, we’ll explore the connection between crate training and toilet training in greater depth.
Crate Training: A Brief Refresher
The question of whether to use a crate still carries an element of controversy. Some dog owners are resistant to crate training, as they believe that confining their pet to a cage is cruel and distressing.
In fact, dogs can find substantial comfort, security, and relaxation when they’re in a crate. This is because it taps into their natural canine instinct to find a den. Placing a blanket over the crate strengthens this association, and you’ll likely find that your dog actively seeks out the crate when they need a little solitude!
But how does a puppy get to that stage? All it takes is a dash of patience and plenty of positive reinforcement.
Teaching Your Puppy to Love Their Crate
Positive reinforcement is a prominent method of puppy training. Essentially, when your dog demonstrates a specific desirable behaviour, such as going into their crate and sitting down, you reward it, either with a treat, extra attention, or a toy.
Repeated positive reinforcement helps your dog to link certain behaviours with a good outcome. This encourages them to favour those behaviours, to the point where they will no longer need to be rewarded. It simply becomes habitual!
You’ll start small, by introducing your puppy to their crate and encouraging them to go inside. You can place a treat inside the crate to start, then progress to giving them a reward only after they respond to their command to enter.
Closing The Door
Then progress to closing the door. Your puppy may be temporarily upset, but by remaining beside them, you’ll alleviate their anxiety. Gradually, you can build up the amount of time they’re in the crate. You’ll then be able to leave them briefly, before returning to let them out. Again, increase the duration slowly, and never leave your dog in the crate longer than their bladder can hold.
Note: As a rule of thumb, their age in months is the maximum number of hours they can spend in the crate (up to 6 months).
Remember that accidents can happen! Don’t punish your puppy or overreact; simply clean up, repeat the exercise at a later point, and only give a reward when they’ve displayed the intended behaviour.
How Are Crate Training and Toilet Training Linked?
The most important link between each training process is positive reinforcement. With crate training, you will reward good behaviour from your dog at each stage, and they’ll gradually learn that their crate is a safe and quiet space where they will enjoy staying.
Similarly, you’ll teach your dog to go outside when nature calls, through repeated rewards every time they display the right behaviour.
In each scenario, don’t punish the wrong behaviour. If your puppy cries or barks in the crate, you’ll simply wait until they calm down, carry on with your scheduled training, and reward them the next time they behave correctly.
Likewise, if your puppy has an accident indoors – even in their crate! – don’t make a fuss; quietly clean up, then wipe the slate clean. When your dog does indicate that it’s time to use nature’s bathroom, reward them for getting it right.
With each training process running in tandem, it will teach your dog about the concept itself.
Crate training and toilet training are also connected by the development of self-control behaviour in your puppy. When they’re in the crate, they must learn not to be anxious at their temporary confinement and to enjoy the relaxing solitude. Although they may cry or bark initially, over time they will understand that the crate is nothing to be afraid of and that you will return to let them out.
Likewise, toilet training gradually builds your dog’s ability to wait until a human can to let them outside. New puppies will have accidents – it’s a fact of life – but with patient training and positive reinforcement, they’ll understand that self-control is a positive behaviour that yields rewards.
No Soiling in the Den
Earlier we touched upon your puppy’s natural instinct to take comfort in a den. One of the key rules of being in a den is that your sleeping space is not that same as your toilet space. Dogs won’t soil where they sleep – that’s why it’s so important that their crate is not too big. Otherwise, they’ll have enough room to create both spaces.
The placement of a crate within the home will help to reinforce the point that going to the toilet must only take place outside. Not just outside the crate, but outside the home. Taking your dog straight from the crate into the garden strengthens that connection.
Voice Commands and Respect
Puppies naturally recognise a pack hierarchy. At the top is the leader, or alpha. This is who you must be. It doesn’t matter if your pack is comprised of just one human and one dog, or a bustling family of multiple species. You are in charge, and your puppy needs to know this from the start.
Crate training with vocal commands, such as “go,” “crate,” “bed,” “stay,” and “out,” confirms to your puppy that they must listen to you. This locks in the idea that they are not leader of the pack, which suppresses shows of dominance that can become destructive if left unchecked.
Instead, a dog who understands the hierarchy in your household will be more receptive to your other commands. Namely, that they only pee and poop outside.
No puppy will behave perfectly all the time – it’s part of their charm – but to have the framework of respect in place through crate training helps with all other aspects of housebreaking.
We’re not going to sugar-coat it for you. Housebreaking a new puppy is hard work. There will be accidents, crying, howling – and that’s just from the humans!
Persistence and gentle encouragement are important to teaching both behaviours. Puppies will gradually learn self-control, which is a crucial step in their growing acceptance of being temporarily left alone in the house. Crate training also establishes the hierarchy within your pack, helping to avoid unwanted behaviour when giving future commands.
With patience and a positive attitude, you’ll all fall into sync before you know it.
If you’re interested in crate training, we’ve developed the ultimate guide for all new puppy owners, which you can find by clicking here.