We all know the puppy potty training basics.
If not, you can read my post on potty training a puppy here. Basically, it involves lots of supervision and prevention. Taking the puppy out often. Confining the puppy to a small area when you can’t supervise.
Most puppies do not want to soil the area where they sleep, so confining them to a kennel when you can’t supervise is a great prevention technique. But what happens if your puppy doesn’t seem to mind peeing in her kennel?
I’ll share my ideas, but of course I really want to hear your tips, especially if this is something you’ve dealt with. I don’t have an easy answer, so I’m hoping to start a discussion on this.
(I use crate/kennel interchangeably, and it could also mean a small, gated-off area like a bathroom.)
First, let’s rule out some potential issues.
Could it be that your puppy can’t hold it as long as you expect?
She may not want to pee in her kennel, but maybe your puppy can’t hold it as long as you thought. Depending on her age, you may need to take her out more often, like every two hours instead of every four. During the day, you may need to hire a dog walker or a neighbor to come let her out, at least for the next few weeks.
Is your puppy sick?
It’s understandable that she won’t be able to hold it if she has an upset tummy or a urinary tract infection.
Is she drinking too much water before going into her kennel?
I would cut her off a few hours before bed, and limit her water before you head to work.
Does her feeding schedule need to be changed?
Make sure you’re not “free feeding” your puppy by leaving food out all the time. While this is convenient for you and may seem kind to her, it’s too difficult to predict when she will need to go to the bathroom. Instead, feed her at the exact same times two or three times per day so you can plan her bathroom times accordingly (like, right after she eats!).
Is your puppy dealing with separation anxiety?
I’m careful to suggest this, because I think separation anxiety in dogs is an overused term, especially for puppies. It’s normal for puppies to cry a bit when left alone for the first week or so. No big deal. Usually, their crying will stop if the owners do not respond to it.
But, if your dog or puppy seems especially anxious about being in her crate or being alone, she may be more likely to eliminate in it, due to stress. If this is the case, I would go back to the basic kennel training techniques to help her feel more comfortable being alone and being in her kennel.
‘No, it’s none of the above. My dog just pees in her crate.’
OK, so if you’ve ruled out all of the above, it could very well be that your dog doesn’t mind peeing in her crate for whatever reason. Most likely, it became a habit at some point when she had no other choice.
Do you know your dog’s history?
Unfortunately, most pet shop puppies are kept in small cages and they often (always?) learn to pee in their confined area since many are not actually taken outside.
Shelter dogs may also learn to pee in their kennel area if they aren’t taken outside for walks often enough. Unfortunately, once a dog has had so many “accidents” it eventually becomes a habit.
The same could be true if your dog came from a foster home or previous owner where they were crated for too long during the day. Maybe the dog simply couldn’t hold it for 10 hours, so peeing in the crate became normal.
Another possibility is that your dog came from a puppy mill background. Sadly, these dogs often have no choice but to eliminate right where they live, sleep and eat.
And finally, the reality is you may not know your dog’s history, but you can still come up with a plan to help her learn not to go potty in her crate.
How to stop a dog from peeing in her crate
OK, now that we’ve ruled out a bunch of possibilities, let’s come up with a plan on what to do if the dog truly doesn’t mind peeing in her kennel.
Limit time in the kennel (prevention)
One key is prevention. The less time the dog is in the kennel, the less likely she is to go potty in her kennel.
One trick I often recommend for dogs and puppies that are still learning potty training rules is to keep them on a leash when you’re home. This prevents the pup from wandering off to pee in another room, because she is stuck with you.
If the pup is on a leash, you would be able to see when she needs to go out. Regardless, you would still take her out as often as needed. Possibly every 45 minutes at first.
Basically, at all times the dog should either be on a leash with you indoors, outside with you so you can reward good potty habits or confined to a small area.
When you do have to put the dog in her kennel, try to limit that time to an hour or two if possible. I know this is not always realistic, which leads us to the next idea.
Use an ex-pen or gated area and potty pads
I know, I know. I am not a fan of teaching a dog to go potty on fake grass or potty pads or newspapers. I normally would not recommend potty pads, but they can be a possibility for teaching a dog to pee outside of her kennel vs. in her kennel.
If you know your dog will almost always pee in her kennel after three hours (or whatever time it might be), and you know you won’t be able to let her out in that time, then the potty pads are an option.
Simply place the open kennel in a small, blocked off area such as a bathroom with a baby gate. Ideally you would choose an area with tiles or linoleum for easy cleaning.
Another option is to put an ex-pen around the kennel, which is basically like a small, indoor fence. Think, a child’s “play-pen” area. A kitchen could be a good place for this.
Then, place the potty pads on the floor outside of the kennel. It’s possible your dog will naturally want to pee on the pads (great!) due to past experience. Or, she may have no idea she is supposed to pee on them. If that is the case, keep the area as small as you can and cover the entire area with the pads.
If she seems to always go in one area, you can eventually reduce the pads to that area. With time, you can cover a smaller and smaller area with the pads. Reward her if you see her going potty on the pads.
See my post: How to train a dog to use pee pads.
Keep rewarding good behavior
The best thing you can do, obviously, is to keep taking your dog outside often and giving her a tasty treat every time she goes potty outside (like real bacon or chicken). If she does happen to have an accident in the house or in her kennel, just clean it up with a high-quality odor remover. Keep using the potty pad technique when you can’t supervise. When you are home, take her outside as often as possible.
With time, most dogs will be successful if:
- They are taken out often, like every 45 minutes if needed
- The owners do not wait for the dogs to “tell them” they need to go; they just take them out regardless
- The dog is kept on a leash and near the owner while in the house
- The dog is confined to a small area when the owner can’t supervise
- The dog is given a highly valued treat every time she goes potty outside
Have any of you had to deal with this issue?
What did you do to train your dog not to go potty in her crate?
Let me know, as this seems to be a fairly common problem with dogs. I don’t have all the answers, and it’s nice to hear some different opinions/experiences.
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