Using a Crate to Potty Train Your Pup
The methods for potty training a puppy are numerous, but a very popular way to housebreak your puppy is to crate train him. This method uses the principle that dogs do not like to lie in their own mess. This isn’t a foolproof method, however, as sick dogs will evacuate their bowels/stomachs regardless of where they are, and if left alone too long, small puppies physically can't hold it. But of course, generally speaking, dogs do not like to urinate/defecate in the area in which they sleep.
Crate training is a good method for potty training when you're at work, or busy elsewhere in the house...if you can't watch the puppy, put him in his crate. When you're home and able to watch the puppy, then you can use your constant supervision method.
Crate training is easiest with a crate that’s adjustable, because as the puppy grows you’ll need to accommodate for size. When potty training your pup with the crate, it's extremely important you don't leave them too much space. If you put a tiny puppy in a big crate, you’ll end up with a puppy who’ll mess on one side of the crate and play/sleep in the other and never learn the importance of holding their bladder or bowels. Again, keep in mind that very small puppies physically cannot hold their bladders/bowels as long as older pups or adult dogs, so this will work best if you’re able to let the pup out at intervals throughout the day.
Dogs are Den Animals...So Using a Crate is Reinforcing!
Dogs are “den” animals who like a safe, secure place to sleep, so using a crate throughout the life of the dog is actually reinforcing. If you know you're going to continue to utilize a crate into the dog's adult life, the purchase of a large crate makes the most sense economically. Even though they're inherently den-dwelling animals, sometimes the hardest part about crate training is trying to get a scared puppy into the crate in the first place.
The trick when potty-training with a crate is to give your puppy only enough room to stand up and turn around. This might sound cruel, but keep in mind that puppies are continuously growing – they’re going to spend the majority of their day sleeping anyway. By leaving the pup with a minimum of space, you’re “ensuring” that they will hold it as long as they can, because if they mess, they have to lay in it.
Types of Crates
If you do purchase a large crate, you’ll have to either a) find a model which comes with a divider, or b) place some sort of barrier within the crate (which is neither chewable nor movable) to block the pup into a smaller space. Crates that have solid sides are good, but the majority of the time, they’re not adjustable.
Another option is a collapsible wire crate. Not only are they easily toted to other places but they come with a separator which can be moved as needed. Keep in mind that these crates aren’t the typical “den” crates, since they’re made of wire. Also, if the puppy does mess inside, it can leak out the sides and / or you can end up with excrement in the corners of the wire cage – MUCH harder to clean!
Housebreaking With a Crate
Remember, consistency is a must when potty training a puppy. Be sure to bring your pup outside for a potty break right before you put him into the crate. Immediately when you let him out of the crate, take him out again. With very small puppies, the best way to do this successfully is to carry the pup. If they really need to go, they might not be able to hold it until they're outside!
Other than the obvious reasons, the crate training method is wonderful because it teaches the puppy that yes, they can hold it if they have to urinate / defecate. For the first several weeks of their life, whenever the barest urge to go hit them, they'd evacuate. The crate teaches them they're capable of holding off for a bit longer.
Other than remaining consistent - and keeping your puppy on a schedule, if at all possible - you need a lot of patience when potty training a puppy. Some puppies will "get it" right away, while others might struggle with the concept. Stay positive, and you'll get great results!