Every now and then I get an email from someone who is having problems with crate training. Here are bits from one:
We just recently got a new puppy and are trying to crate train it. We put him to bed (in his crate) when we go to bed, and then let him out in the morning to do his thing and run around a bit. Then when we leave for work we put him back into his crate where he stays until the kids get home from school and let him out again.
My problem is that i am constantly (twice a day) having to change his bedding as he both poops and pees in his crate. I thought that maybe putting an exercise pen up for him during the day would be better but several friends have told us NO!
What would be the best solution for this as we don’t want him to think of his crate as a “bad” place?
Well, it’s always risky to guess about a situation without knowing all the details, but to me it seems that it’s time to think outside the box… um, crate. Here are some thoughts…
Many problems of this sort can be handled by paying a lot more attention to the puppy’s bathroom needs. If you take your attention to a more intense level for a few days or weeks, you may be able to solve the problem completely.
On the weekends and during the night, you can get an idea of just how long the puppy can hold it. Different breeds mature at different rates, and individual dogs will vary too. We once had an Australian Shepherd pup who could hold it all night from the first night we got him, at 9 weeks (gloat), but that is unusual.
Say you discover that your little pup can go about 4 hours. (Review my potty training puppies page here for a suggested routine.) That means you’ll do best if someone can come in once during the time all your family is gone. This would be nice for the puppy anyway, since he must be lonely during the days. A trusted neighbor, a paid pet-sitter or dog walker, or one of those friends who is telling you not to use an X-pen are all possibilities. They would take him out for a chance to pee or poop, play with him for a while, and perhaps take a pre-stuffed Kong out of your freezer to coax him back into his crate before they leave.
This also means that a middle of the night potty stop outing should take place. Set an alarm clock if you are heavy sleepers.
Seems to me that what you want is to break the habit of using the crate for a bathroom as quickly as you can. I personally would consider combining the crate with an X-Pen, and putting training pads or even newspapers down in the pen. If the dog is tiny relative to the crate, maybe you can define two spaces in it, but I am guessing this is not the case from your description. Or if you happen to have a mudroom or other small and totally puppy-proof space (or can invent one somewhere in your home), you could put pads down in it and have the crate in there with the door open.
If you think this is going on longer than it should, then be sure to consult your veterinarian. It all sounds pretty normal so far, though.
So in a nutshell, I’m suggesting closer management and experimenting more with the size of his space. And not making him be alone too much, while you are at it!