Crate/Kennel Training: ADVICE NEEDED!!

Updated on January 31, 2011
A.W. asks from Bushland, TX
17 answers

Hello've never let me down! I have a question about house breaking a puppy. We've had our wonderful old labs since we got married. One of them passed away last week (she was almost 12). Our other one is 13, and our vet strongly encouraged us when we put the female down that if we were going to get a puppy, we needed to do it before we lost the 13 year old. I was thinking about getting one in April, but I keep looking at my old friend and he seems to have aged SO much in the last week. Maybe he's heartbroken, I don't know. But you know how when people have been married for 50 years and one dies, the other one doesn't last too long? I'm afraid that may happen here.

SOOO....long story longer, we are going to go ahead and get a puppy now. We found a great one, so we're moving ahead without the planning/preparation I was hoping to have accomplished before taking this on! It's been A LONG time since we've had a puppy around, and I need a refresher course big time! I've never tried crate/kennel training, but this appeals to me because this time around we also have 3 kids. Maybe I can get the 2 year old potty trained at the same time:) Any advice is greatly appreciated!!! TIA!!!

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answers from Salt Lake City on

Start with a treat right inside the crate. Show it to the puppy, put it there, and let him eat it without bothering him. Gradually put it farther and farther in, until he goes all the way in to eat it. Finally, once he is comfortable eating it in the crate, close the door, just for a few minutes. Let him out before he starts whining, or you'll teach him to whine. Always praise him afterwards for being a good dog.

Get one he can grow into. I really think that it is best to stay with the same one, instead of sizing up with him. And put a blanket or dog-pillow in there, something to make it comfortable. Keep the crate in a quiet area and make it 100% off-limits to the kids - no touching! This needs to be the dog's refuge for when he needs to get away from everything, as well as a place to put him when you are away.



answers from Augusta on

It's very simple really.
When puppy isn't being watched closely he/she needs to be in the crate.
Overnight , when you are busy , when you aren't home, etc.
You can teach the puppy to go to a crate. The crate becomes somewhere they want to be , it's THEIR own space.

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answers from Mansfield on

I totally understand your pain about losing a beloved pet. I lost my nearly 14 year old Rottie in November. I knew her time was coming and didn't want to live without a rott and couldn't replace her so got a puppy this past summer.
Crate training is really about a schedule. Usually puppies are pretty adaptable to actually going in the crate but sometimes they are afraid of it.
Here is a goal for you- The crate will become the puppy’s den- the safe place! IF your puppy cannot keep from peeing and pooping in his crate then there is no way you are going to keep him from peeing in the house. Puppys usually naturally will not go where they sleep- they do not want to mess up their home. Feeding the puppy in the crate- helps puppy love the crate more. Use treats and or toys to help get puppy to go into the crate. The first introduction to the crate is important. Forcing him in and slamming the door will not help him feel safe. You can throw treats in- nudging him toward it- allow him to get the treat and come out a few time from time #1 say a "command" as he is going in - crate, bed, roll in- whatever you choose to use- so he gets that when you say the command this is what you want him to do. As he gets comfortable going in without hesitation- then it is ok to actually put him there when you need to. As you are nudging him in say the command as he goes. Forcing will slow down the process of getting him to love the crate. The crate needs to be THE primary home for your puppy from at least 8 weeks to 16 weeks. I know letting the pup run and play in the house is your goal but not at first- he must love his crate 1st off. And if he will not go in the crate than he will not have accidents cause he is in there most of the time. when you FIRST place your puppy in a crate. He will whine like a baby, howl, scream, kick, cry and bark…If you go to him and let him out- you are setting yourself up for many sleepless nights. Get through these first few days of whining and you have beaten it. This is the ultimate tough love. This is hard on you too but I know that if I get pup out when he whines then I am training him that whining means “I get out of this cage and into the arms of my owner.” Do not do it... (anytime i let my dog out she can not be whining or barking- she is 10 months old now and will bark if we sleep in on saturday morning- cause her schedule is to be out by 7AM....but when I go to get her out she has to be quiet and still before she is allowed out) Even trying to talk to your puppy while he is whining is rewarding him- you are giving him attention. He will keep whining. At first this will happen- he is whining and an hour or two has gone by- You know that you
need to take him outside to the bathroom. Go to the crate- attach the leash- takehim outside to pee and poop and then return to the cage.No playing- no talking- just matter of fact. Not like you’re mad but just matter of fact. If he wasn't whining when it was time to go out then ofcourse after doing business- talk, play, pet, love, etc.
I didn't have to do any of this with Jade our rottie but I have had pups that were difficult in their crates at the beginng and these things had to be done.
Ways to help them not cry- feeding them in crate- it doesn't take too long for them to get that this is a place of food aka love! Food and water (when you would regularry feed- inside the crate, watch as eat- remove prompty- don't leave it in there.... This is really only necessary if you have a pup that doesn't like his crate. Blanket or sheet over crate helps them calm down (usually). other things that may work Put a chew bone or toy in there. Place one of your shirts with your scent inside the crate. leave radio or tv on (this made mine worse). I have heard it suggested to make sure the crate is in the same room as the family but NOT the center of
attention- but this only made the crying worse for mine. You can try if want to.
Ok now onto the schedule part of using the crate to housetrain. be sure not to leave your puppy in the crate for more than 4 hours at a time or for many hours during the day. That would be cruel and bad for the puppy’s development.At night- take the puppy outside to pee and poop (treat right after going before coming inside)- no playing- strictly business and then return to cage and go to bed. Try to wait until puppy not barking or whining to take him out. Every TIME you take your puppy out of the crate (even if it was just 5 minutes after coming inside and putting him in there for a time out for rough play with the kids) - attach the leash and go directly outside. Keep this as your routine. In days, your puppy will know this routine and will get to expecting you to take him outside. As soon as the crate door is opened- Jade goes right to the back door to go out.
Use a command (as he is going- at first) "go potty" or the like- so he learns that is what you want him to do. Just like the command to go in the crate- he will learn that is what it means. Now I can just open the door- tell jade to go potty as she is on her way out and then let her back in- in the beginning she was on a leash and I said it as she was going. Then I starting saying it as we got to her go stop- now I can say it as she is going out. She will go to her go spot- do her business and then come back.
Set up a potty schedule and stick to it. Routine is key here. This is the schedule I used- yep had it typed and printed so that everyone in the family could follow it. This was a summer (aka no school schedule so it would be different if we got a puppy now)
7:00 Wake up Jade (who is in crate) -put on leash "go outside" as opening the door take out to designated "go spot" Say "go potty" as going. when done Play time outside if weather permits.
7: 30 Food and water- then crate...this step was in crate for pets who didn;t love crate like Jade did.
8:00 leash and take out (follow same commands, etc as earlier- everytime) 8:30 Crate confinement- no food or water- you can place toys - this is where the ignore crying works best
11:30Remove from crate-leash- go outside "go potty"
then feed food and water.
12:30 Attach leash and go outside to designated area- stay outside and get
exercise… Play and have fun.
1:00 (sometimes later depending on if we are playing/training for longer) Crate confinement (if feeding in the crate at about 4:00 put in Food and water. 4:30 Take out of crate- attach leash- take to spot "go potty")
**With Jade I did not feed in crate so at 4:00 we would go from crate outside to potty then come in to eat- just like early morning schedule but no play before coming in. 4:30 outside to potty and play/train.
5:15-8:00 Crate confinement. At this time I was cooking dinner- running kids to sports or whatever sometimes we were home- sometimes gone.
8:00 Water and then wait about 15-30 minutes- attach leash- take outside to
designated area. Do not play- this would stimulated the puppy to pee when he
returns inside.
Take out one more time (right before you go to bed) and then crate for the night.
In the beginning you may need to set alarm for once in the night and take out for peeing and pooping. Do not play- let pee and go back in to crate
You will usually know if this needs to be done due to whining but if you take out the puppy and it does not go pee then you are being taken advantage of and need to extend the time between the whines.
Also do not let your pup roam freely around the house. If I was in the kitchen- so was pup. If I was in the livingroom so was pup. If moving from room to room (like cleaning I would crate her). I also would put her on a leash and slip it through a belt loop to keep her right with me. Since my old Rottie girl (Mercury RIP) was my constant shadow I didn't mind if i was "training" this pup to stay with me no matter what. She pretty much does but some other pups I did the leash thing and they didn't stay attached to me after they were trusted to roam free. But I do think they bonded with me more. The shadow thing my just be a rottie trait!
While pup is out of crate- supervise... If starts to go potty- clap yell "Hey" something to startle and make him stop. then take outside- praise and treat when he "goes on command in spot" then confine him while you clean up the mess. Accidents do happen. Constant supervision and the leash help with this. They also usually pull less on the leash if they spend alot of time on it.
Becareful that once they know the "go potty" command you do not say "go outside to go potty?" My husband accidently did that and sure enough pup went potty- right where she stood! Just "go outside" works.
Sorry this is so long! I have had 4 puppies (in our home) in the past 7 years and the crate and leash worked best. This seems stressful and alot of work and it is hard to get used to it- but it doesn't take long. Also with this kind of schedule kids can get involved and help out too. My son used to take the pups out in the morning then feed. My girls would take out the mid morning and evening times. supervised of course and this was after the schedule was pretty regular thing for us and pup and they were used to leash and commands. It doesn't take long with this schedule before you do not need to confine as much, etc. And it helped the pups to know that they had to listen to all of us- even the 5 year old girl who is smaller then they are. All the dogs see all of us as boss.... not just me or my husband because we did all the training/feeding etc.
Good luck and enjoy your puppy!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I'm sorry about your loss!! We lost our wonderful Obi in December 2008 and it took us until August 10 - to find "the right one"...and I do know what you mean about your other one aging sucks...just keep him comfy and keep on giving him lots of love.

We didn't crate train...Grady has a play pen that we put him in at night, the fencing without the top, and we set a schedule to get him outside. It's usually every half-hour or hour...they SHOULD be able to hold their bladder an hour for every month....every dog/breed is different.

USUALLY the older dog will assist in the potty training...It depends upon how well they hit it off and get along....the puppy may have too much energy for the "old" guy...don't be surprised if he gets snappy with him as he teaches him the "pack" law!! :)

Any way - get the puppy out frequently - tell him "potty" or whatever works for you - our neighbors tell their border collie to "do the toilet", we tell Grady "potty" - whatever works for him/her. Handsomely praise him whenever he potty's outside like you want him to! Treats, love praise for doing the right thing!

Grady is now 7 months old - went to bed with the boys last night at 1230 and is STILL asleep with them!! What a good boy momma has!!!



answers from Dallas on

Trust me on this one (and you can get it at Border's). Read: "Puppy Whisperer: A Compassionate, Non Violent Guide to Early Training and Care" by Paul Owens. It worked for our Labradoodle puppy.

Oh! And I also had a corral in the kitchen. I got it at the pet store. It's like a huge playpen. That way when I was busy cooking he could still hang out with the family but not get into any trouble.



answers from San Antonio on

Sorry to hear about your dogs. I understand how it feels as our much loved dog recently passed away at the age of 13. After she passed away we adopted two 3 month old puppies from a rescue who had never been in kennels before, and training was really simple.

I put comfy blankets in there, showed them the kennel, put a couple of treats in the back, and then left it open all day. They went in and out all day whenever they wanted. That night when I went to bed I put them in their kennels with lots of praise, a treat, and a toy. They both whined for about 10 minutes then settled down to sleep.

They did not make it through the night without a potty break though. The barking started after they were in for 3 or 4 hours. I took them outside, then put them back in with the same procedure: lots of praise, a treat, and the toy was already in there.

The next day I made the kennels available to them all day. After a few days they didn't whine when I put them to bed for the night. Now after 3 months, they go to their kennels without the treats, but with a toy when I tell them it's bedtime. And they make it through the night without a potty break so that's a plus.

From everything I read the most important thing is to never put them in the kennel as punishment, but to always make it a place they feel comfortable and enjoy.

Good luck



answers from Dallas on

LOVE kennel training....and the puppy will love it too. It gives them safe place away from kids, other animals, strangers, etc. After I am done kennel training I continue to leave the kennel accessible with an open door and my dogs will sleep in there by choice. When they are in trouble I tell them "go to your house" and they run and get in their kennel. And when you are out of house it keep them from peeing, chewing, etc. And they just sleep in there anyway, so they are snug and happy. I have never given food or water in the crate. The crate is for sleeping...just like teaching our kids that the bed is for sleeping.



answers from Boston on

In response to the person who disagreed with your vet: we've found that the vet's advice is absolutely on the money. Having a younger dog around has kept my old black lab going -- in a good way. He enjoys her company and she keeps an eye on him -- really. She knows when he's at the door waiting to come in. If he needs to go out, he's happier when she goes with him and follows her closely (his eyes are starting to go). She keeps him playful which is good for his muscle tone and his brain. In fact, she doesn't start the play, which seems kind of respectful. He starts it and she keeps it at a level that works for him. Everyone needs a purpose and they provide that for each other. Granted, there are a ton more issues for the first month or two with a young puppy, but I think you'll find it worth the work. Think of it as being like 80 or 90 years old, having lost your best friend and then someone new moves into the neighborhood who thinks like you and behaves like you -- only a little younger. Sometimes it's just nice to be understood.



answers from Atlanta on

I really disagree with your vet. With the older labs being together for so long, it's just more stress on the dog you have left. Afterall, would you really want to look after and potty train a toddler when you're in your 80's/90's - that's basically what you would be doing to the older dog.



answers from Dallas on

As a professional pet sitter, I really enjoyed reading all the answers here. Yes, crate training is great (all of our four large dogs were crate trained and this is their "bed") and they do very well when it is bedtime to go there or to get away from the chaos of the younger dogs. Our largest is a great pyr. his "crate" is the laundry room.

The main item about housebreaking is consistency. Make sure to set times for him and monitor his bathroom habits. Puppies eat more so their bathroom times are harder to manage and hence more accidents.

They have crates with dividers for big dogs and those worked very well with ours. They have to be able to move around enough to do their little circle and lay down but not large enough that they can go to the back of the crate and do their business.

Also, with the high energy dogs, like labs, they also need to have their walking and play times to run off some of the energy and keep their behavior in line. A bored puppy can be a destructive puppy. Like I said I really loved the answers many people gave and the ultimate goal is that the puppy eventually "graduates" to being out of the crate or in his area while you are at work or gone. That said, please, please, please, do not crate an animal for 16 - 18 hours while you are working, on a trip etc., that's just not right. The people here on this post are very concious of that but I just wanted to bring it up.

Have a wonderful joy with your new puppy and so sorry for the loss of your older dog. Here is "Rainbow Bridge" for you:

L. Mitchell
Fetch Pet Care of NE Dallas
[email protected]



answers from Colorado Springs on

Think of a new puppy as a new baby. Can you manage two babies - the new pup and the two-year-old? That's the first question. Many animal shelters will not place puppies or kittens with families who have very small children. They encourage those families to adopt pets who are older (say, seven months old) because there's a better chance for them to do well. So you might want to give it some thought.

I think pets do grieve, but they also need YOU all the more. Let your elderly guy know he's still tops in your book. I'm told that sometimes an older dog really enjoys having a pup around - after the pup has learned who's the boss. If your older dog takes to the young one, it could be helpful. The New Kid will use the Old Kid as a role model, and you may be able to housetrain and teach obedience more easily. Personalities come into play in this. You want to try to see that they become friends. But you know that.

We have raised pups for Canine Companions for Independence, and we are required to crate train. I can't give you all the details on this post, but I can do the basics, and you can also get information from your pet store and/or your vet.

Crate training is the alternative to letting a dog run around in the house loose when you are away from home or at night. If you use the crate wisely (not as a punishment!), the dog will come to think of it as his own room and will like it. If he's left alone for hours in it, or put in there angrily, he's going to come to hate it.

You want to get a crate your dog can stand up and turn around comfortably in. We raise labs, goldens, or mixes of the two, so I bought an extra-large crate (the biggest one I could find, actually) and when we're getting a puppy I put boxes inside the crate to cut the inside space down to puppy size. It's too expensive to buy new crates as your dog grows, but you don't want him to have so much space in there that he can potty inside the crate and still have a comfortable place to sleep. The crate is in my bedroom, strange as it may sound, because pups feel more comfortable knowing that family is nearby.

When there's a new puppy, I put old towels in the bottom of the crate (comfortable to sleep on but easy to wash), and I give the puppy something safe to chew on. To make the crating more attractive, when I put the pup in it I also toss in a TINY little treat - maybe a little piece of a puppy biscuit - to help him decide that this is a good place. At night, after I've taken Puppy out to do his thing, I'll put him in the crate, close the door, and put a towel or something over the door to shut out light, views of people, and other distractions. Expect some fussing! If you can wait out the whining and barking (think: toddler crying, "I don't wanna!"), then he'll get the idea that this is what is supposed to happen. After that, you'll know that when he cries or whines in the crate he's doing it for a really good reason (i.e., has to potty, has a stomach upset).

I do just about the same thing during the day when I'm teaching him to stay in his crate. I crate him after he's answered the call of Nature outside. I start out by being out of the house only about twenty or thirty minutes. Then I come back, let him out, praise him, and take him outside right away. You can't leave a puppy in a crate very long, not only because he'll be insecure but also because he can't go without pottying very long.

When a toddler gets overexcited or overtired, he or she can get out of control. In the same way, a puppy who is overexcited or overtired sometimes makes into big trouble. Then a time-out may be in order. You treat this as a normal occurrence, without getting angry at the dog. Just put him in his crate with a chew toy and shut the door. Compare it with putting that out-of-control toddler down for a nap. When you let Pup out, don't do it angrily.

It takes lots of patience, but I think it pays. Your puppy has a comfortable, happy place of his own, and you know he (as well as your house) is safe.

This post is long enough, but I'll be glad to answer any more questions if you want to contact me.



answers from Denver on

You vet can give you some advice...but it is a great idea. We had a lab too, crate trained, and that was his place to go voluntarily. We hardly ever needed to close the door even.

You didn't mention the ages of your kids, but a puppy is like having a new baby around, for awhile. Lot's of dr. appts, training, etc. Make sure you are ready for all the extra work with kids at home!



answers from Dallas on

We did the same thing 1 year ago for our 13 year old Lab - got a puppy - and he loved it then and loves it now. It really brought him new life. He had a stroke last May, but came back from it better than ever! he just turned 14, and is the instigator with a lot of tug-o-war and wrestling!

One thing tho - our new lab is like Marley re-incarnated!!!! We didn't crate train our older Lab, and we failed MISERABLY at the crate-training. Somehow we made it through, but I wish you greater patience - or a non-Marley! I wish I had known about the Paul Owens book a year ago!



answers from Fort Wayne on

we have two bullmastiffs that were crate trained and they loved it. first you need a crate that is not huge for your puppy it needs enough room to turn around in and as he grows you will need to upgrade to a larger one. I always put an old t-shirt of mine in the crate with the pup so it felt comfortable also put a towel or light blanket over the crate to create a den like setting. Keep the crate out of the busy part of the house, as much as you would love to have the pup in the same area he needs a quiet space to rest.

your best bet is to creat a routine like feed pup, let outside, then in the crate
for an hour. then let back outside and play with pup for awhile then back in crate. All you are doing is helping him learn that his crate is his relax time and giving him the comfort and safety he needs as he grows.

dont put food or water in crate, just a few comfort items and a strong chew toy. he will want to go in the crate on his own to get away so be sure he can access to the crate at any time. gl you will do great as a new puppy mama.



answers from Kansas City on

our dog likes to go in the kennel, because she gets a treat. She sleeps with us at night, but during the day when we're at work, she goes in her kennel. At first we were having to drag her in kicking and screaming, but then we tried the treat thing and it was like magic, now she waits in there in the morning knowing she'll get a treat.



answers from Tyler on

We have four dogs. I crate trained the last two and love it!!!! Make sure the crate is large enough for the dog when it's full grown. They have crates with dividers so you can make it small while the pup is small and then remove the divider as he grows. Our Whippet loves covers. She buries herself in her covers, especially during cold weather. I would put them in the crate at night and lock it. In the morning I let them out and outside to pee. I used the puppy pads to house train our dogs, but they really caught on to going outside since I would always give them a reward for peeing outside. The crate is their sanctuary. I never use it as punishment. THEY use it to get away from chaos---like when my grandchildren are here. When they were just puppies and likely to get into stuff, I would put them in the crate when I needed to run errands. They napped a lot anyway, so this was their nap time. I think the crate is the only way to go! If you start it at the beginning when the puppy is brand new, they will accept it as perfectly normal.



answers from Houston on

I use crates if I am going to be gone. I also crate at night all night. reason why a dog wont potty in there own bed unless they just cant hold it and makes the accidents easy to clean. I always leave the crate available and open if the kids get on their nerves or they need a nap they go to thier crate on their own. never use the crate for punishment. or they will resent the crate and you wil have accidents in the house anyway good luck and congrats on the puppy and sorry to hear about your pets

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