Crate/Potty Training Your New Puppy


While “training” is in the word “potty training”, dog trainers usually do not promote this minor part of dog training. Rather, they would better spend their efforts and experience on the more difficult tasks of obedience and behavioral training. Nonetheless, as part of a larger package offer, Top Dog Training does set up our customers for successful crate/potty training. Note that I put crate and potty together in crate/potty training. That is because without the crate, potty training could take 3 to 4 times as long. Here is why.

The Importance of Crate Training

Ninety-eight percent of dogs, when left in their crates, will not pee or poop if left there for a reasonable period of time. The crate must be sized perfectly – it should be large enough for your pup to walk in, turn around, and comfortably lay down inside. There should not be more than 6 inches of extra room in the crate if measuring your pup from nose to the top of the tail. If your crate is larger than that, your pup will most likely pee/poop on one end of the crate and lay in the other. Note that I mentioned earlier the words “reasonable period of time”. To measure this, you just need to do simple math – take the number of months your pup is old and add 1 – that sum is the maximum hours your pup should be crated before she has to eliminate. Obviously, the older your pup gets, the longer she can hold it, but that is one main reason why young pups cry in the middle of the night – they need to go.

Setting Up the Crate

OK, we have sized the crate and put the divider in the right place inside the crate. FYI, the divider is a metal slice of the crate that can be used to “divide” the crate into two sections. You should buy a crate that has a divider, so when your pup grows, you don’t have to get a brand new crate – you simply move the divider back to create more living space.

Teaching Your Puppy to Love the Crate

To teach your puppy to love her crate, it’s best to teach the sit and stay commands first. Then, you toss a high-value treat (beef liver, hot dog, or boiled chicken slivers) to the back of the crate and say “go to your crate” and wait for your puppy to get all four paws inside the crate. When that happens, kneel down in front of the entrance to the crate and say “yes! Crate!” and wait for your pup to turn around. As soon as she does, give her another treat while saying “yes! Crate!” again. Then, repeat the words for a third time. As soon as you repeat the words for the third time, say “stay” immediately and back up a few steps. There are three “D’s” to “stay” – distance, duration, and distraction. Right now, we are working on the first two D’s. Once you back up a few steps, wait 2 seconds only, then say the release word “OK!” and toss a treat somewhere near but outside the crate so your puppy leaves the crate to get it. Repeat this whole process many, many times over a period of 5 minutes, twice a day, for the first two weeks. Your pup will certainly begin to love her crate.

Placement and Comfort

By the way, I recommend, if physically possible, to put the crate in the living area during the day and in your bedroom at night. That way she will be able to smell your scent and see you during the rough first week. It may reduce the number of sleepless nights. I would also cover all sides of the crate except the front door, so it feels like a comfy/cozy den to her.

The First Few Nights

OK, what about the first few nights after bringing the puppy home? There is no sugar-coating it, it’s going to be rough. You might want to get some earplugs. First of all, you will want to bond with your pup as much as time allows during the day to build trust and have your puppy smell and see you as a safe human. You need to put your puppy on a feeding/drinking schedule immediately. Let’s assume that your puppy arrives at your house early in the AM, and that you are training your pup to go on wee wee pads first. The first thing you’ll want to do is see if she needs to go.

Daytime Routine

I recommend, if you have room, get an x-pen that is about 15 feet in circumference. Make sure it’s high enough to prevent jumping out (breed dependent). Now, put your puppy on a leash and bring her to the wee wee pad and keep her there for 5 minutes. If she doesn’t go, leave her in the x-pen for an hour or so just in case she needs to go. Let’s assume she goes on the pads. It’s party time! Give her lots of praise but don’t scare the poor thing. You will need treats – 3 high-value treats to be exact. Give her treat 1 and follow up with praise like “yes! Good girl! Good potty!” then give treat 2 followed by praise, and finally treat three. You will want to do this every single time she goes on the pads. It will take two to three weeks, but she will come to understand that when she pees outside the wee wee pads there’s no party but when she does – it’s party time! Where do you think she is going to end up going consistently?

So now it’s 10:30 AM and your little girl has done her business. It’s bonding and playtime, outside the x-pen, but under close, continuous supervision. If she looks like she is going to go, pick her up and bring her to the wee wee pads. Assuming you get an hour to an hour and a half of playtime, it’s time for some water. Put water down and leave it there for 10 minutes, then pick up the water again. Once your puppy finishes drinking, it’s crate time with a closed door. Set your timer for fifteen minutes, then take her out to the pads on a leash for 5 minutes. If she goes, you know what to do. If she doesn’t, she goes back in the crate for 15 more minutes. Then it’s back to the pads, so on and so forth. Once she pees, she is free to be out and about, again, under constant, continuous supervision. It’s once again bonding time. Remember if she plays a lot, she’ll need another water break followed by crate time.

Meal Times

Assume we have made it to lunch. Put your pup’s food and water down for 20 minutes, then pick both up. You guessed it – it’s crate time for 20 minutes, followed by more crate time if she doesn’t at least pee on the pads. What about pooping? Most dogs do some serious sniffing and circling when they are getting ready to poop. Since you are monitoring her closely, you’ll see the signs and pick her up and bring her to the pads on a leash so you can keep her where you want her. You will want to keep a schedule of how quickly she pees after drinking and poops after eating.

Midday is much like mid-morning and dinner time is much like lunch. There will be several necessary water breaks along the way. If your puppy’s bedtime is 9 PM, you should give her the last water break at 8:30 so she will be completely free of liquid when it’s time for bed. Remember the math equation above? If your pup is 3 months old, that means she can hold it for 4 hours, and someone is going to have to put her in her x-pen, where the pads are, at 1 AM and 5 AM. But it’s not an exact science – she may not whimper until 3 AM the first time, or it could be midnight – just be aware. When she goes in the middle of the night, it’s still party time for her – 3 treats and lots of praise.

A New Day

A new day has come. The first thing to do is let her out of her crate, clip the leash on, and bring her to the pads for 5 minutes. By now, you are an expert and know what lies ahead for the day.


All of the above assumes your puppy is a mute. In reality, you will most likely have a few sleepless nights. If you want to get through this adjustment period in just 3 or 4 nights, you will have to largely ignore your puppy’s screaming. There are two exceptions. First, if it’s mathematically her time to go again, bring her out to the wee wee pads. Second, if her cries/whines/barks/screams are intermittent through the night, it’s an opportunity to reward her for her silent periods with treats and praise. I suggest that when you get 5 seconds of silence, tell her (from wherever you are physically) “yes! Quiet!” and then go give her a treat followed by “yes! Quiet!” again. This process will most likely shorten the number of sleepless nights as well as teach her a new command.


How long does it take to crate/potty train a puppy?

Crate/potty training typically takes about 2 to 3 weeks, but this can vary depending on the puppy’s age, breed, and consistency in training.

What size crate should I get for my puppy?

The crate should be large enough for your puppy to walk in, turn around, and comfortably lay down inside. There

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