ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: I just brought home an 8-week-old puppy and want to ensure the best possible crate training. It’s been four days, however, he is still having accidents. I believe the crate may be too big. How do you recommend starting a new puppy out when they need to have their space and for potty training?
Dr. Nichol: Teaching a shiny new puppy how to find the bathroom can be challenging. Momma cleans up after her infants but as the kids mature their genetic programming motivates them not to soil their living area. This isn’t easy for everybody. A recent study confirmed that small breed dogs can be a lot harder, if not impossible, to fully house-train. If you’re a Chihuahua person you already know this – not that I’m pointing fingers.
Free-living dogs face hardships but they have canine-specific choices. Like having their own apartment, they stay warm and safe in their private den, a place they can enter or exit whenever they want. Our domestic dogs are also denning creatures with rights to the same basic freedoms.
A generous sized crate, with its top and sides covered, can work fine for overnight but daytime confinement of more than a few hours would be counterproductive. A dog who can’t get loose may accept having to eliminate inside his private space, causing significant stress and confusion. You would invite frustration and panic if your pupster felt trapped in a cage during the day.
Now is the perfect time for One Day Housetraining. Keep the little squirt in a small room with a food-dispensing toy between hourly trips to the yard. Lead him outside on-leash and remain silent while waiting patiently for the big event. If nature takes its course you can quietly tell Junior he’s good but save the histrionics and Mylar balloons for his birthday. The canine-specific reward for this accomplishment is a brief jaunt off-territory to read the bulletin boards. Then it’s back to the room and food toy (not crate) for another hour. If he doesn’t produce, he’ll learn that opportunity will knock again. Read about One Day Housetraining on my website, drjeffnichol.com.
Dr. Jeff Nichol, a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist, provides consultations in-person and by telephone and Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.