Housebreaking with a Crate
What is it?
What is "crate training"? The main reason new pet owners often oppose the use of a crate is that they do not understand it. It is not a "cage" used for punishing the puppy. A crate is a useful training tool, just like a collar and leash, if used correctly. It has proven itself over and over again, in many different home situations to be the fastest and easiest way to potty train a puppy. Understanding this before you start will help you through this training process.
Our dogs are certainly not wild canines but they do still share some traits. Canines need a safe place, out of the way of every day hustle and bustle of life. Many people will notice their dog or puppy choosing to lie under a chair or low table, watching the world go by. They are looking for a den. All puppies, and Portuguese Water Dogs more than many, can be very destructive. A crate is a place that can keep your puppy and your possessions from harm when you are busy.
In our homes, we can give our dogs a den of their own, and it can be comforting and useful for both dog and owner. Dogs will instinctually keep their den clean. This is an important point for you to understand. Use this information. This is the why a crate works for housebreaking your dog. Your puppy will learn to enjoy his crate and want to keep it clean.
There are times you can be fairly certain your pup will need to potty: when he wakes up from a nap, after he eats, after a play session, or anytime he hasn't been out for awhile. Like a small child, a puppy can not "hold it" for very long, so you must be aware and ever watchful.
When your pup cannot be under your watchful eye, he should be in his crate. When he is napping, he should be in his crate. While you are eating, cleaning or working, your puppy should be in his crate. This may sound excessive to some. It doesn't need to be. You need to schedule time to spend with your pup. (See the "Do you have the time now" section of the "Is this the time for a puppy." article.) Have short training sessions throughout the day. Play with your puppy. Go for short walks around the neighborhood.
When you are casually moving about your home during the day and can do so, practice "tethering". This is simply attaching the puppy to your body. The easiest way to do this is to attach the leash to your belt or something similar. This keeps the pup with you, and yes, takes some of the pressure off of you to keep the pup from wandering away and getting into trouble.
Following is a sample day for you and your new puppy:
Puppy wakes up in his crate and you get up immediately and take the puppy outside on leash*. Puppy goes potty, praise the puppy. Puppy comes back into the house for breakfast. After breakfast you both go back outside for the puppy to go potty. Puppy goes and you praise the puppy. Now the puppy can be left loose in the house, under your watchful eye, to play for awhile. Maybe have a short training session. Then back outside to potty (don't forget the praise!) and into his crate for a nap.
Puppy wakes up from his nap and you immediately take him outside. Puppy goes potty, you praise, back into the house for lunch. Puppy eats lunch, goes outside with you and goes potty, you praise. Now is a good time for a short walk. Incorporate training into this as well. Ask puppy Sit while you reach for his collar and put the leash on. Good Puppy. Give a treat as a reward, outside for a quick walk around the neighborhood. Back home, potty before you go into the house if needed, praise. Playtime with puppy. Puppy goes back outside to potty, praise, back indoors for a well deserved nap in his crate.
Puppy wakes up from his nap, you both go outside, puppy goes, you praise, back in the house for playtime. Time to go back outside, puppy goes, you praise, maybe time for an evening walk. Back into the house, play, dinner, potty, praise, back inside.
Puppy has had playtime, training time and walks with his adored humans today. Outside to potty, into the crate for a well earned sleep period!
Now, you don't have to follow the above exactly. It is to give you an idea of how to work the puppy's schedule into your own life. Puppies, like children, need a routine.
If you work outside the home be fair to the puppy. He cannot "hold it" all day while you are gone. If you can, try to get home at lunchtime. Arrange for a friend or neighbor to visit during the day, don't expect the puppy to wait all day. He cannot. Make sure whoever visits the pup during the day understand the importance of taking the puppy outside as soon as he comes out of his crate and praising when he goes potty. You must expect to spend more time in the evening with your puppy than if someone were home with him all day. Be prepared for this. You are the center of this young, living creature's universe. He has waited all day for you to come home. Enjoy it, and even on days you don't feel like it, you must spend time with the puppy.
Consistent and fair crate training as a puppy can make your entire life with your pet easier. When you are visiting in someone else's home or a hotel, your dog may be welcome if he will sit quietly in his crate when needed. When you need your dog out of the way during special occasions in your own home, you have a pet who will behave while in his crate. If your dog should need to spend time in the veterinary hospital he will not be nearly as frightened if he is used to being in a crate for periods of time. Your dog has a place he can choose to go when he needs time on his own.
Some people choose to not crate their dog while they are out once he is an adult. This can work for many dogs. With your Portuguese Water Dog however, please know that a mentally and emotionally mature dog may not appear in your home for three to five years!
*Having the puppy on a leash for potty time can help keep him "on task". An off leash puppy is more likely to wander, sniff and want to play. After he has done his business you can certainly remove the leash, in your securely fenced yard, and play.