New Pet Owner

Choosing the Right Crate for House-training

Bringing A Baby Into A Dog’s World

A dog pen may not look very much like a canine toilet-training device, but it can play a crucial role in helping a pet to develop the control he needs to become a respectable member of the family.

Crate training is widely recognized as a humane house-breaking technique that capitalizes on a dog's instinctive desire to have a warm, clean den of his own. And the proper enclosure can help your canine companion develop the control he needs to keep from doing his business anytime, anywhere.

Since crate training won't work unless you choose the right one for your dog, here are tips for doing just that:

  • Dog pens need to be strong – Although soft-sided crates are light and easy to carry, a puppy can demolish one in minutes simply by chewing through the screen. Opt instead for a metal or plastic crate. Both can stand up to a sharp-toothed assault.
  • Assess your dog – Certain dogs do better in one type of crate than another. A shy dog might appreciate the relative darkness of a plastic but well-ventilated pen with a grate in the front. A snub-nosed breed like a bulldog or pug might do better with a metal crate's overall ventilation.
  • Consider size – A crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down in, but not much more than that. Go smaller, and you'll cramp your canine companion. Go larger, and your dog will certainly be comfortable — but he'll also be able to relieve himself at one end of the crate and sleep at the other, defeating the purpose of the crate.
  • Put in padding – The bare floor of a crate is too cold and hard for a dog to sleep on comfortably. Put down a pad so your dog's crate becomes a little cozier. Crate pads come in a variety of sizes to match the dimensions of standard-sized crates and fit snugly on the crate floor. Many crate pads have waterproof plastic covers and others come in machine-washable synthetic lamb's wool; either is good to have in case your puppy has an accident in his crate.

    If you want to make a pad, use a durable fabric the puppy is unlikely to chew. One option is to cover a foam "egg crate" with a vinyl shower curtain that you securely tape on the bottom.
  • Divide and conquer – A crate that's just the right size for an adult dog will be too big for a growing puppy. If your cute little puppy is likely to grow up to be a large dog, consider a metal crate that comes with a hard metal or plastic divider the dog can't chew or get stuck in. The divider is a barrier that walls off part of the crate and can be adjusted as your puppy grows.

Most importantly, walk your puppy frequently and especially after he eats. Make sure he's on "empty" before you place him in the crate. When he relieves himself outdoors, praise him profusely. Dogs delight in pleasing their owners, and if you let him know he's done a good job, he'll want to repeat that good behavior.

For more detailed advice on training your pet, visit the ASPCA Web site and consider contacting a professional animal behaviorist.