Housebreaking & Crate Training

by Susan Strickland

The anticipation is over, the waiting has ended, and you are on your way home with your new Corgi puppy. The fun is just beginning. Soon you’ll be sitting on the floor with the pup, watching him explore his new environment, letting him climb up in your lap so you can cuddle and play games with him, and observing the cuteness that is Corgi. The laughter and smiles a Corgi brings into a home are immeasurable, but you must also be prepared to teach him the things he needs to know about life in your home. If he learns his early lessons well, his puppyhood will be smooth sailing for both of you. Housebreaking is the first of these lessons.

OOPS - I didn't get him out in time...

When housebreaking your puppy, you need to have him in the same room with you at all times, and you need to keep an eye on him. Use baby gates or close doors to keep him in the room. If you have no way to close off the room, put a line on the pup, and tie the end of it to your belt. Where you go, he goes. If you see him starting to go to the bathroom in the house, exclaim “AAUGH !!” in a startled tone, and grab him, and take him outside. You want to startle him and grab him when he’s in the act!!!

If you always find the accident on the floor after the fact, he will have no idea why you’re upset with him. A dog does not understand the relationship between his owners being mad when there is pee on the floor, and his act of going to the bathroom on the floor. If you yell at your pup when you find an accident that has already happened, you may misinterpret the fact that he’s slinking around as guilt. He certainly seems upset, but only because you get mad when you find the evidence on the floor. A dog cannot understand that your anger has something to do with what he did two hours, or ten minutes, earlier. Dogs live, and think, in the present.

Another thing to keep in mind is that dogs are not born understanding the word ”NO”. They usually learn that the word no means they’ve just made a mistake, because it’s accompanied by a correction that they find to be somewhat unpleasant. Therefore, if your pup goes to the bathroom in the house, and you catch him in the act, and you say “No”, and do nothing else, how is he supposed to know what you’re talking about? To him “No” is only a sound, and a pretty uninteresting one at that. If, though, you make your exclamation of disgust and say “No” as you hustle him outside, he will begin to associate the “no” with your displeasure.

The den:

You’ve probably heard it said that dogs are den animals. This means they like to curl up in small spaces that they can consider their own little homes. And they prefer to keep these spaces clean. Most dogs don’t want to sit in their own poop or pee, so if the den is fairly small they try harder to keep it clean.

Many new owners give their puppy the run of the whole house way before the pup is totally housebroken. This has disastrous results. A new pup should be confined to the room you are in, or his crate. If you let him out of that room into the rest of the house, he will assume he’s out of the den, and is free to go to the bathroom. It’s also a good idea to do his early housebreaking in a room with no rugs, as it’s difficult to get the smell out of the rug.

When the pup first comes home, he should be let out to go to the bathroom frequently, every couple of hours, and whenever his activity changes. Let him out immediately when he wakes up, immediately after eating, when he’s been playing hard, and when you notice him circling or looking around in the perimeter of his area.

It is not the puppy’s responsibility to go to the door and tell you when he has to go out!

Even with an older pup of five or six months or so, it is not his job. It is up to you to get him out in time.

It is a change of activity that marks when the pup will have to go to the bathroom. That’s why if you leave a puppy out in a fenced yard for an hour or more, and then let him in the house, he will go to the bathroom on the floor. He probably did his duty when you first put him out, and when you let him in he’s changed activity again, and has to go.

THE CRATE is the ultimate den for your dog:

The crate is the best place for your puppy when you can’t watch him. It’s effective as a housebreaking tool, because the pup doesn’t want to go in the crate, and then have to sit in it. If the crate is too large, he can go to the bathroom at one end, and then go sit at the other end.

Don’t leave the pup in the crate for a period of time longer than he can physically wait, or he will no longer trust you to get him out in time, and he’ll give up the idea of waiting for you to come back and let him out. If you have to leave a very young puppy for a longer length of time than he could possibly wait, he should be left in a large crate with papers in the back, and water available, or in a small room or exercise pen with the crate in it for napping.

Ideally, in the daytime, eight week old Corgi pups should not be left in the crate longer than two hours. When let out of the crate, it’s usually a good idea to carry them outside, as they may not make it to the door without stopping and having an accident. During the night, the pup will wait longer, but I would suggest you play with him and tire him out a bit before bedtime, let him out last thing, and then put him in his crate and turn out the light. You can keep the crate next to your bed so you can reach in with your fingers and let him know you’re close by, or put the crate in another room, and just go to bed. There may be a little crying initially, but he settle down and go to sleep fairly quickly. If your puppy wakes you up in the middle of the night, you should must get up and let him out. After he goes outside, put him back in the crate and go back to bed. This is the hard part. Now he’s awake. And he doesn’t want to go back to bed. You may be tempted to get him and put him in the bed with you. Just keep in mind, this will reward him for being fussy in his crate, and it will be much harder to get him to settle down the next time.

When the pup wakes up and cries in the morning, perhaps early, you should get him out immediately. As he gets older, and is able to hold it longer, if he continues to wake you up earlier than you intended on getting up, just make him wait a little bit longer each morning, until you get to the time you want.

Not only is the crate great for housebreaking, but you get lots of side benefits from it also. Crates teach dogs how to be alone without being fussy, and help teach them to be quiet while you go about doing things you don’t want them involved in. Yes, you can put the pup in the crate while you’re in the same room. You may want to feed the other dog, mop the floor, or any number of things, without puppy interference. Crates are also useful for stashing the pup when you go out to the store, church, to the movies, etc. They keep puppies from getting in trouble, and keep you from coming home to gnawed kitchen cabinets, chewed phone or electric cords, or emptied waste baskets. There are just so many fun things for a baby to do if left home alone and out of his crate.

Fringe benefits: 

Housebreaking will go remarkably quickly if you are firm, consistent, and observant. By three months of age the pup should be sleeping through the night, and, depending on how old he was when you got him, and how much time you have to devote to his training, accidents should be infrequent. At four to six months of age, even if he seems to have become quite a responsible little fellow, remember that he’s still a baby, and will need his crate for some time yet. During this time he will be allowed more freedom as he proves he can handle it. The crate should be kept handy, though, to help keep him honest when you can’t supervise his activities.

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