Crate Training as a shortcut to House Training your Puppy

I wish I'd known this trick for my first few dogs! Crate Training is the answer to caring for a new puppy. It keeps him out of harm's way - safe from over-excited children, older dogs, clumsy feet, jealous cats, car wheels, and all the hazards a tiny puppy can meet.

And then, when you're ready to give him your attention, out he comes: to play, interact with children and other household pets, to eat, and - importantly! - to relieve himself.

Chewing, too ...

Crate Training is the answer to unwanted puppy chewing too. If you leave him in his crate when you go out, then the only things he can chew are his bones and chewtoys, so when you come back there can be a blissful reunion unmarred by the horrors of discovering your dining room table with a gnawed leg, the electric flexes chewed right through, or your favourite jumper loved to death.

To acclimatise your pup to his crate is simple - just bring him home and put him in it! Teaching an older dog to enjoy his crate takes a little more time, but if you encourage him slowly and gradually with treats, without shutting the door on him, he will soon choose to go there of his own accord.

I would choose a crate that will fit your pup for the next 6 months to a year. The best crates are lightweight, tough mesh with a metal pan. They can fold up for transporting, and are very easy to clean.

You can get crates tailormade for your car too. This is essential for transporting him safely - and legally. A dog loose in a car is considered an unsecured load and can cause much damage to other occupants of the car (as well as himself) in the event of an accident. And a secure and comfy cage means there's never a danger of your dog jumping out of the car onto a busy road.

Make it cosy ...

I line the base of the house crate with newspaper, and fill the whole crate with comfy machine-washable bedding. A pup who has come from a conscientious breeder will be unlikely to soil his bedding. See this video of very young puppies learning to eliminate away from their sleeping area: Position the crate in a corner of the room, so the puppy is sheltered on two sides - from draughts as well as traffic. But he'll be able to see everything that goes on.

To begin with, a young pup will spend all his sleeping time in the crate. If he's happy there during the day, there's a good chance he'll be happy there overnight. He'll need to relieve himself during the night to start with, so get up and take him outside on a lead - no playtime - and then pop him back into bed again.

At night, have the crate in your bedroom, maybe partly covered with a blanket for warmth and cosiness. Your puppy is much more likely to settle quietly if he doesn't feel abandoned.

If you're using the clicker for training, you can click just before you reward, every time he eliminates in the right place. My pups tend to lick their lips as they wee as they know a treat is coming! You can check out Clicker Training here.

Of course you'll be taking him out on the lead to the garden every time he wakes, after each meal, after an active play session, and at least once an hour. Never scold him for doing it in the wrong place - regard it as a management problem and resolve to be more proactive next time. Before long you can add your vocal cue - you could say "hurry up" or "busy" or "be clean" or whatever you like (that you don't mind saying out loud in public!)

For the most dog and child friendly gardens, see Phoenix Lawns Artificial Lawns for Dogs.

The natural method ...

As this method of crate training is totally without pressure - simply building on the dog's natural desire to keep his nest clean - you can start very young.

In fact I have had my very quickest and best housetraining results with a pup I had from 4 weeks (his mother was sick). By the age of 6 weeks, this little puppy was clean and dry by night. Not long after he would go outside and relieve himself on cue. I would expect a puppy to be reliable between 9 and 14 weeks. The smaller the dog the longer it may take. The beauty of crate training is that it does the work for you!

An Added Advantage of early Crate Training

At some stage in his life your dog may need surgery or confinement after an injury. Imagine the stress of trying to introduce him to a cage at this time! I've found it so useful to be able to park the dog contentedly in his crate. They feel secure from being trodden on and can switch off and relax and concentrate on getting better.

But is Crate Training cruel?

I have found people may have misgivings about using a crate for a puppy - but these are usually dispelled when they find out what crate training is about.

We're not talking about shutting a puppy away and neglecting him - far from it! Crate training gives you the chance to build a great relationship with your pup very quickly. After all, you never need tell him off for anything!

What better way to start off a lifelong partnership?