What comes first house training or kennel (crate) training? Potty training and kennel training is a big frustration for a lot of pet parents. Whether the dog has been living in your house for months and still having issues with the dog having accidents in the home or you just brought them home. The reward-based method by Dr. Ian Dunbar outlines in detail in ‘Before and After Getting Your Puppy’ worked wonders when I needed to house train my own dog, Countess Zoey. Dr. Dunbar’s method worked quickly and easily to teach my pup to be comfortable in the kennel and to do her potty business outside, not inside. By the third day, Countess Zoey caught onto doing her potty business outside equaled treats. By the 14th day of no accidents in the house, I considered her training a success.
Bringing home any dog, whether a puppy or an older dog, outside potty training and kennel training work together. To set yourself and your dog for success, it is best to prepare before bringing them home. You want your pup to start off on the right paw and for you to have the least amount of headaches or accidents inside to clean up. Dr. Ian Dunbar’s reward-based method training gets you the results you want simply and without a lot of fuss.
First, you need to purchase a kennel large with a divider. Don’t buy the smallest kennel because they will grow out of it quicker than you think. Do not look at kenneling as a punishment. Kenneling your dog becomes a safe haven where you know they are safely in their kennel and not chewing up your good shoes or having a potty accident. At first, leave the blankets and beds out of the kennel. Place the bedding back in when you are confident they get not to go potty inside or the kennel. If they pee or poop in the kennel, they will likely pee or poop in their bed or blankets making more work for the pet parents to clean up and not teach them not to go the bathroom in the kennel. The pup/dog only needs enough space to turn around and lie down, only moving the spacer as the pup needs more space to lie down.
Second, purchase a lot of Kongs in many sizes. I recommend getting one or two of the small (puppy size) and 3 or 4 of the bigger-sized Kongs. Make sure the Kongs are the right size for the age and breed dog that you bring home. The super tiny Kongs would be great for Yorkie but horrible for a Lab because they could easily swallow them. Kongs will become your favorite dog toy. The magic trick with the Kong is stuffing it with lots of goodies. Click here to check the Youtube video from the Dunbar Academy. Youtube is also a great source for other ideas or recipes to stuff the Kong.
Third, stock up on treats. Get freeze-dried liver, chicken, or beef. Also, get some of the stinkiest cheese. Boiled chicken also works really well too. If you do not want to get your dog snobbish to their food and only prefer treats, you can stick with just purchasing the stinkiest cheese and chicken. Using the cheese and/or boiled chicken is great if left overnight in the fridge with the kibble to enhance the kibble. The second is to break it up into tiny bits for the pup.
Now that you have the tools ready it’s time to get started on potty training and kennel training at the same time. Working in tandem together will make your life extremely easy and your puppy will quickly pick up on the training.
Take your puppy outside to pee and/or poop. When the pup pees quickly give them the highest value treat (chicken, cheese, or freeze-dried goodie). Give them five pieces and at the same time, you are giving the treat say, “Good dog 1, good dog 2, good dog 3, good dog 4, good dog 5.” Sounds easy right. It is! Training is to be easy and fun. When the pup poops repeat above but count to 10. Tiny pieces work at this age. You are rewarding them for doing what you want them to do and where you want them to do it. To up the ante, you only want your pup to do their business in one spot in the backyard. Lead them there, and when the pup pees and poops in the spot where you want them to pee then use the same reward system. Make sure to stand still with them on a leash while waiting for them to pee. You may need to walk them around a bit to get them to poop. Be sure to not make any sound until they pee or poop.
Once the pup successfully pees and/or poops, then comes the playtime. Play a bit of tug, work on tricks (sit, down, settle), or a walk, if they have gotten all of their shots. Doing enjoyable activities also reinforces good behavior. An added bonus for the pet parent is if you train them to poop before the walk, then the owner will not need to worry about the dog pooping in other people’s yards or the hassle of carrying the poop during the walk. Once you had a good play session or walk put them in their kennel with their stuffed Kong. A stuffed Kong will keep your pup focused on the goodies inside and less that they are stuck in a kennel. They will quickly come to associate the kennel with goodies. The stuffed Kong is a great tool to feed them their meals by keeping them busy and working their minds which also burns off energy. Having the stuffed Kongs prepped the night before will make it easier to continue the reward-based behavior.
Now if the pup does not pee or poop after the 5 minutes, take them back inside and put them in their kennel. Give them the stuffed Kong and wait 30 minutes. Take them back out for 5 minutes in the designated potty station in the yard. They will quickly associate playtime and treats with doing their business outside and in the kennel, while they do get their Kong, is not the high reward playtime with pet parents or the high-value treat.
Remember for this method to work is to stay consistent and positive with your pup. Once they get the house training and kenneling down, the number of treats for potting outside could be reduced, but do not eliminate it completely unless they don’t want the treat. If you decide to do away with the treats do replace them with positive interactions, such as going for a walk, throwing the ball in the backyard, good cuddle session, playtime, or working on training.
Remember kenneling your puppy is only a negative experience or space if you make it that in your head. Positive association with a kennel for a dog will keep them safe while they learn the rules of the house or keep them from destroying your furniture while you are away from home. By demonstrating patience and love through this learning process, your puppy will respect you as their leader but also learn to love and trust you as their best friend…and that is worth a million bucks!!!