How to Train a Dog to Hold It

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If housebreaking your dog has been a challenge so far, you may want to consider crate training. This method of house training dogs makes use of the puppy’s natural instincts while also getting him used to the idea of holding himself until you let him go outside. Unlike other methods, such as using puppy pads or newspapers, this type of house training teaches your dog not to go to the bathroom anywhere in the house and keeps him safe from other dangers while you’re at work.

Things You'll Need

  • Metal or plastic crate
  • Crate dividers (optional)
  • Treats or toys your dog loves
  • Training word, such as "kennel" or "bed"
  • Fenced backyard or leash and collar

How to Train a Dog to "Hold It"

  • Choose a crate. Pick a crate that is large enough for your dog to turn around in and stand up in comfortably. If your dog is not full size yet, purchase a crate that will be big enough for him when he is an adult. Use dividers to make the crate smaller. If the crate is too big, the dog may use part of it as a bathroom which defeats the purpose.

  • Acquaint your dog with the crate. Your dog will probably not like the crate immediately. Work slowly and help him feel comfortable with the crate by throwing in treats or toys to lure him inside. Praise him while he is in the crate. Start by leaving the crate open, then close the crate for longer and longer periods. As the dog becomes more comfortable, practice leaving him inside the crate alone for a few minutes. Make sure you say your training word, such as “kennel” or “bed,” every time he goes into the crate so he will associate that action with the command.

  • Establish a schedule. Dogs will do better with crate training if they are on a set schedule. Because dogs will need to use the bathroom within 30 to 60 minutes of eating or drinking, you should arrange his feeding schedule so you can take him out when he needs to go.

  • Leave your dog. Once you have established the schedule and helped your dog feel comfortable with the crate, you can begin leaving him in the crate while you are at work. Use the command and treats to lure your dog into the crate, praise him, and leave.

  • Take your dog outside immediately. As soon as you come home, go to the crate. Either let your dog go out into his fenced backyard or put him on a leash to go outside with you. He will have to use the bathroom so stay outside with him until he goes. When he does, praise him enthusiastically so he will realize this is a desirable behavior.

  • Clean the crate, if necessary. Dogs sometimes have accidents in their crates during the early stages of training. Make sure to thoroughly clean the crate if this happens. Use a cleaner that will destroy the enzymes in the bathroom so the smell is destroyed. If the smell remains, the dog may assume his crate is an appropriate bathroom spot.

  • Be consistent and patient. Keep your dog on the same feeding and bathroom schedule all week long. Also, be patient and realize crate training dogs takes time. House training will not happen overnight for any dog but housebreaking some dogs will take longer than for other dogs.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you dog has an accident in the crate, do not yell at him, push his nose in the bathroom, hit him with a newspaper, or any similar type of punishment. Dogs have short memories and will not understand why you are upset with him. Plus, you could end up making him afraid of the crate itself and not of using the bathroom in the house.
  • While older dogs should be able to “hold it” during crate training for 6 to 8 hours, puppies may not be able to make the full stretch without an accident. To determine how long your puppy can stay in the crate for house training, use his age in months (up to 6 months) and add 1. For example, a 3 month old puppy should be able to hold it for four hours.
  • Some small dogs may not have large enough bladders to be able to hold it for long either. Yorkshire Terriers, for example, are notoriously difficult for house training for this reason. Maintain realistic expectations for your dog when it comes to housebreaking.
  • If you follow the steps above and your dog is still having accidents in the crate, make sure to contact your vet. Some medical problems, such as bladder infections, can cause your dog to use the bathroom more frequently.
  • If your dog suddenly begins having accidents in the crate, contact your vet. This may be a sign of illness.
  • Never leave your dog in the crate for longer than 8 hours at a time.

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