Crate Training a Dog – I have a question about dog crate training and potty training….

6 days ago I rescued a male Shih Tzu from a local animal shelter. They estimated him to be around 1 year old and my vet agrees. I have had large dogs, but have not had a small, inside only dog since I lived at home with my parents…a long time ago…lol. We are working on potty training. Nighttime seems to be the problem. I got him a comfy bed, he loved sleeping in it, however he went potty (urine) each night the first couple of nights. I cleaned it with vinegar and then the carpet cleaner and put a puppy pad there, just in case. Two nights ago he discovered he could jump into my bed. It’s not that I mind him sleeping with me. I am terrified he will pee on the bed. Also…that is where my cat of two years sleeps. That is her cuddle time with mommy.

With him up there she will not come up. I leave home around 7:30 AM to go to work and get home around 6 PM. During this time I keep him in my large master bath with food and water and his comfy bed and toys. He barks when I leave, but is always settled and comfy when I get home. I cannot tell that he has any accidents there. I should also add that the shelter neutered him the day I got him. My Shih Tzu hates my back yard, well he hates the grassy part, he loves the lawn chairs. However…if I walk him on his leash to the side of the house he pees and poops right away. Maybe he lived in an Apartment before? I really would like to be able to just let him out, instead of walking him on the leash, but suppose this is not possible.

My main question is….should I start putting him in a crate at night? I know he will probably bark, etc at first. This way I will know he cannot potty in the house, the cat can sleep with me, and I will not worry about what he is doing every move he makes. I have not had any sleep in 6 days..lol. I do not get rid of my animals, that is not an option…I took on the responsibility and will handle it. I just want to know the best way. I am just not used to little dogs. I have always felt crating was mean, even though I know it is said to be the opposite. I am just having a hard time starting it. I just keep thinking…in the bathroom while I am at work, and in a crate at night…is this a good life for him? Please do not lecture me about being at work all day. Many, many, people work and have pets. I just want to make sure I do what is best for my little man. Is crating at night the best option? I hope to eventually let him have the run of the house while I am at work, but if not the bathroom seems to be working fine, as I said it is a large room…approximately 10 x 8. please help! Thanks!

Our Response

Firstly thank you for your question – I would never lecture you on working all day – we have to live in the real World and people have to work. Please also remember where your dog would be if you hadn’t had the courage and empathy to take on a rescue dog in the first place – you are doing everything that you can to help your dog and you should be congratulated for that. Anyway lets have a look at the problem…

When it comes to working during the day you need to come up with opportunities to reduce the risk of your dog peeing or pooping in the House. Firstly I would say yes you should crate your dog during the night. Don’t let him out when he starts to whine, bark or cry. You have to show some tough love. If you respond by letting your dog out when he barks – he will continue to bark as he knows it works to get your response. Basically you are providing your dog with a reward every-time he barks – he gets let out and sleeps on the bed – so he will continue to bark to get this reward. Ignore him and do not let him out when he barks. Wait until he is quiet and then let him out to pee or poop – this will reinforce positive behavior i.e. your dog will learn to be quiet as it gets a positive response.

I understand your problem when it comes to letting him out to pee and poop – remember he has lived in a rescue shelter and was able to pee or poop wherever he wanted. Start by keeping the leash on your dog and control where you want him to pee or poop – i.e. the grassy part. If he doesn’t go – take him inside and crate him. Give him 15 minutes in the crate and then try again. Let him know that the reason he is being taken outside is to pee or poop (otherwise he just won’t get it) – so say ‘potty time’ (with the leash attached) and take him to the grassy area and hang around that area and when he is about to potty – say ‘Go Poop’ and when he goes – give him lots of praise and a treat. If he doesn’t go take him inside and crate him – repeating the process. A dog should always be given a set amount of time to pee or poop. This will let your dog know that he has to go in a set amount of time.

Ok so if you want your dog to have the run of the House you could use a litter box. So when your dog is refusing to potty outside attach a leash to him and tuck the leash in your belt. This means wherever you go your puppy has to follow – as soon as he is about to potty pick him up and place him in the litter box – say ‘go poop’ and when he has peed or poop in the tray give him lots and lots of praise and a reward i.e. treat. If you want to use puppy training pads you can also use them – they work by stimulating the bladder – let your dog know why he is supposed to go on them – people get confused with puppy pads and leave them in the House (which you can do) but the best thing is to gradually take them closer and closer to the back door until they are outside. Another thing that you could consider is to have a ‘dog flap’ fitted – this is very cheap and means your dog can always get outside. Us the time when you are at home to train your dog for the times when you are at work.

Don’t forget you have done a wonderful thing in taking on a rescue dog and you should be congratulated for doing this.