We received a letter from Kelsey that demonstrated a bit of confusion about crate training and how it relates to house training a puppy:
She writes: Hi Adam. I have a 12 week-old Great Dane puppy. He is a very well behaved puppy for the most part and a very quick learner. I have been reading but I really have not found anything that fits my problem. I have a crate but i do not want a dog that has to be in a crate every time I am not home. I want my home in a way to be the crate. I was hoping to start small with one room and work up to having more of the house. But we cant seem to even get past the one room. What we have done is we have confined him to our back mudroom which has been puppy proofed and blocked off with a baby gate. But he keeps chewing on the molding and the walls. How do I change this behavior? I never catch him chewing on anything but his toys when we are home. I have tried chewing deterrents like bitter apple and Vicks but he still does it. He has a ton of different toys and proper chew toys. How do i correct this behavior? Right now we are on a day by day basis. If he chews the next day he goes in the crate. So far this chewing behavior only occurs when we are at work. Which i know is along period of time to be left unattended. We can leave to go to the store or out for a couple hours at a time and he has been a good boy no chewing. I do not want to keep doing this if this is causing more harm than good. But I cant find anything that really relates to my problem. I want a dog that i can leave out and that is not going to chew while i am at work. Any advice and help would be greatly appreciated.
Adam replies: Hi, Kelsey:
You’re not understanding the concept of the crate: It is used as an intermediary step. Please follow the advice in the book, because right now here’s what you’re teaching your dog: You’re teaching him that he IS ALLOWED TO CHEW WHEN YOU ARE NOT HOME.
He has not EARNED his freedom yet. He’s too young. And what you’re (inadvertently) teaching him is that there is no consistency of rules.
I repeat: HE IS TOO YOUNG TO BE LEFT OUT OF THE CRATE AT THIS AGE.
In this sense (and this sense only) think of him like a baby: You put the baby in the crib or play pen when you cannot keep one eye on him, right? Of course, when he’s older he won’t have to be in the crib all the time. And when he’s a young adult, you can leave him in the house unsupervised. But as a baby? He’s going to eat something he shouldn’t or stick his fingers in an electrical socket. So, the baby needs to be confined when you cannot watch him, until he’s older.
It’s the same with your dog.
Kelsey replied with a follow-up question. My replies are in bold, below:
Kelsey says: I think i was under the wrong impression i understood that the crate was to be used until completely potty trained, and that was the major reason for the crate.
Yes, exactly. He hasn’t earned the freedom to be out of the crate, unsupervised yet. He’s too young.
Since he has been potty trained and when i say potty trained when we are home no accidents I felt that we could move up to a larger area.
No. He’s too young. At 12 weeks, even when you’re home, he’ll likely try to eliminate in the house again. That’s normal behavior. You need to correct him when it happens.
When we are at work he uses his training pads every time and the amount he is eliminating is way less, then when we first started.
If you’re happy with that, then I’m not understanding what the problem is? Personally, I hate “training pads” as all they do is “train” the dog that it’s okay to eliminate in the house. Leave him in a kennel run outside that’s properly shaded and has an untippable bowl of water– so that he gets conditioned to eliminate outside. If you can’t do that, then go home in the middle of the day (or use a pet sitter) to let him out to potty and for exercise.
I guess i assumed we were ready for a larger area.
I’m not sure where you got this idea of “larger and larger areas”? The size of the area has nothing to do with it. It’s about confining the dog until he is old enough and consistently proves to you that he can handle the freedom. Like I said in the book: You should not leave the dog unsupervised (out of the crate or kennel run) until he is one year old, to be safe. I don’t make the rules… this is a biological/developmental thing that is inherent to the dog. Anybody who tells you otherwise has just gotten lucky or is lying to you.
If i go back to the crate how do i determine when we are (and i mean both of us trained) to take the next step. and then if he goes back to his old ways if you are never catching him in the act how do you associate the bad behavior?
Too young. Wait until he is a year-old, then start spying on him.
Everything you have said makes sense, and I am very willing to work with him. I just do not want to confuse him any more than i already have.
I think you just need to recalibrate your expectations. He’s still a baby, and you wouldn’t expect a baby to stay home by himself unsupervised, right? He might get into too much trouble. It’s the same with a puppy of this age.