Petriage Clinical Insights

IMPORTANT: This article, which is provided for educational purposes only, is based on published veterinary data and decades of work with pets and pet parents. The information provided here is not designed to be comprehensive but to help you avoid the pitfalls of online misinformation and most importantly, to frame the conversation you should have with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian’s perspective may differ from what is expressed here. Always consult with your veterinarian.

House Training Your Puppy

Crate training is a method of housebreaking that is based upon the fact that dogs are den animals. Dogs evolved differently than we primates, and unlike primates where the infant is always with the mom, den animals leave their pups in a secure location while hunting. The crate is your puppy's new den. 

The vast majority of puppies are born with the instinct not to urinate or defecate inside the den in order to keep themselves and their families healthy. Crate training makes use of this instinct to teach your puppy that your house is essentially a big den. After a while, with the proper schedule and much praise, the puppy comes to learn that eliminating outside is proper behavior.


  • It is very common for people to feel bad about confining their pets in a crate, but keep in mind that living in a cozy space like a crate is a natural instinct for your puppy.
  • The ideal crate will have a partition that can be adjusted as your puppy grows. The available area should be just big enough for your puppy to stand up and turn around. If the crate is too large, the puppy will merely choose to eliminate at one end of it.
  • The place for your puppy to run around and burn all that energy is not in the crate, but outside when you interact with him or her. The crate is a place for sleeping which is something a normal puppy does the majority of the time.
  • Never use the crate for punishment. Make sure getting into the rate is always a fun and positive experience for your puppy.
  • Praise the puppy every time he or she eliminates outdoors. Positive reinforcement is extremely important! Use treats, clickers, your voice and body language to show your puppy how pleased you are.
  • You must supervise your puppy very closely when outside of the crate and in the house, even if you are still confining them with baby gates or a pen. It is essential that you give your puppy negative feedback within seconds of any accident. While puppies very quickly understand that you are displeased with them, they unfortunately cannot make the connection to what they did a minute ago.
  • Negative reinforcement is not about pain or fear, but about effective communication. Your puppy is hard wired to respond to the mom grabbing them by the scruff of the neck to discipline them, so you should do the same. Gently grab the loose skin at the back of the neck, and apply light pressure while firmly saying “no!”
  • Your puppy can easily “hold it” for a few hours--probably much longer than you’d think. Still, do not be tempted to let your puppy run around the house with no supervision until they truly get the concept of house training. As the number of accidents decreases, increase the amount of time the puppy stays out of the crate.
  • Do not give unlimited access to food and water in the crate. Doing so will increase the puppy’s urge to eliminate. Provide only hard, inedible toys in the crate, such as Nylabones and Kong toys.
  • Formulate a housetraining schedule. A routine is very important in this process. Below is an example of a schedule one might create. You can always modify this schedule to adjust it to your lifestyle and puppy temperament.


  • Patience and consistency are the key to success. Your puppy must be rewarded every time they do the right thing, and get instant negative feedback when they have an accident. The more consistent you are, the faster your puppy will get it.
  • Do not be tempted to let your puppy run around unsupervised before they fully get it. Accidents which are not accompanied by immediate negative feedback will slow their progress.
  • Paper training isn’t effective because it teaches your puppy that it is okay to eliminate in the house. This is a lesson we do not want your puppy to learn!
  • If the puppy does not eliminate after being taken outside, return the puppy to the crate and try again a short while later.
  • Scruffing is not about causing pain, but about communicating nonverbally. Use light pressure so that you don’t accidentally hurt your puppy. 
  • Do not leave the puppy in a dirty crate for longer than you have to.
  • Your puppy may find a wire crate to be more peaceful and cozy if you cover it with a blanket, but be careful not to make it too warm.
  • Stick to your schedule. Even a small amount of “cheating” makes the process futile.
  • The amount of time the whole process takes will vary from dog to dog.
  • The best resource to help you crate train your puppy as well as training in general is the book Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog by Carol Lea Benjamin. As of this writing, the book is available via Amazon and Apple Books.)


Here are example housetraining schedules which you can customize to your own needs. When making a schedule, remember that the more opportunities your puppy has to be active, the easier the training will go.

 If You Stay Home
  • 7:00am: Walk
  • 7:30am:  Feed
  • 7:45am: Walk
  • 15-30 minutes of play, then confine in crate
  • 12:00pm: Walk
  • 15-30 minutes of play, then confine in crate
  • 4:00pm: Feed
  • 4:15pm: Walk
  • 15-30 minutes of play, then confine in crate
  • 7:00pm: Walk
  • 15-30 minutes of play, then confine in crate
  • 11:00pm: Walk
Confine your puppy in their crate overnight, but you may need to take them out once or twice.

If You Travel to Work

  • 7:00am: Walk.
  • 7:15am: Feed, then 15-30 minutes of play.
  • 8:00am: Walk
Confine your puppy in their crate for the workday, but only if absolutely necessary. Such a long wait may be very difficult.

  • 5:00pm: Walk
  • 5:15pm: Feed
  • 5:30pm: Walk
  • 15-30 minutes of play, then confine in crate
  • 7:00pm: Walk
  • 15-30 minutes of play, then confine in crate
  • 11:00pm: Walk
  • 15-30 minutes of play
Confine your puppy in their crate overnight, but you may need to take them out once or twice.