Whether housebreaking a pup or an adult dog, the first step is taking advantage of the dog’s den instinct (their desire to curl up in a snug, protected place). A crate, when properly introduced as a happy and rewarding place, provides your pet a secure haven of its very own. It’s invaluable for housebreaking because most dogs will not soil their sleeping quarters. (An exception might be a dog from a puppy mill situation, who has been forced to potty in the same area where they sleep. It can take these dogs a bit longer to understand the difference between their living quarters and their potty areas.)
What size crate do you need? Start with one that’s smaller than you may use later on–one that is just big enough for the dog to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. If the crate is too big, the pup may feel he can potty and still get away from it. An easy-to-clean plastic crate works well, or you may opt for a wire crate, which can be covered with a towel or blanket, if needed, to make the dog feel more secure.
Introduce the crate in a positive manner. Get your pup used to going in the crate by tossing in small treats while the door is open. Most dogs will venture in to get the treats. Once they are comfortable going in to eat the treat, you can briefly shut the door, stand right in front and hand your dog treats through the door, then open it and let them back out. If you also use the crate to feed your dog his regular meals, he will quickly associate it as a pleasurable place.
You’ll also need to outfit their crate with some bedding. If the dog does not chew fabric or soil bedding, you can use a towel or light blanket inside the crate. Newspaper is not a good idea, as it may send the message of “potty here,” especially if the dog was previously trained to go on paper. A few dogs will urinate in a crate if bedding is provided. If your dog does this, remove the bedding until the pup starts to understand that bedding is for sleeping–not for a potty pad!