By now, you’re likely aware that crate training is based on your dog’s natural instinct to keep his sleeping area clean. However, if you’ve discovered that your dog is treating his crate like a toilet, don’t worry. Most dogs can be trained to be well-behaved and respond positively to a crate training program.
Is There Really a Problem?
First, let’s address young puppies who have had a few accidents in the crate, as well as older dogs who occasionally have accidents. If accidents occur infrequently or when your puppy has been left alone for an extended period of time, there’s usually no cause for concern. Similarly, if your dog occasionally has diarrhea and can’t control his bowels in the crate, it’s not a major issue. Accidents in the crate only become concerning if they happen frequently and consistently.
If your puppy has an accident in the crate, be diligent in the following days to keep him on a proper schedule. Make sure he is only in the crate when he is empty, so accidents don’t become habitual.
If your dog is having accidents overnight, you may want to consider purchasing my e-book, Puppy Sleep Training – The Exhausted Puppy Owner’s Nighttime Survival Guide, to discover effective strategies for keeping your pup’s crate clean during the night.
Addressing Underlying Issues
Before attempting any methods to teach your dog to keep his crate clean, ensure that there are no underlying medical issues causing the problem. Bladder or urinary tract infections, as well as medication side effects, can contribute to accidents in the crate. Consult your vet if your puppy is on any medication to rule out any medical concerns.
Additionally, always accompany your dog outside for potty trips before confining him to the crate. This way, you can ensure that he has eliminated in his designated potty area. Otherwise, he might be out there doing something entirely different, like chasing butterflies or munching on grass.
Solving the “Dirty Crate” Dilemma
If your dog consistently has accidents in his crate, there are several steps you can take to address the issue. Dogs may have accidents in their crates for various reasons. Some may have come from unsanitary kennels or pet stores where they were confined in tight spaces that doubled as sleeping and elimination areas. Others may have been crated for too long during their early training when they lacked the control to wait before being let out. Some dogs may simply be stressed about being confined.
If you suspect stress is a factor, take the time to ensure your dog has been properly acclimated to his crate. Read my guide, Acclimating Your Dog to His Crate, to ensure your dog feels secure. You might also consider using a Thundershirt anxiety wrap or consulting an experienced trainer or vet for further assistance with your dog’s anxiety.
Assuming that your puppy is well-adjusted and not overly stressed, but still continues to soil his crate, there are several steps you can take to resolve the issue. First, ensure that the crate is the appropriate size for your dog. Additionally, establish a reasonable schedule for your dog’s feeding, watering, exercise, attention, and playtime. These factors will ensure that your dog is ready to relax when he enters his crate.
If accidents persist, try feeding your dog in his crate. This will create a positive association between the crate and mealtime, making him less likely to use it as a bathroom. Providing him with a special treat or chew toy while in the crate can also distract him and reduce accidents.
If problems persist, evaluate the bedding situation. If you’ve been crating your dog without any bedding, try adding a comfortable blanket or bed to make him feel at home. Conversely, if you’ve been providing soft bedding and your dog is treating it like a diaper, consider removing it to discourage accidents.
It’s important to note that your dog’s crate should never be lined with potty pads or newspapers, especially if he has been trained to use them. Removing these materials can often solve the problem.
If you’re using a wire crate, consider switching to a plastic crate. Dogs tend to feel more enclosed in plastic crates, making accidents less likely. If you’re already using a plastic crate and problems persist, check if the floor has a raised center and lowered edges. If it does, turning the crate upside down so that the top becomes the floor might help.
During the training process, your dog may have a few accidents in his crate as he adjusts to the changes. This is normal, but be prepared to clean up thoroughly and give your dog a bath if necessary. Remember, you can’t correct your dog for having an accident unless you catch him in the act.
Most dogs can learn to stay dry in their crates using these methods. However, if you’re still struggling, consider alternative housetraining methods or seek the assistance of a professional dog trainer.