One of the most effective potty training and housebreaking strategies is crate training. To effectively implement the training, it’s important to understand why it works.

By nature, dogs are “den” animals. They like to be enclosed, as it makes them feel safe. Think about how many times you’ve seen a dog sleeping next to something (like a wall) or under a table. Because of this natural desire, the goal of crate training is to provide a den for your dog where she feels comfortable and safe. Your dog’s crate should be a place she enjoys, where she can take naps or chew on a toy. Since your dog will view the crate as her den, she will avoid soiling her crate and will desire to “hold it” longer than being out around the house. This is a highly effective tool if used appropriately.

Now that you understand why it works, here is what you should do to implement it.

First, get an appropriately sized wire crate. The crate should be just big enough for your dog to stand and turn around in. If the crate is too large, your dog is more likely to use a corner or extra space to eliminate. If your dog is a puppy, get a wire crate with a divider so that you can progressively increase the size of the crate as your dog grows.

Next, make the space comfortable. This should be a positive place where your dog enjoys being. Use washable, comfortable bedding, like the Ultra Absorbent LennyPads, so your dog will be comfortable lying in the crate. These pads are comfortable for your dog and are easy to wash and reuse. Add a toy and a bowl of water.

Positively entice your dog to go in the crate on her own. Put treats or chew bones in the crate. Feed your dog in the crate. Make the crate a place that your dog wants to be, where positive things happen. Once your dog is comfortable staying in the crate, try closing the door for a few seconds, then reopening it. Gradually increase the time that the door is closed. Get your dog comfortable with the idea that you are not leaving her in the crate forever.

Once your dog is comfortable being in the crate with the door closed, you can go to work effectively training. I always say that your dog should either be with you or in the crate. Your dog is most likely to potty in the house when she is alone, either in a different room or where you can’t see her. I’ve even tied my dog’s leash to the coffee table, so she could be with me but couldn’t wander off. Take your dog out often and reward your dog with a high value treat when she eliminates outside. When you are busy around the house and can’t focus on your dog, crate your dog. When you’re free again, take your dog out and reward her for pottying outside. When you’re not home, your dog should be in the crate. Try not to leave your dog for too long in the beginning, and gradually increase the time as you and the dog are more comfortable.

If done correctly, your dog can be trained in a very short period of time.