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Puppy Playpens and Crates

Training a puppy that is new to the household is a daunting task. Yes, a puppy is adorable with its squidgy little face and funny antics but it isn’t so cute when it’s peeing on the carpet or chewing at the corner of the sofa. The answer is to give it a playpen and some chew toys and the puppy will soon train itself to fit into the family perfectly.

Setting up a puppy playpen before the puppy even comes into the home will be the best investment that a new puppy parent will make. As the puppy becomes comfortable, it will teach itself to go to the toilet in the right spot, to chew only on chew toys and it will become happy to spend time on its own without any signs of separation anxiety. In fact, going to its playpen will be very much like sending a child to its room with computer games.

A puppy pen is made from open wire panels that form a large square or rectangle available in sizes to suit different breeds. They can be easily moved inside or outside and allow the puppy to be confined for long periods of time safely but in a way that lets it spend time amongst its family. The puppy can still easily see everything that is going on, the family can reach the puppy for a play and yet it can’t get up to any mischief.

There are times when a puppy needs to be contained for long periods of time so that it stays safe and comfortable such as when the family is at work or at night time when everyone is sleeping. The solution is to set up the puppy pen with a comfy bed or dog training crate lined with bedding at one end and a doggy toilet at the other. Include a bowl of fresh water that can’t be tipped over and lots of hollow chew toys stuffed with kibble.

It’s important to choose a puppy bed that is not too big. Although it might seem a good investment to buy one that will suit the dog when it is an adult, the problem is that the extra space will entice the puppy into going to the toilet at one end of the bed because he can still move over to the other side to sleep. If there is no extra space in the bed, the puppy will have to get out of the bed and go somewhere else in the pen to pee.

If the puppy is going to be crate trained, instead of including a bed in the play pen put a training crate in there and line it so that this becomes the bed. The puppy will become quite used to the crate and when it is time to use it for transporting or training, it won’t have any concerns about it what so ever.

Crates are available in both plastic and heavy gauge wire and the decision of which to use comes down to personal preferences. Some trainers believe that a plastic crate is cosier for the dog since they are quite dark inside whilst others prefer wire crates which can be purchased with a canvas cover anyway, making them den-like. Whilst both are easy to clean, wire crates have a tray underneath that can be pulled out for washing and they usually include a divider which means that a crate purchased for the dog at adult size can be adjusted for a puppy so that there is not enough space for the puppy to use as a bed and a toilet.

Leave the door of the crate open all of the time so that the puppy can go in and out and place a few treats inside to entice it to go in. If the puppy is a bit reluctant, play with the puppy right next to the crate giving it a few treats then throw a treat part way into the crate and wait for the puppy to go and get it. The puppy doesn’t need to go all the way in to start with as just its front paw is enough for it to gain confidence. Over time, increase the distance into the crate that the treat is thrown and allow it to get used to going all the way in.

If the puppy goes into the crate but won’t stay there, let the puppy see you stuffing a hollow toy with treats then place this at the back of the crate and allow the puppy to go in. Once the puppy is sitting down and chewing, close the door for just a minute but open it before it has finished the treat.

Never try pushing the dog in as this will only make it very nervous about going in again. It is far better for the crate to be a positive experience reinforced with a reward such as treats and plenty of praise. Eventually the puppy will happily sleep in the crate just as it would a bed and become used to the door being closed.

To find out more about the benefits of a training crate as well as how to use it to train a puppy or an adult dog, download our “Crate Training” fact sheet.

It’s important that the puppy becomes infatuated with chew toys as this will stop it from thinking that everything in the house, including shoes, can be chewed. To do this, introduce hollow chew toys early and stuff them with the puppy’s food. Until the puppy is obsessed with chewing its chew toy, don’t feed it dry food out of a bowl at all and only feed it from hollow chew toys. Of course, it is important to feed the puppy the correct amount so in the morning, measure out the amount of food that the puppy is to get throughout the day and use this for training, treats and for filling hollow chew toys.

A stuffed chew toy will allow the puppy to self-reward every time it chews. If it is happy with the reward, it will keep doing it until the chew toy becomes far more fascinating than the leg of the sofa or the kids’ shoes. If the puppy is to be left on its own in the playpen for a little while, remove all other toys so that it gets fixated on hollow chew toys stuffed with treats. Leave several stuffed chew toys for a puppy that is to be left for several hours.

Most puppies will go to the toilet as far as possible from their bed and will prefer a place that already smells of its urine so putting the toilet as far away from the bed and food as possible makes sense. Puppy pads are ideal for this as they are plastic underneath and absorbent on top. Once the puppy has urinated on one pad, wipe a little of that on the fresh pad to encourage the puppy to go there again. Pet loos are also an option, especially if the puppy lives in an apartment where access to lawn is always going to be difficult.

If the puppy defecates in the playpen, clean it up as soon as possible because, whilst a puppy likes to urinate where it has done so before, it doesn’t like to poo near to where one already is.

Of course, if the puppy is supervised, it is always important to continue to train the puppy to go to its proper toilet area outside on the grass. A puppy will almost always need to go to the toilet straight after it has eaten and probably every hour to start with although as it gets older, this time will increase.

Set a timer to go off on the hour as a reminder to take the puppy out onto the lawn. If it is young, carry the puppy but as it gets a little older, attach a lead and walk it quickly out to the toilet area so that it gets used to doing the trip. When the puppy is in the correct spot, keep repeating the words ‘Go toilet’ or ‘Go pee’ so that eventually the puppy associates this with the command that it should go to the toilet in that spot. Reward the puppy with praise immediately after it has gone to the toilet. Although you might feel a bit silly saying these words, it is incredibly useful for a dog to be able to go to the toilet on command, especially if it is going to travel, stay at other people’s houses or even be an inside dog.

Remove a puppy’s collar before putting it in the playpen to make sure that there is no chance of it getting caught on the wire or clips, especially if it is going to be left unsupervised.

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