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Puppies pee in their crates a lot – but what do you do when it seems like your puppy prefers to pee inside his crate?
In our latest Ask a Behavior Consultant, we answer the question:
My dog was apparently trained to urinate in his crate before we got him (he’s 13 weeks old). We got him about a two weeks ago and noticed any time he’s in his crate, he will pee on the towels/blankets/beds we try to put in it.
How do I overturn the training that was already done and break him of urinating in his crate?
– Signed, Confused in My Crate
First, the good news for Confused: his puppy is only thirteen weeks old. That means that this habit will be much easier to break than if we were working with an adult puppy mill dog (the other time that we often see dogs that prefer to pee inside their crate).
Step One: Rule Out Medical Issues.
It’s unlikely in this case, but it’s always a good idea to talk to the vet when you’re noticing unusual “ins or outs” in your dog. Next time you’re in you’re vets office, bring this up to ensure that your puppy doesn’t have a UTI or other underlying reason for unusual peeing habits.
But since this particular puppy is only 13 weeks old, it’s likely that this is more of a potty training issue.
Step Two: Rule Out Anxiety.
If Confused’s puppy is only peeing in the crate when he’s alone, it’s possible that the puppy is peeing because he’s upset and scared.
This isn’t because the puppy is being spiteful or dominant – the puppy is so scared and anxious that he’s lost control of his bladder!
Observe your puppy’s body language using a remote camera (I use my laptop with Photo Booth or my Furbo).
If your puppy is pacing, whining, crying, digging at the crate, or otherwise displaying signs of anxiety, the urination could be related to being alone more than being confined.
Step Three: Supervise, Contain, and Reward.
Now comes the real problem-solving. For this particular puppy, I recommend using the Umbilical Potty Training Method. In this setup, we attach the puppy’s harness to a short leash that we attach to the person. Whenever Confused notices that his puppy is circling, sniffing, or squatting to pee, he can scoop up his puppy and dash outside.
When Confused’s puppy finishes peeing outside, Confused can then feed the puppy a tasty treat.
Tip: be sure to feed the puppy right after he finishes peeing, not later when you’re back inside the kitchen. The treat and peeing outside have to be closely linked in time for it to work!
If Confused’s puppy isn’t “empty,” the puppy can’t be in the crate or otherwise unsupervised.
Generally, we would also rely on a crate to make this process easier. But since Confused’s puppy will pee in the crate even if it’s small and there’s no blankets in the crate, the Umbilical Training Method is our best option.
If Confused has to work (like most of us do), things get trickier. This means that the puppy will need to be left unsupervised, likely for much longer than the puppy can actually hold his pee. In this case, the best option is to set up an exercise pen with a fake grass pee area. This should encourage the puppy to pee on the fake grass rather than elsewhere – especially inside the crate.
Be sure to give your puppy something to occupy his time!
If you have tried the steps above and still need more help, don’t submit an Ask a Behavior Consultant! You need more help. Instead, sign up for a month of email support and get personalized training help right when you need it.
Kayla grew up in northern Wisconsin and studied ecology and animal behavior at Colorado College. She founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She’s an avid adventurer and has driven much of the Pan-American Highway with her border collie Barley. She now travels the US in a 2006 Sprinter with her two border collies, Barley and Niffler. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams.