Daily Routine – Why Structure is Important

Although the use of the crate is very powerful in teaching a puppy the right place to go to the bathroom, it is not the only reason we recommend its use. Puppies will learn bad habits if they are left to wander the house alone. You can refer to the How Dogs Learn section for more information on this. Puppies will indiscriminately chew, they will indiscriminately bark, they will eat whatever appeals to them, and they will sleep in the most comfortable spot.

This in itself does not sound so bad until you consider that without your supervision, your pup would chew on your prized photo album collection, bark at friends and good neighbors, eat your child’s chocolate Easter Egg (toxic to a dog), and lie on your two hundred dollar duvet while eating it.

Another great reason for structure is motivation. If we give our puppies complete freedom and we let them have all of their toys, what are we left with? If we give them our undivided love and affection and yummy treats for absolutely nothing, we have lost a great opportunity. All of our great motivating tools have been squandered.


Avoid plush bedding in the crate with puppies that are still learning to “hold it”.

When the Puppy is Out of the Crate
  • Supervise everything he is doing.
  • Take him to the backyard (to go to the bathroom), or
  • Do some kind of socializing, or preventative styled exercise, or
  • Play a game with him, or
  • Feed him, or
  • Allow him supervised freedom.

When to Put Pup in the Crate
  • The pup goes in the crate when you are sleeping.
  • The pup goes in the crate when you need a break.
  • The pup goes in the crate when he needs a break.
  • To be fair and kind, put the pup in the crate when he is tired.

This dog is still a puppy. Puppies need a fair amount of rest. Putting him in his crate after socialization, playtime, or training or will allow both of you some time to yourself. You can give him something yummy to chew on while he is in there (a toy made specifically to be stuffed with food or treats that your dog can safely chew on). It is also a good idea to take him out to go to the bathroom before you crate him. Whenever possible, give the puppy some exercise prior to crate time. What could be better than a dog that goes to his crate to sleep!

Backyard Time

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can leave the dog outside in the backyard unattended. The same rules that apply inside will exist here. A puppy left on his own will learn and develop his own habits. He will dig in your garden…everywhere. He will bark at the neighbor. He will choose where to urinate and defecate in your yard. He may even escape. None of these behaviors will be valued when your pup grows into an adult dog.

The downside is that issues such as bathroom training, chewing, and structure & boundaries may not be as successful using these alternatives.

Crate Alternatives

We recognize that not everyone can come to terms with the use of a crate. We also know how disastrous it can be to give a puppy free rein in the household. So there are alternatives that, although not as proficient as a crate, will provide the puppy with some safety. The downside is that issues such as bathroom training, chewing, and structure & boundaries may not be as successful using these alternatives.

  • Confine the puppy in the kitchen. Ensure that there is nothing the pup can get into or chew.
  • Use an X-pen (or similar structure) to confine the puppy.

Crating a dog is a healthy responsible choice. We wish to provide you with all the information you need to have a better understanding of what a crate was designed to do and why so many dog people, veterinarians, trainers, and groomers recommend its use. It has long been established as a standard aid in raising a dog.

Points to Remember When Crating
  • Take your puppy directly outside every single time he comes out of his crate.
  • The crate should be large enough for the puppy to turn around in and lie down. It should not be huge.
  • Do not keep his feed and water dish in the crate (use a stuffed food toy instead).
  • Provide the puppy with a special chew toy or two that will keep him busy and satisfied versus ten stuffed animals.
  • Avoid plush bedding with puppies that are still learning to hold it.
  • Ideally, a crate should never be positioned where a dog can see outside the home. The puppy will see other dogs, animals, and people and want to be with them. This can cause undue aggravation and frustration for the puppy.
  • The locations should be cool and out of direct sunlight.
  • Never leave your dog in the crate for longer than he can manage.

If the puppy can pee or poop and the mess can be absorbed easily with thick bedding, the puppy will not be deterred from soiling in his crate. If there is nothing absorbent in his crate and he has an accident, he will unfortunately have to deal with the unpleasantness until you find it. This will most likely have him thinking twice about soiling in his crate. This is one of the ways that the puppy learns good bathroom habits.

Please check the Equipment List regarding crates.

1. Websters New Twentieth Century Dictionary, 2nd ed. (New York:William Collins + World Publishing Co., 1977)