Need puppy crate training advice!

So I gots me a black lab pup, Cosmo. He’s 10 weeks old and a good doggy for the most part. He can sit on command (sometimes) and he knows “Go to bed” if he’s near his crate and “Hurry up” if he’s outside and has to poo.

But I’m having trouble getting him house trained. He sleeps all night without waking me up to go out (his crate is appropriate size and in my bedroom) and he can go at least 4-5 hours during the day if I have to go to work early. But he’s having to go to the bathroom about every 45-60 minutes when he’s out of his crate.

For instance, I came home from running some errands this afternoon around 4:00pm, I let him out of the crate, we went straight outside to his pee spot, he peed twice…“Hurry Up” - he poos no problem, ample praising. Straight back inside. I plop down on the couch to watch some football while he plays with his chew toy on the floor in front of me. Eventually he gets bored so he comes and puts his paws on my lap and growls/barks. Now sometimes when he does this I take it to mean “Let me outside” but it’s only been 30 minutes or less. So we play tug with his rope for a while. Then it’s back with the growl/bark and I tell him to get down and I give him his chew to play with again (45 minutes since peeing) then boom, he’s peeing on the floor at my feet. So I scold him and take him outside.

This goes on just about every day and I’m not sure what the problem is (I’m assuming I’m doing something wrong like not picking up on his clues or he’s doing it to get attention) but it seems like he would be able to wait longer than 45 minutes at that age. I wonder if he has a urinary tract infection? I have to call the vet tomorrow to make a 12 week vaccination appointment and I’ll ask them then, but the Dope expertise would be appreciated as well.

He could be peeing from excitement - I’ve read that young puppies often have to pee after playing (or even during).

I’ve also read that you shouldn’t let the puppy see you clean up his mess. If he piddles on the floor, don’t scold him, don’t react at all … just put him in another room, or in his crate, with a very neutral manner. Then clean it up WELL with one of those products that completely neutralizes and eliminates the odour. Then let him out and proceed as normal.

No reaction for unwanted behaviour, and lots of positive reinforcement (like you’ve been doing), for desired behaviour.

Can’t hurt to try, right?


Well, he’s probably drinking more during the day, right? Plus, when we sleep, our kidneys recieve hormonal signals to slow production of urine. I know I urinate more often during the day than at night. Still, it does seem a short time. I’d try listening to his cues and taking him out more often for a day or two. If he still piddles between times, then you know it’s a behavioral thing: excitement or submission. Also, the vet would be a good idea. Infection should be ruled out before making your life harder.

I agree that infection should be ruled out.

But ten weeks is very, very young. Most pups are not fully trained until 4 and half months, maybe even five.

It is good that you take him to the same pee spot every time.

Maybe he just wants more one-on-one attention from you? Labs are sweet but have lots of energy; they are not exactly super mellow dogs.

Agreed Caprese. I don’t mind him being energetic and wanting to play, that’s fine, but I think he is old enough to be able to hold his pee for longer than 45 minutes if not immediately let out or to be able to give a more consistent signal when he needs to go out. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit for his age yet.

I’m reluctant to take him out every time he wimpers because I don’t want to be taking him outside 15 times a day because I’m afraid he’ll begin to take advantage of it. But I’d rather have him house trained sooner and learn to wait if he has to later.

Yes, I can well understand that.
You guys are in the adorable-but-difficult part of puppyhood.

I’ve had puppies in all seasons (most recently, summer, we have a 9 month old mastiff) and we did hang out outside a lot.
OTOH, while catching him having an accident it is a mess, it is not always such a bad thing to because that reinforces the idea that you only pee outside.

I just wonder if, given Cosmo’s tender age, the whimpering is more I-wanna-interact-with-you rather than I-need-to-go-pee. Labs are smart, they like to work.

A tired dog is a good dog.

This is the same thing that crossed my mind. If sometimes you respond to wimpering by playing, and sometimes you respond by taking him out, he doesn’t really get a clear idea of how to cause the action that he wants to happen. You two should have a signal that exclusively means “let’s go out”. He might be hoping to play sometimes when he wimpers, but since you’ve taken him outside he decides to pee while he’s there.

Have you considered bell training? This is when you teach a dog to ring a bell near the door everytime he wants to go outside. You will have to take him out every time he rings the bell, just so he begins to understand the cause and effect of the action. Plus, you might not care for Cosmo putting his paws on you when he’s 70+ pounds.

Forgot to mention, bell training is done in addition to the crate. You let him out of his crate make him ring the bell with his paw or nose, then take him outside as usual.

Bell training in progress actually…

Dog trainer here, with a really cute 12 week old aussie puppy right now.

Puppies need to pee. A lot. Especially when they’re playing. If he barks at you, even if it’s because he wants to play, take him outside. If that’s every 15 minutes, then damnit, so be it. Let me know he has the power to make you rise and do his bidding - at least when it comes to this. He needs to know this signal will never fail.

Pirate is now completely housebroken. There are times, when he plays hard with my other aussie, where he asks almost every 15 minutes, too! But every time he gives me his signal (a bark, or barking at the gate), I drop everything and take him out… The novelty of this (he’s a smart dog) has worn off now, and he no longer asks just to see if I will get up and go. There were a couple of accidents two weeks ago when lno and I would say “But he’s just BEEN out!” and whammo, he’d pee on the carpet. Now we know - he gives his “outside” signal (his bark at the gate, usually) and we RUN.

Since about 7:30 this morning (an hour or so), I think I have taken him out four times. He’s been playing with Zap, and drinking up some water, and every 15 minutes, he’s needed to go!

It sounds like your little guy is giving you the right signal. You distract him with something else, so he thinks, “Okay, maybe I can hold on a little longer…” and then whammo, he pees.

My guy can sleep 7 hours at night without needing to go out. But any vet and any trainer will tell you: a puppy who plays is a puppy who pees. A lot.

:smiley: Good luck with the little dude.

A note on this: actually, he will take advantage of it, at first. The novelty will wear off. He needs to know his “gotta go!” signal works without fail. Right now he may be asking, and not getting the right response to his signal, and whammo he then gets scolded and is probably thinking “but I aaaaasked!”

Make the “good boy, you peed outside!” thing a huge fuss, yes, but not the going outside part. That’s a pure business transaction. You ask, we go, we come in. When a pup gives me a signal to go, we go without making a fuss. We clip on the leash, I let them out to pee - not play. They pee, we praise, in we go, unclip the leash without a word and THEN resume our play. I also always use the same spot for going out to pee. And yes, I use a leash. No “run free in the yard” (which is fun!). You asked to go out, we go out, you pee, we’re done. Later we can go out to play, or for a walk, but that’s a different story.

This way, “going out to pee” becomes a business exchange. It’s not fun, really… so puppies who take advantage of it learn quickly that it’s not worth their while.

It took Pirate two days to figure that one out. Now he only asks when he needs to go, and yeah, sometimes that means I do take him out 15 times a day. Every time, though, he pees. :wink:

Excellent! Thank you Elenfair for your professional advice. You’ve basically confirmed my suspicions that I was just going to have to suck it up and take him out every time I suspected he needed to go.

Actually in the time between the last post and this one we’ve gone out 3 times, but the last time he actually went downstairs to the back door and before I could get to the top of the steps to see if he was at the door or at the water bowl he had rung his bell. Hurrah! Progress on the bell training.

Thank you for the encouragement!

Ah, yes that could be part of the problem, I’ve been letting him out to pee without a leash. Sometimes we stay out and play too so he may be getting mixed signals about going out. I’ll start using the leash. It’s probably time for him to learn to use it anyway. Any tips on leash training?

Yeah, he’s probably wanting to go out to play, too… make that and bathroom outings a totally different animal and it will help.

My little guy has been working on a leash since he was about 8 weeks. I use an 8ft leash on his collar and we haven’t been doing any formal heeling and such yet. Right now, the leash goes onto the collar and out we go… pee… poop… whatever… and back in we go! We also do walks and such so he’s getting used to the idea. If your little guy isn’t used to a collar, start now! He’ll find it annoying at first, but they get over it quickly.

Start with a pocketful of treats, make him sit, clip his leash to his collar and do the happy-puppy-excited-high-pitched-god-I-sound-like-a-moron “Oh boy! Let’s go!” sounds. You can focus puppy’s attention up on you if he knows you have the string cheese in your hand :wink: or just praise him for hopping around while on leash. Practice your recall. Make him sit pretty in front of you. Practice indoors. Then practice those outdoors.

For housebreaking things, don’t make as huge a fuss - just clip the leash on, and out you go to your “designed” pee spot. He will sniff around, do his stuff, and yay, back in you go.

Leash breaking is hard - a lot of puppies like to pull and attack their leashes. I often spray my leashes with bitter apple spray (ick!) so they don’t try to eat it. I also praise them for walking nicely. Sometimes I downright bribe them by holding up the treat (I like cheese - it works really well - low fat string mozarella rocks, man!) in my left hand at the height of my tummy. It’s also where my hand will go during formal heeling for obedience trials. So it doesn’t hurt.

Remember to do a little bit at a time. Puppies have the attention spans of scallops, I swear. So little bits of 5-10 minutes here or there will get you a long way. Always end on a positive note - don’t push your luck too long. Make sure puppy is still fresh and willing to go when you stop.

Good luck with pupazoid :slight_smile:

So we tried leashing during the second part of the day today but all he did was walk around with the end of the leash in his mouth and not pee or poop for a long time. You recommend the bitter almond stuff? or practicing during some inside downtime. It seems these days that anytime he is out of his crate he is wound up and not able to concentrate on any learning type activities.

Being too wound up is not uncommon for a lab, especially after being crated for parts of the day. I have aussies, so I’m familiar with the burst-o-energy that makes their brains fuzz out temporarily. Find out what his doggy currency is. Every dog I have ever known, no matter how wired and wound up, will stand on his eyeballs (!) for dehydrated liver…

You can try practicing indoors - but right now I’d just use the leash to take him for a short walk (yeah, I use bitter apple so leash-in-the-mouth is icky) and praise the living daylights out of him for doing his doggy business. Same as for taking him out to do his stuff when he has just asked. He asks, leash goes on, outside we go… you putz around, I bring you back in and wait a few minutes… you ask again, back out we go… no putzing, you pee, good dog! You putz, we go back in and wait…

Again, it’s all about making it a business transaction. Right now the leash is novel (Oooo!) so I’d take the focus away from it. Sort of the “Yes, you have something weird clipped to your collar, and that’s kinda odd, but hey, I am far more interesting than it! Check out what I’ve got!”… break out the liver, make him sit, and you’ll have one attentive puppy… :wink:

As for formal training, yeah, wait until he’s a little tired out and receptive. With labs, who aim to please, if he’s acting like a twirp, just put things away and ignore him for a few minutes. Sort of the cold shoulder treatment for dogs. Works wonders with my pups. “You don’t want to even pay attention? Fine. We’re done. School’s out.” and me n’ my liver walk away and do some cleaning…

Above all else, have fun with the little dude. They grow up sooooo fast… and do sign up for a basic obedience class. It’s a good thing to do, even if just for socialisation, and to have someone else look at what you’re doing. Hell, I even sign my guys up for classes sometimes! They love it!



My wife and I took in a stray pit bull puppy a couple of years ago. I had never housetrained a dog before, but decided that I would walk her a set number of times each day to do her business. I’d say that within a few weeks she took to this routine–morning, lunch (I only work a few blocks from home), after work, and evening–pretty well, rarely making messes inside.

After losing a couple of nylon leashes to her chewing, I finally found a chain leash that put an end to that. I’ve found that a short leash in combination with a gentle leader works works well for keeping her at my side. We tried a choker collar for training, but the fact that she was choking herself never seemed bother her (pit bulls are pretty impervious to pain).

Labs usually don’t calm down from the frantic spazziness that makes them so cute until they are two.

Someone told me this when our dog was a spazzy little puppy and at exactly two, Murph when from being a spaz to being the laid back dog that I wanted.


Whew, ok we’re making some progress. We had to go outside 7 times during Jeopardy this evening (thank Og for DVR). We’re working on sitting and staying with the leash when he’s on the calm side, but we aren’t trying it outside yet because he just doesn’t do his business (bitter apple to come tomorrow - leash and table corners).

Treats definitely help. Am I going to have to continue to use treats for the rest of his life or will he eventually be content with praise and petting to learn new skills?

Pictures of Cosmo I hope…let me know if you can’t get to these.

He will eventually learn to be appreciative of praise for its own sake - labs are just that way. They aim to please. He is, right now, a puppy though. Puppies think with their tummies - they like it if everything they learn is a value-added proposition… My toller (the smallest breed of the retriever family) is a walking stomach. He does very well just for praise (he aims to please, all the bloody time) but lord, if you toss in a food reward in there once in a while… man oh man, he’s one happy dog who will keep giving you 100 correct behaviors/cues on command just in case the 101th one will aaaaalso bring a treaaaat alooooong… :wink:

Cosmo’s at an age where he has to find out which behaviors are rewarded, which are not - there has to be something in it for him - a good reason to do stuff. When doing formal training, I use treats because I get better attention (longer span) and more focus. I can usually get reliable responses (I do operant conditionning training only, though) really fast. After a while (read many weeks down the road at this point) I move to a slightly different system: sometimes you get lavish praise and petting, sometimes you get that AND a treat.

So… if you’re a puppy, it’s always a good idea to keep doing the correct behavior because you never know. It may be worth the risk of “only” getting praise and petting… because you neeeever know, it could be the time daddy whips out the treats…

This is especially effective with the recall. Even now, with my guys, when we’re doing stuff offleash at the park, even if they’re playing with other dogs or digging up treasure (!), if I call them, they ALWAYS check in. Sometimes they get a snuggle and a “thanks for checking in, buddy!”… and sometimes they get a treat to go with it… so they always check in, juuuust in case. My aussie will also gladly bend over backwards if she knows the reward is a toss of her Holy Sacred Frisbee of Doom.

Treats are just a currency. I even sometimes just use their kibble as a “treat” unless I’m doing formal training. It’s a way to reinforce the “mommy’s really happy with that behavior! Do it again and I’ll make it worth your while!”.

For a good read on all of this stuff, I HIGHLY recommend Karen Pryor’s “Don’t Shoot The Dog” and Jean Donaldson’s “Culture Clash”. They’re great reads, and certainly an important book in any dog-owner’s library!

Cosmo is really cute! Lab puppies just have such a soulful look about them, don’t they? It’s probably what keeps them alive :wink:

Here are pictures of my terror … when he was 8 weeks old… and a more recent headshot