Recently, two people started the subject of confining (or crating) a puppy. Both felt it was terrible to do this. I felt obligated to explain that confining a pup for short periods is no worse than putting a baby in a playpen, and crating a pup at night is equivalent to the crib for an infant.
There are distinct advantages to confining a puppy to a crate. First, you are catering to the puppy’s instincts. In the wild, the mother dog will select a den before whelping. The puppies will live there the first six weeks of their lives unless the mother feels it necessary to transfer them to another site. During this period, the mother takes care of keeping the area clean. Therefore, the pups are accustomed to a den and the need for a particular sleeping area which they instinctively try to keep clean. The crate is perfect: a lair, and convenient for owners, too.
The second advantage to confining the puppy in a pen or crate is the preservation of your furniture, carpet, draperies, electric cords and your self-control. Puppies are curious and start teething early. A large crate or an exercise pen with a floor makes a good playpen. Provide a variety of toys. I find four at one time is more than sufficient and I suggest one squeaky toy, a ball with a bell inside and two chew toys. I also find a piece of dry, hard toast makes a perfect pacifier for a restless weanling puppy. If the pup is less than 3 months old or if you plan to leave the pup in the playpen several hours, be sure to line the bottom tray with a heavy layer of newspapers to absorb the urine.
On returning home, remove the pup, check its feet and wash them with warm water and towel dry if they are dirty — before removing the soiled newspapers. Any toys that have gotten dirty should be cleaned and washed before being returned to the pen. The water (I recommend clip-on bowls to inhibit playing in the water) should be changed and fresh food should be provided.
A puppy less than 12 weeks old has very little control over its sphincter muscles and, therefore, eliminates where and when nature dictates. After 12 weeks, housebreaking can be started by feeding on a regular schedule, exercising on a regular schedule, playing in open areas with supervision and direction and training the puppy to use the newspapers or the yard for elimination by giving lavish praise for the correct action and a mild verbal scolding if eliminating in the wrong spot, such as the hall rug. After a mishap, the youngster should be taken to the correct area, encouraged to “do it” and praised with both voice and petting.
Crating or confining to a small area at night almost insures self-control until morning as instinct will not allow a dog to soil its bed unless it is sick or neglected.