If your puppy is peeing in their crate, even if you’re giving them frequent outdoor potty breaks, rest assured you’re not alone in your frustration. Other pet owners have the same problem. By understanding your puppy’s needs, adjusting your expectations, and making a few changes to your routine and theirs, you can stop the peeing and successfully potty train your puppy.
Yes, crates are supposed to replicate a dog’s natural tendency of a “den,” and most dogs won’t go potty where they eat and sleep. However, this isn’t always the case. Dogs do not naturally know not to pee inside. Most puppies will hold their pee inside of an appropriately sized crate, but there are always exceptions. Unfortunately, many crate accidents aren’t the puppy’s fault - they’re the owner’s fault, usually because:
- It’s not a crate issue, but a scheduling issue - you aren’t taking, or can’t take the puppy out frequently enough, or consistently enough that they to hold their urine.
- You don’t notice “signaling” behavior from your puppy that they need to “go.” Signaling behavior includes whining, pacing, circling, agitation or scratching at their crate bars.
Why is My Puppy Peeing in Their Crate?
Puppies’ bladders don’t fully develop until they’re around six months old. That means they physically can’t hold much urine, and they can’t always control what they have. Be patient with them, especially if they’re very young - under 12 weeks of age. As they age they’ll gain more control.
There are other reasons puppies may pee (and/or poop) in their crates:
- The crate is too large or too small. Both puppies and full-size dogs need a crate that is just large enough for them to comfortably turn around in and not much larger. Any larger and accidents are likely to occur.
- You have a small breed dog. Tiny dogs have tiny bladders. A small breed dog will almost always need to have more frequent potty breaks than a mid to large sized breed.
- The crate is soft or soft-sided or filled with too many towels. We know you want your puppy to be comfortable, but puppies like to pee on soft surfaces, including bedding. Try removing or limiting the number of soft areas inside the crate. Use a hard surface (metal or wood) crate when training your puppy.
- They have a bladder infection or medical problem. If your puppy was doing fine, then suddenly started peeing in their crate, they may have a bladder infection. Check with your vet to ensure there are no physical or medical reasons for their peeing.
- They learned to potty in their crate before you got them. Depending on where you got your puppy (breeder, pet store, neighbor, etc.) they may have been improperly crated and learned to pee in their crate. Their old crate may have been too large, or they weren’t let out at appropriate intervals. They can be retrained, but it will take a little longer.
- They have separation anxiety or are stressed. Puppies get stressed for a variety of reasons, and that can make them more prone to accidents. Stressed puppies (and dogs) will:
- Dig or chew at their crate
- Excessively lick or chew at their paws or body
- Cry or bark for extended periods
- Will pant even if it’s not hot
- Will pace or circle in their crate, or repeatedly get up and lie down.
Puppies with separation anxiety are scared and upset – or don’t understand the rules. They naturally pee because they’re upset. They aren’t trying to get back at you for leaving them alone. That’s why you should never punish your dog for having accidents. Consider “doggie daycare” or a pet sitter until they learn it’s okay to be alone.
- Something in their environment has changed. Their crate is the same, but maybe you moved it from one location to another and disrupted their routine, smells changed, or they’re now feeling stressed. This can happen around holidays, or when you have more people, children, or other events happen. It’s not true for all dogs, but it can be a factor.
- You put them back in their crate after playing without taking them for a potty break first. Puppies need more frequent potty breaks when they’re playing. Even if you only take them out for a fast five-minute romp, take them for a potty break before putting them back in their crate.
- The smaller the dog the smaller the bladder. A good general rule for puppies is that they can hold their pee for their age in months translated to hours. So a 6-month (24 week) old puppy should be able to hold their pee for six hours.
How Do I Stop My Puppy from Peeing in Their Crate?
Medical or Health Issue Check: If your puppy has suddenly started peeing in their crate after doing well previously, have your vet check them for a bladder infection or other issue.
Take More Potty Breaks: Every dog is different. Smaller dogs require more potty breaks than larger dogs.
Pay More Attention to Your Puppies Signaling Behaviors. Just as human parents learn to interpret their new baby’s cries to learn their needs. You need to pay attention to your puppy’s behaviors to learn when they need to “go.” This may include whining, circling, sniffing the ground or crate, agitation, barking, wiggling or simply looking at you a certain way. Don’t wait to confirm it. The second you suspect they may be signaling they need to go, take them outside.
Crate Size: If you started off with a large crate and had problems with your dog peeing in it, then switched to a smaller crate, your puppy may be confused. Start off with the properly sized crate to make potty training easier. If you don’t want the expense of buying several crates as your puppy grows, buy a large crate that can be reduced and then extended as your puppy grows.
New Stressors: Has anything has changed in your puppy’s life to stress it out? Did you move the crate? Are their new pets or people or things in the house (Christmas, holidays, children etc.) that may be stressing them?
Routine: Whether you’re a routine person or not, your puppy needs a consistent routine to learn when and where to go potty. This means you need to let them out at the same time every day. Don’t worry. Once they’re older and house/potty trained you can slack off a bit as they’ll either let you know they need to go out, or you can install a dog door where they can let themselves out. In the meantime, create a schedule so your dog knows they will be going out every few hours, and before and after meals and playtime.
They Haven’t Equated Peeing Outside with Treats and Praise: Puppies are like people. They love to be praised for their good behavior. But they need to know that going potty outside the crate is good behavior. Just letting them go potty outside isn’t enough. Always carry treats with you and immediately reward them for pottying outside. Don’t wait until you’re back in the house to reward them. They won’t make the connection between their action and the treat. Verbal praise, “Good boy!” or “Good girl!” accompanied by a treat immediately on relieving themselves will help them make that vital connection.
If you need the assistance of a puppy or dog pee pad during your training, try a free sample of WizSmart dog pads and see the difference the right pad can make!