Dear AKC: I have a 4-month-old German Shepherd Dog. She is wonderful, loving, sweet, and does all that she can to please. However, we have a big problem. She is peeing in her crate every night. I read that by 4 months this should stop - it hasn't. She comes out in the morning "dripping wet"! I have tried various things but nothing is working. Suggestions? --Piddlin' Puppy
Dear Piddlin: Housebreaking puppies is one of the most difficult tasks facing a new dog owner. Over the years I have had some puppies pick it up right away and others that took longer to control their bladders. There are a few tried and true things you can do to see if it makes a difference.
A four-month-old puppy is still very young and unfortunately there is no magic number of months when accidents stop. It really depends on the dog, the breed and how diligent the owner is with consistent housetraining methods. A rule of thumb for "holding it" for puppies is to take the puppies age in months (so for your dog that is 4) and add 1 to estimate the number of hours that a puppy can hold it before she needs to go outside to potty. Right now 5 hours is her maximum. If you sleep for 8 hours and she gets up before you, then she will most likely have to pee and will do so in her crate.
Location, Location, Location.
Try moving the crate into the bedroom so you can hear when she gets up during the night. That way you will be right there to take her out when she gets up, thus avoiding the dripping wet problem. You can also try taking away her water bowl several hours before she goes to bed to decrease the likelihood that she will have to tinkle during the night. Also, many owners report good luck getting a crate divider to section off a smaller space in the crate which forces the dog to lie in an area of the crate and not have a space away from the sleeping area. You may have gotten an adult size crate that she will grow into but currently gives her an area to go potty and then move away from it. By making her available space smaller, yet still big enough for her to comfortably turn around and lie down, it might make her think twice before she piddles where she sleeps.