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Key Points
  • There could be a health-related reason causing your puppy to go potty in the crate.
  • Some puppies need to go outside at night until they’re about 16-weeks-old.
  • Feeding and exercising your dog on a schedule can help prevent crate accidents.

Many owners use a crate to assist in housetraining their puppy. Crates are excellent tools for housetraining, as well as for giving your dog a safe place to relax throughout her life. However, some puppies have accidents inside their crate – the very problem you’re trying to avoid by using the crate in the first place.

The first consideration is how often is this happening. A few accidents when your puppy’s been in the crate for too long is not a cause for concern. Also, most every puppy has an occasional upset stomach, which can result in crate soiling.

Unless the pup is making it a frequent habit to eliminate in the crate, there’s no cause for concern. Accidents happen. But if eliminating in the crate is becoming a habit, there are a few steps you can take to phase it out.

  1. Consider a health check. Before trying anything else, make sure your puppy doesn’t have a urinary tract infection or any other type of illness that could physically prevent him from holding his bladder for an adequate period of time. He might also be taking a medication or receiving a vaccine that is causing this side effect. Keep watch on what your pup eats off the ground when you’re outside with him because that could result in diarrhea or loose stools and cause him to soil his crate. Rich puppy treats or the wrong puppy food might also be the problem.
  2. Listen to your puppy. If the problem is happening at night, it may be that your pup and his bladder haven’t developed enough to hold it all night long. Many young puppies will need to be carried outside quietly once during the night until they are several months old.
  3. Be sure the pup has been properly introduced to the crate. The crate should be a quiet refuge he sees as a den. When your pup is in the crate during the day, give him his food or a safe chew toy or stuffed Kong. When your dog goes into the crate willingly, give him a treat.
  4. Keep track of time. A general rule of thumb for how long your puppy can “hold it” before needing to go outside is the number of months in age he is plus one equals the number of hours possible. So if your puppy is 3 months old, he should be able to go about four hours before needing to go outside. Be sure to take the puppy outside and watch to see that he does his business every time before you put him in the crate. If he’s still peeing in the crate, he may need more frequent potty breaks – with you or a dog walker.
  5. Set a schedule. Keep your puppy’s meals on a regular schedule, so you have an idea of when she will need to go out. Young puppies eat three times a day. What goes in on a regular schedule will come out on a regular schedule. For example, if you feed your puppy at 8 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m., her elimination schedule should become pretty predictable.
  6. Limit space in the crate. Your puppy’s crate should be just big enough for her to turn around and lie down. Many crates now come with a divider to keep the space small until your pup starts to grow – and then you can remove it. Dogs are naturally clean and don’t like to soil where they sleep, so you don’t want the crate so large that the puppy chooses one side as the bathroom area. Use a separate pen to contain your puppy for longer periods of time.
  7. Remove the bedding. If you follow the above steps and your puppy is still soiling his crate, consider removing the bedding. Some pups learn that they can soil the crate and cover the mess with their bedding. And some puppies prefer to soil on something soft and porous like their bed. Removing the bedding for a short time, while not as comfy, teaches your pup that it’s in his best interest not to soil in the crate since he will not want to lie in his mess.
  8. If you do find an accident in the crate, don’t punish the puppy because he won’t understand what he did wrong. Carry him outside to his potty spot, clean up the crate with a safe product that will neutralize the odor, and wash the bedding.

Many puppies may have an occasional accident in the crate for a number of reasons, but if the behavior becomes frequent, be sure to speak to your veterinarian and consult with an animal behaviorist.

In the meantime, stay calm and be patient. A stressed and upset human can increase the dog’s anxiety and make it more difficult to solve the problem.

Related article: How to Teach Your Dog to Go to Their Place
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