Using an Exercise Pen for Housetraining

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Although a puppy can last in his crate for the night when he's asleep, you can't leave a puppy in his crate for purposes of housetraining for longer than four hours at a time during the day. Your puppy will soil his crate, which definitely isn't a habit you want to establish.

If your schedule is such that you can't keep an eye on Buddy during the day or come home to let the puppy out in time, the alternative is an exercise pen. An X-pen (see Figure 4-2) is intelligent confinement and uses the same principle as a crate, except it's bigger and has no top. An X-pen can also be used outdoors. For the super athlete who either climbs over or jumps out of the X-pen, you do have to cover the X-pen.

First, you need to acquire an X-pen commensurate to the size of your dog. For example, for a dog the size of a Labrador, the X-pen needs to be 10 square feet. Set up the X-pen where the puppy will be confined during your absence.

Figure 4-2:

An X-pen is another form of containment.

Figure 4-2:

An X-pen is another form of containment.

How Cover Xpen

To get your dog comfortable in his X-pen, follow the same procedure as you did in introducing him to his crate (see "Coaxing Buddy into the crate" earlier in this chapter). When Buddy is "at home" in the X-pen and you're ready to leave him for the day, cover one-third of the area with newspapers for Buddy to use to eliminate on (no, he's not going to read the sports section). Cover one-third of the remaining area with a blanket, and leave one-third uncovered. The natural desire of your dog is to keep his sleeping area clean.

Buddy needs to have access to water during the day, so put his water dish on the uncovered area in the corner of the X-pen (some water is bound to splash out, and the uncovered floor is easy to clean). Before you leave, place a couple toys on Buddy's blanket, put him into X-pen with a dog biscuit, and leave while he's occupied with the biscuit. Don't make a big deal out of leaving — simply leave.

Some people try to rig up confinement areas by blocking off parts of a room or basement or whatever. Theoretically, this works, but it does permit Buddy to chew the baseboard, corners of cabinets, or anything else he can get his teeth on. Furthermore, leaving a dog on a concrete surface isn't a good idea. There's something about concrete that impedes housetraining; many dogs don't understand why it can't be used as a toilet area. Concrete also wreaks havoc on the elbows of large breeds.

You may want to confine your dog to part of a room with baby gates. This option works well for some people and some dogs, but remember it's no holds barred for whatever items Buddy can access. Lots of chew toys are a must!

Whatever barrier you decide to try, don't use an accordion-type gate — he could stick his head through it and possibly strangle himself.

You'll find that in the long run, your least expensive option — as is so often the case — is the right way from the start. Don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish by scrimping on the essentials at the risk of jeopardizing more expensive items. Splurging for an X-pen now will probably save you money on your home improvement budget later down the road.

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  • Emma
    Can you leave a dog in a xpen?
    8 years ago
  • mikko
    Can you use an exercise pen during the day and crate at night?
    8 years ago
  • yohannes
    What size exercise pen does labrador need?
    8 years ago

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