A dog is not “supposed to” be comfortable going to the bathroom where they sleep. It is one of the reasons why dogs can be so easily adapted to our homes. But what if you have a dog who seems used to doing their business in their crate (and lying in it ?)?

Crate training a dog that does this is a lot more difficult and time consuming — but not impossible! So let’s take a peek at a few ways to help you get that crate training mastered.

Dogs of all ages and from various situations can have this issue, meaning they will not hold it in the crate and seem ok lying in their mess. It’s frustrating: All we know is we are doing our best trying to housebreak them, we are crate training, taking them outside on a schedule, so why are they still having accidents inside the cage?

WHY DO THEY DO THAT?

A dog that is OK soiling their crate goes against their instincts, so sometimes we can identify why they have lost that natural instinct to stay clean. There’s a few reasons:

  • Some have been raised in puppy mills where they were forced to be in filth, so they got used to it.
  • Some lived outdoors or in a kennel run.
  • Puppies from breeders who did not properly train the puppies to be clean. some we have no history on.
  • Medical issues such as Parasites such as worms or Giardia. Appearance of worms or soft stool may or may not be present. UTI and bladder infections can cause a dog to urinate inside the house or more frequently than usual.
  • Diet issues such as overfeeding or feeding low quality foods. Fillers in cheap food can cause a mass quantity of waste. Food sensitivities can cause issues. Click here for a small article on Diet and Crate Training
  • Stress can cause any animal to eliminate where they would not normally do so. If your dog has other signs of anxiety, such as barking excessively in the crate, drooling, or trying to escape, you need to fix the anxiety issues. Click here for our article on how do that!

HOW TO FIX IT

We first have to make sure we have covered all the basics of crate training. When crate training a puppy or new dog, the point of a crate is that it’s the dogs personal area and is to be kept clean as a resting space. If the crate is huge, some dogs will designate half as a bathroom and half as their sleeping quarters. This is why many wire crates come with a divider panel, so you can adjust the crate as the puppy grows, keeping it just large enough for him to turn around and lie down comfortably. His back and head should not touch the top when standing up. Your dogs cage should not be like a condo! Get a smaller crate, or use a divider panel.

You also do not need bedding. Bedding is for comfort, but it can also be a hazard for young dogs who can shred and eat it, causing intestinal obstructions and requiring lifesaving emergency surgery. It can also be a problem for a dog who is being crate trained if they urinate on the bedding and it is all soaked up so they do not mind doing it again. Try eliminating the fluffy bedding, at least for now.

If you are unsure on crate training basics, click here for my article to learn more. If you already know how to, then let’s focus on a few solutions!


Ifhe is not going potty outside in the proper place, it’s only obvious that he will end up going inside or in the crate. There can be different reasons why a dog will not go outside. Some are not used to being on a leash, and may feel like they need to wander around more freely. Some have been scolded so much for soiling inside that they have associated going to the bathroom in front of their owner with being yelled at. Some are too distracted or nervous outside. Others are just not in the habit, and need to be taught.

The first thing to try is teaching the dog to eliminate on command, like service dogs:

  • You will take the dog to the same area every time, give your verbal cue “go potty,” and walk around a small area until the dog goes.
  • Praise sniffing and allow the leash to be slack and the dog to trail around in front of you (You may want to use a longer leash, such as a Flexi Lead) The second you attach that long leash, he will know this is a cue and it’s potty time. After he goes, you may switch back to your regular 6′ leather obedience lead.

So what if the dog just goes outside and does everything EXCEPT go potty? There are many tricks and tips out there for that, but these are some of the ones that have worked flawlessly for us during training our own dogs.

PLEASE — click on the videos that are linked in the descriptions to see how it’s done, they seem simple, but the devil is in the details!

  • For urination, you can begin by adding some water to the dogs food so they are taking in a bit more water than usual. They will soon have to pee, and you will be ready to get them outside and to the potty area.
  • For pooping, if a dog will not poop right away, there is an old dog show trick: matching a dog. In the dog show ring, any dog who urinates or defecates will be an automatic disqualification, therefore, it is imperative that they be “emptied out” ahead of time. You take a match (or a q-tip is ok for a quite large dog) and put it about half-way into their rectum. This will pretty quickly stimulate them to go. A regular (unlit, obviously) paper match or two is fine. Lift the tail up and get them in there about half-way, then wait. Use your cue “go potty” or whatever your potty cue is. Now be ready to praise your dog!
    Tools you will need: regular paper matches, Flexi Lead extendable leash, treats for a reward. Watch the video below for a more in depth demo:

Cording

This is a method in which the dog will be will you all the time. You will have a leash on them and it will always be either in your hand, or tied to something close to you. I will tie a dogs leash to the chair I’m sitting on, or sit on the leash. Most dogs will follow me around and lie down quietly when I am busy. This way, the dog will not have any accidents inside. They will be under your watchful eye all the time, and be taken outside on a schedule.

This is a great method but it does require you to be home a lot and have a dog with you often. If you need to do other chores around the house, you can tie (tether) the dog to something stable while you are in the same room doing something else, but they are never to be out of your sight or alone in the crate. Take a look at the video below for a quick demo on how its done:

Final Note:

Are there dogs who can never be reliably housebroken? Yes. I believe there are a very small number of dogs who will never have the instinct to be clean and learn to “hold it” and just cannot be reliably housebroken, and these cases are often linked to a medical problem or condition. I feel for the vast majority of dogs, it can be taught, it just takes patience and having the right approach. Remember, your puppy is a baby. Babies do not learn to “hold it” right away, and neither will your puppy!