This page is designed to help give new puppy owners ideas and options on how to confine their puppy in various situations as well as options on crate training and potty training. There are literally hundreds of methods that can be found all over the internet, in training books and explained by your dog trainer. I am showing you a few that I use most often.
Let me begin by explaining the importance of each.
X-pen: It’s crucial that your puppy has a safe place to go when you’re at work, running errands, and for short periods throughout the day. Although a crate is a wonderfully safe place (discussed later), it can’t be used excessively for several reasons. Puppies have energy. They need to play and have some wiggle room. If you’re putting your puppy into a crate 10 times a day (about how often I use an x-pen) then he is going to begin to hate the crate. Also, your puppy should never be put in a position where he’s forced to eliminate in his crate. If you’re going to be gone longer than 2 hours, your puppy needs a place to potty. Not to mention, he needs access to water, toys and maybe even food depending on how long he’s confined for. A crate is not a good option for these things.
Crate: A crate is used differently than an x-pen. It is a small, comfortable place designated for rest and sleeping. A crate is very helpful for potty training, as well as helping your puppy have a safe place to retreat to that feels snugly and warm. It will be used at night, short periods throughout the day, training and possibly car rides as well.
Potty Training: Puppies have a natural desire to eliminate outside of their sleeping, play and eating areas. But when they’re in a home, it takes time for them to learn that area is outside. Using a crate and x-pen will help with the process, but there are additional things needed, depending on your lifestyle. We’ll go over some options on this page.
Pros: Durable and sturdy, looks nice, stays in place. Offered in several heights, I use 32″ most often but also use 40″. Completely customizable by adding or removing panels.
Cons: Heavy and panels separate to store. Puppy must be lifted in and out over the gate threshold until old enough to easily step over. Some puppies may climb it.
Pros: Durable and sturdy, accordion collapses to store, medium weight, looks nice, cannot be climbed, can be locked in place, completely customizable by adding or removing panels and is quiet.
Cons: Several pieces when putting together, some very small puppies may fit through the bars.
Pros: Lightweight and easy to store.
Cons: Can generally be tipped over when jumped on, slides around easily, cannot be locked in place, not as appealing to the eye. Cannot add or remove panels.
How to set up your x-pen:
Set it up in an area that has water resistant, washable flooring. Place it with direct/easy access to the door you plan to take your puppy out of to eliminate. You may attach a crate to it or put your crate inside of the x-pen. If you don’t want a crate in the pen, I suggest an elevated bed. I prefer clip-on dishes to avoid spills. If you’re using an elimination area, it can also be placed inside of the x-pen. Be sure to also have some fun toys!
When will you use your x-pen?
Throughout the day when you or your puppy needs a break, the x-pen is a great place to put him where he can still play, drink and have wiggle room. If you need to be gone for work or errands, it gives your puppy a place to be to stay out of trouble and have access to a potty area. For elimination, you may have it attached to your doggie door or you may have an indoor elimination area. If you’re gone longer than 2 hours, you need to have a potty place. You can use a wire crate, or a plastic crate within the pen. Or, opt for an elevated bed (CLICK TO SEE).
How to train using the x-pen:
Your puppy may holler and complain at first when you put him in the x-pen. You may pin sheets up to help him not have visual stimulation outside of the pen. It’s very important that you take your puppy out to potty prior to putting him in his pen, even if he has an elimination area. The end goal is to no longer use the elimination area, so the more he goes outside instead, the better. Then put him in and offer something yummy such as Porky Puff or Bully Stick. I like to sit in the pen with my puppy for a few minutes during the first few days, just to help him feel safe and comforted. Once you do walk away, if he cries and throws a tantrum, you MUST ignore him. As soon as he is quiet, reward him by popping over with a treat. I often walk by and reward my puppy for sitting quietly. After he wakes up, I remove him quickly to go outside and potty. If he’s jumping and carrying on when I go to take him out, I stand and wait until he “mands” (see Puppy Culture) before opening the door to the pen. I generally pick my puppy up and carry him outside to avoid accidents between the pen and door.
NOTE: During the day, I remove the elimination area from the pen because I would prefer he hold it until I take him out. If I am leaving for longer than 2 hours, I put the elimination area back in.
NOTE: I only give frozen raw marrow bones for crate training, so I use other items for x-pen time, such as a Porky Puff or Bully Stick. (NO rawhide)
Hard, plastic crate
Pros: Is dark and den-like, easier to bring in the car
Cons: Does not collapse or grow with your puppy
Pros: Grows with your puppy as you move the divider, collapses, good ventilation.
Cons: May need to be covered to avoid visual stimulation (they sell covers), harder to use in a vehicle.
Petco online almost always beats out prices from anywhere else, so be sure to check! There are several brands. I prefer double doors.
How to set up your crate:
Be sure your puppy only has enough room to lay down, stand and turn around. This may be mean buying several sizes of plastic crates or moving the divider as needed in a wire crate. Do not put food or water dishes in the crate. I suggest waiting to add a plush bed until your puppy is through the chewing stage. We use blankets. I put our crate downstairs, in our dining room. It’s close to a door and is a fairly quiet area.
When will you use your crate?
At night, for sleeping and potty training. Possibly in the car, if you prefer to travel with your dog confined. Directly after a training session for a short rest and “thinking time” (as explained in “Puppy Culture”). And as a quiet sanctuary throughout the day, a place to retreat when overwhelmed or a place to enjoy a good bone and relax.
You may also consider a crate for your vehicle. These Impact Crates will help to keep your puppy safe in case of an accident.
How to crate train:
We work hard to introduce our puppies to crates during their 8-9 weeks here. Your puppy has likely been sleeping in a crate with the door open, had rest time chewing bones in crates and riding in a crate in the car. We have done all of these things to help you create a smooth transition from crate conditioning to crate training.
For the first 3 days that your new puppy is home, I do not suggest jumping right into full-blown crate training. Your puppy is already undergoing so much change, and although he is happy and enjoying his new family, he is undergoing unseen stress. By allowing your puppy a slower transition, it helps alleviate so much stress at one time and will result in less crying and concern when you begin crate training. For those first three nights, I would have his crate in his x-pen with the door securely fastened open (like zip-tied to the x-pen) or the door removed. Either have a doggie door or an elimination area accessible to the puppy. Have a few toys and a secure water dish, as discussed in the x-pen set ups above. This is a familiar setting for your puppy. Before bed, take him out for a good walk and be sure he’s had time to eliminate. Put him in his x-pen and sit with him for cuddles and then leave him with a Porky Puff or Bully Stick. Be sure he has his “Snuggle Puppy” and blankie (as provided in your puppy packet) placed inside the crate. Walk away and go to bed, understanding that there is likely to be a little fussing. Through the night, if he needs to potty, he will have a place to do so (doggie door or elimination area.)
After 3 nights, your puppy is feeling much more at home and less stressed. Time to start crate training! Feed your puppy dinner 2.5 hours before bedtime and offer a drink of water. Then, pick up the food and water dish and limit treats for the duration of the evening. Play with your puppy, take a walk, do 3-5 minutes of simple commands training such as “down” and/or “come”. Be sure to stimulate your puppy both physically and mentally. Then right before bed, take your puppy out to potty again, being sure he has ample time outside. Offer a drink of water and then give your puppy something wonderful such as a frozen, raw marrow bone. Place it in the crate with his blankie and Snuggle Puppy and close the door. Go to bed. He may cry himself to sleep. If at any point he sounds completely panicked, try taking him outside again with very little excitement. Then put him back in the crate and let him cry. He will eventually fall asleep. When he wakes up and needs to potty, he will cry. Respond quickly by rushing to your puppy and picking him up out of his crate and carrying him outside. After he potties, put him back in his crate to cry himself to sleep. He may wake every hour, or may sleep for a solid 6-8 hours. Every puppy is different. Within 7-10 nights, your puppy will very likely be sleeping through the night in his crate quietly.
You can put your puppy in his crate for short durations during the day as well.
*He must ALWAYS be taken outside to potty before going into a crate.
*Avoid putting a wound-up puppy in a crate. I use the x-pen unless I know my puppy is capable of resting/sleeping at that time.
*Try to avoid “giving in” and letting a crying puppy out of his crate. Whimpering or complaining is okay. If he is panicking, remove him and back up a few steps, trying to figure out why he panicked. Did he need to potty? Was he too wound up?
NOTE: I prefer covering the crate with a blanket/sheet to prevent visual stimulation which makes it harder on the puppy to settle down.
Potty training is generally one of the most feared aspects for families considering adding a puppy to their home. Everyone knows of someone that had a dog who “never potty trained.” This can be a daunting thought. Luckily, none of my Bordoodles, Poodles or Border Collies have ever failed to become potty trained. So don’t worry… it will happen!
How do you train your puppy to go outside?
You have two options. And in my experience, combining both does the trick and get’s potty training over and done with quite quickly.
#1. Take your puppy out A LOT. When I am raising a puppy, we go out all of the time. About every half hour to 45 minutes that he is awake, for the first few weeks. Puppy just finished eating? Go outside. Been rough-housing for 20 minutes? Go outside. Just woke up? Go outside! In and out all day long. This gets your puppy out BEFORE he has to go, before he has an accident. Within 10 days of this, the puppy really starts to grasp and remember, “Whenever I potty, it’s outside.” So when they feel the need to go and aren’t outside, they have a bit of a panic moment because they simply have no pattern or memory of going on carpet or hard-floors. You’ll see that “uh-oh I gotta go, but where!?” moment in your puppy’s eyes and can take him out. If you wait for accidents, then correct your puppy with a “No!”, he still is building a habit of going inside on interior surfaces.
So go outside several times, offering lots of chances to “happen to be outside when he needed to go.”
#2. Teach him a way to ask to go outside. Many of my families have had huge success training with a potty bell. Other folks trained scratching the door, or sitting by the door or even barking. Whatever you prefer! At first, your puppy may “abuse” this by ringing the bell just to go out and play. Oh well! For the first 10-14 days, I play into his game and we go out every time he rings. This sets a solid pattern in his mind that ringing/scratching/etc equals the door opening and a chance to potty. After a few weeks, you can begin “calling his bluff”. If you are 100% sure he does not need to potty when he rings, just tell him you don’t believe him and cure his boredom with something else like a short game of fetch, a toy, chewy or short training session. After a short while, he learns to mostly only ring when he actually needs to “go” and knows that you know that he’s bluffing. I swear… they are THAT smart, just ask my OBD owners!
What if he does have an accident?
I do not recommend correcting this at all in puppyhood. Yelling “No!” or stomping or clapping really means nothing to your puppy when it’s associated with eliminating. So what do I do when I look down to see my precious bundle of cuteness peeing on my foam kitchen mat while I was cooking dinner? I bend down and once my hands touch him, he stops peeing. I carry him outside and let him finish. Then I go back inside, grab my “Nature’s Miracle” cleaner and clean the puddle while saying to myself, “Ugh, you should have known that he would need out after he finished chewing on that pig ear. Be faster and more diligent next time.”
Dogs don’t like a “dirty den”. These are super smart dogs! Most are potty trained by 4 months old, a few weren’t fully trained until 6 months old. Be consistent, put the energy into getting them out often and get it over with quicker. I put the work into teaching your puppy how to live cleanly, just run with that! You’ve got this!
“If my puppy is using an elimination area while I’m gone longer than 2 hours, isn’t he learning it’s okay to go inside? Will I always have to have a elimination area?”
First… what is the alternative? If you are going to be gone longer than your puppy can hold it, where will he go? He has to go somewhere! An elimination area is a very odd item. Very different than any household texture. He is only going on wood pellets in a box so you are still teaching him not to go on carpet and hard floors. When I remove the box during times I’m home, he holds it until we go outside because the only habit he’s ever known is either outside or a box of wood pellets.
Secondly, dogs like a clean den. As he gets older, you’ll notice him choose to hold it until you come home to take him out instead of using the elimination area. They basically “wean themselves” of the elimination area as they gain more bladder control.
Why do I actually love the elimination area and x-pen?
Sometimes… life is crazy. Sometimes you might be sick and just unable to go in and out all day. Sometimes you might have a super busy day and just unable to devote as much time with your puppy as you wanted (should be few and far between). I like that if I really just need a break, or want to go to dinner and a movie with my husband or am sick, that my puppy has a safe x-pen and elimination area so we aren’t “going backwards” by putting him in a position to go on the floor or chew on a wall. It’s a “neutral solution” that is neither setting your puppy back or springing him forward.
Many families work regular jobs and successfully raise a puppy. Is it as easy for them as it is for someone who is retired or works for home? Nope. They definitely have an advantage. But is it possible? Yes.
If you’re dedicated to the well-being of your puppy, you CAN manage a 40 hour a week job plus a puppy. It means a lot of work for you. It means giving up weekends and evenings. It means when you come home exhausted and hungry, pulling it together to take your puppy who’s waited all day for you, out on a good walk. It means hiring a mid day dog walker or using a quality doggie daycare. It can mean eating a sandwich for dinner because you need to go play tug-of-war and snuggle that baby that missed you all day. It may mean skipping that Saturday afternoon TV time, to go to your Weekly Puppy Obedience class. Bordoodles aren’t a hyper or high-strung breed. But they ARE an active breed. They DO need exercise–both mentally and physically. They ABSOLUTELY need socialization. As in, you intentionally seeking out ways for your dog to have positive interactions with other dogs and strangers. EVERY WEEK. If you fail to provide adequate exercise, training and socialization for your young Bordoodle, neither of you will get to see just how great that dog could have been. I’ve put a huge amount of work into putting the right pair of genetics together for you to have an awesome dog. I’ve also put an incredible amount of work into raising your puppy for 9 weeks to be social, an enrichment seeker, desire a bond, love to learn and love to play. But now… you take it from here. Your dedication, actions and choices can turn this puppy into “a pretty good dog” or into “the best dog I’ve ever known.” Some of the greatest dogs I have met, were raised by working families. It can be done!