It is important to set up provisions for a long-term confinement area even if you don’t think you are going to use it every day. There will be times (and there should be – dinner and a movie with your loved ones!) that you will need to leave your puppy for a longer period of time than he can hold it. If you haven’t thought about this ahead of time, you will be stuck, or worse, your puppy will have an accident in the crate or destroy something in your home.
You should feel that it is acceptable to go out to dinner, or another activity and leave your puppy safely in a puppy-proofed area. It is really important that puppies learn to be alone, and it is important that you do activities that you want to do and don’t feel guilty.
The combination of the long-term confinement area and the crate gives you a great deal of flexibility. Let’s assume your puppy can go 4 hours between potty breaks. If someone is able to walk your puppy 4 hours after you leave but then he will be alone for 6 more hours until you get home, use the crate in the morning (4 hours) and then put the puppy in the long-term confinement area until you get home at night. (6 hours – longer than he can hold it). That way, you are using the crate as much as possible, but not forcing your puppy to have an accident in there during the longer part of the day.
Make sure that during your normal housetraining routine, you occasionally take your puppy to the exercise pen when you think he has to go potty and place him on the puppy pad. Reward him when he goes on the pad. This will motivate him to use the pad and reduce the risk of going potty on your floor. However, the exercise pen should be in an area that will not get ruined if your puppy does not go potty on the pad.
There are many options for long-term confinement areas:
- Exercise pen. An 8-sided metal “playpen” that usually comes in 24”, 36” or 42” heights. Some come with a door in one side so you can easily move your dog in and out. With an exercise pen, you can attach a crate to the outside (as shown in the video), put the crate inside the pen, or not use a crate at all.
- If you attach the crate to the outside of the pen, as shown in the picture, you have to be sure that your puppy can’t jump over the crate and get out of the exercise area and cause mischief in your home.
- Hallway or room with one or more baby gates to confine your dog. You always have to make sure that the area is puppy-proofed. Some of the items to be cautious about include crown molding, doors, electric wires, computer wires, garbage cans, furniture, plants, etc.
- Bathroom. Same puppy proofing rules are crucial for bathrooms.
Note: The term “exercise pen” is a misnomer. It is not really intended for exercise, but management. It is not big enough for the type of exercise that dogs require. Time in the exercise pen doesn’t count towards his daily needs