Your dog must be at least 12 weeks old before you start confining him indoors. Before that, you can place your puppy, supervised, in a crate or a safe-room. When puppies are young, they have a lot of energy and they are extremely curious. Because of this, they tend to get in trouble and could even harm themselves. That is why your puppy training must include a ‘puppy confinement area’ time where your pet safe from harm, calm, quiet, and also knows that he is supposed to chew his toys or bone and not your furnishings or furniture! So let us study the methods and tools you need to create a safe puppy confinement area indoors.
Tips to confine or station your puppy
Determine how long to station him
Determining how long you can confine your puppy depends on your puppy’s age. A sleepyhead of any age can handle an hour or more. But you must supervise your puppy for a few days before leaving him in the confinement area for longer periods. Learn to read his body language and cues. If, for example, your puppy has been chewing on his bone in his crate or confinement area but suddenly starts to show signs of restlessness; then he may want his playtime and a run of the house. Likewise, if he has been sleeping and suddenly wakes up whimpering, he may want his potty break or might be hungry. So learn to read these signs and act on them.
Choose the right area in your house
The puppy confinement area you choose is very important. You can create a single confinement area in one room or section of your house or go in for several different areas in each of the rooms you want your dog to be in.
Select one area in one room and create a ‘playpen’ using crates, baby gates, or playpens. We have discussed each of these in detail later in this guide. Avoid a spot that is next to the stairs or has electrical cords or wires which your pet could chew.
Most people like to keep their pet in the living room, near the couch. This way, they can watch TV while the pet plays in his confinement area. Place comfy cushions, blankets, a dog bed, or your pet’s crate in this area. Place a chew bone next to him or give him some teething toy rings he can chew on. This will help your pet identify that this is ‘his special place’. You may also want to leash or secure your puppy to a secure object. Ensure that the object you secure your pet to is sturdy, immovable, and won’t tip. You can also screw an eyehook into the wall and weave your pet’s leash through it.
Limit your puppy’s movement to 2-3 feet. This will prevent mischief and soiling. Just like crate training, the main reason behind confinement training is to teach your puppy to quiet down and chew on the bone or his toys. You can also teach him a command during stationing, such as ‘settle down’ or ‘calm down’.
Leaving your puppy in the confinement area
In the first few days, you must stay in the same room as your dog’s confinement area. Once he gets busy chewing his bone or toys, you can leave him for a bit.
While leaving, give him a calm and quiet instruction such as ‘wait’. Get your pet used to short, no-drama departures. Do not make a big deal out of leaving. This way, your puppy will soon gain trust that you won’t leave him or desert him. When your pet gets excited when you return to the room, ignore him for a while. This way, he will understand not to make a big issue of your arrival and departure. Only when he is calm, give him your attention.
Dealing with panic upon first-time confinement
Some puppies panic when they are first confined. As a pet owner, you need to ascertain if he is actually panicking or making a ‘persuasive’ protest. The main difference is that a panicking dog will be totally focused on you whereas a dog who is trying to persuade you to stay or pick him up will likely bark. Always ignore a protesting/barking dog. If your dog is truly panicking, then station or confine him only when you can sit in the same room as him. Encourage bone or toy chewing. Once he settles down for a nap, you can leave the room. Soon your pet will get a hang of it.
Confinement is an essential aspect of training a puppy. Do not encourage your pet when he barks; if you soothe him as he whines/barks/whimpers then you are setting up the precedence for similar behavior in the future.
Know when to release your pet from confinement area
Always, and we mean ALWAYS, release your pet from his confinement area only if he is calm. If you release him when he is whining or crying, you will reinforce negative behavior. You can distract your puppy with some toys when he acts up but it is best to ignore when he barks or whines. Always make sure your pet is not hungry or needs a potty break. This is vital to the success of confinement.
Tools to use for confinement
The best products to use for confinement are gates, playpens, and crates. These are lifesavers when you are teaching confinement or keeping certain areas of your house pet-free. Some people suffer from allergies and zoning off of certain areas can prevent pet dander and pet hair from aggravating their allergies. This is especially necessary for the bedrooms. Decide in advance with all of your family members where your puppy should and should not be allowed. Even if your pet gets a taste of one off-limit area, be sure he will want to enter it again and again to explore.
Baby gates are great to section off certain rooms and prevent your puppy from entering them. They are especially useful if you do not want a house full of closed doors. Gates also allow you to keep an eye on your dog when you are in another room. You can install both temporary and permanent gates and they come in different sizes and styles. Large departmental and home improvement stores usually carry gates in various sizes.
Just like you have playpens for babies, you can buy a playpen for your puppy. Playpens are a great solution for dog owners who do not want to deal with gates. They are also nice to have if you intend to travel with your puppy. Naturally, you should not use playpens full-time as you need to give some freedom to your puppy to roam about. This way; he can learn what he needs to learn while roaming the house.