Setting Up a Long Term Confinement area (LTC) / Preparing for the Puppy (Before you bring it home)

Puppy Play Pen

So you have picked out a breeder or puppy to rescue from a shelter or rescue group (NEVER FROM A DOG STORE – That supports puppy mills which are EVIL!). Now you need to start thinking about where the puppy will be when you bring it home.

Doing a little prep work before welcoming the puppy into your home will set you and the puppy up for success and make raising the puppy 10 times easier. Trust me when I say puppies take a lot of observation, so having a safe area to leave your puppy in when you have to do something is very helpful.

Many people start kennel training a puppy by leaving it in there at night and ignoring the puppy when it protests. While a kennel is a good option for potty training (puppies are taught not to potty where they sleep by their mothers), its pretty restricted.

When researching puppy raising, I ran across this concept and will never raise another puppy again without setting up a Long Term Confinement (LTC) area. This is a safe place to leave your puppy when you cant directly supervise it, or for feeding or sleeping.

Puppies are forming habits by creating behavior patterns. Simply put, the more a puppy does something, the more likely they are to continue doing that as an adult. SO if your puppy starts chewing on shoes, furniture, carpet, etc, its something it will continue to do until you teach it not to. But teaching a dog to not chew things is a VERY long process that takes a tremendous amount of work and time. Plus it will cost you financially replacing shoes, furniture, etc.

Filling a LTC area with appropriate chew toys helps your puppy develop good chewing habits as they dont have access to things you dont want them to chew.

Not only does an LTC provide you with a safe place to stash the pup, if you set it up in a guest room, you can close the door and help the dog practice being alone. One of the more common problems Im called in to fix as a dog behaviorist is Separation Anxiety. By setting up a puppy play room like this, and feeding your pup and having it sleep there, you can help it practice being alone which should stave off any potential separation anxiety problems down the road.

Its also a great way to kennel train your pup. As you can see in the pic and video above, the only soft place to lay down is in the kennel, who’s door is secured so its always open. After a month or two of this, your pup has practiced being completely calm in the kennel because its where it lays down and sleeps. When you start closing the kennel door, most dogs don’t blink an eye.

But the great thing about a puppy play room is it should help you get to the point where your puppy doesn’t need to be kenneled at all! At 5 months, Quest was able to be left alone, unsupervised and he didn’t chew the wrong things because he never got into a habit of doing so in the first place.

While one play pen (most pens consist of 8 panel sections) is fine for a young puppy (under 10 weeks), puppies grow fast. I have a spare bedroom I don’t use so I decided to order a second play pen off Groupon and connect them together so that as Quest grows, he has more room to romp around.

Having this larger play pen can also give you a nice training area to work in with your dog. So if you have the room, Id strongly recommend getting two play pens and connecting them together and to the kennel.

I picked up the play pen seen here from Groupon but it ended up being to small / unstable for a medium to large breed dog so I upgraded to a heavier duty 40 inch tall version once Quest got a little bigger. Here are links to both on Amazon:

Pet Trex Playpen for smaller breed dogs

Pet Trex 32-40 Inch Black Playpen for Large Breed dogs

The play pens linked above come in different sizes. Its important to select a height that is appropriate for how big your puppy is and how big it will be. Better to air on the side of higher or stronger when in doubt.

Although I started with the smaller playpen, I switched to the Large Breed version in the second link as Dalmatians are medium sized dogs. The smaller ones are less sturdy which larger breeds can knock over.

When it comes to kennels, I prefer wire kennels as they fold down into a smaller profile. The plastic ones are pretty flimsy so unless you have a small breed puppy, Id stick with the wire version.

The wire versions also allow you to observe the dog inside more easily which can be beneficial for some kennel training exercises. Make sure it has a door and you bring the pup in and out through the door, otherwise you teach them to go up and over to get out and you don’t want that.

Now its probable your puppy will potty in the LTC. The first time it does, clean it up, but leave a puppy pad in that same location. Most puppies will continue eliminating there which puppy pad trains your puppy for you.

Puppies cant have full control of their bladder until about 5 months so accidents here aren’t going to set you back much. But if you follow our puppy potty training tips, you should get to the point where the puppy protests in the play area as a way of saying they need to go potty.

If you follow these steps the first day, the puppy should feel good about being in the puppy play pen.

  1. Drop several treats into the Long Term Confinement area (LTC) with your puppy outside watching you drop them inside with the door closed.
  2. Wait for your puppy to want to go inside, then open door and follow your puppy inside. Say a unique command word that means go to your LTC when the puppy licks up each treat. We like using fun command words like “Palace,” “Castle,” “Jamaica,” “Home,” because dogs can read human facial expressions. If you say “Jamaica” and your pup runs into the kennel, you are likely to smile which motivates your puppy to want to go to the LTC area.
  3. Stay inside the LTC with your puppy for 10 minutes. Pet and play with your puppy while you are in the LTC.
  4. An hour or more after the last time, take the puppy into the LTC again. Open the door, toss in a treat and say the command word when puppy eats the treat. Go inside with your puppy so you can pet / play with it for 10 minutes.
  5. Feed your puppy lunch out of treat ball while you are inside the play area (an hour or so after the previous practice session). This time, don’t play with the puppy, this is when we start transitioning to your puppy being occupied to other things in the LTC. Just help roll the ball around if your puppy doesn’t get it at first. Within a few rolls, your puppy should take over. When puppy finishes getting all the treats out, take him / her outside for a potty break.
  6. An hour or more after lunch, give your puppy a bully stick in the LTC and hang out inside with it; sitting down on the floor near your puppy for another 15 minutes. Do not play with your puppy. Lunch and this visit are all about helping the puppy practice being entertained with things other than you. Just observe or read a bit while your puppy chews. After 15 minutes, get up to leave with the pup, and dont let it take the bully stick out. Latch the door when you leave. This creates a desired to go back inside.
  7. An hour or more later, take your puppy back into LTC area for another 10 minutes. Sit down and ignore puppy so it chews the bully stick again. If the bully is still around after ten minutes, don’t let puppy take it out when you leave. Ask your puppy to sit before opening the door. Don’t repeat the command over and over, just give it once then wait next to the door. The second puppy sits, open the door and leave with it. Be sure to latch the LTC area door closed again when you leave.
  8. Feed your puppy dinner in the LTC out of the treat ball / treat dispensing toys again. This time, stay in the room, but outside of the LTC area. When your puppy has its back turned and is engrossed with the food dispensing toys, quietly leave. If your puppy cries, barks or whines, DO NOT return. Most pups will protest a few times then go back to getting the food. Stay nearby and you should be able to hear the puppy rolling the ball around again. Just make sure puppy cant see or hear you. When the ball stops rolling,  let your puppy out.
  9. After your last potty break of the night, take your puppy back to the LTC. Add in a small amount of kibble into treat ball (just enough for a snack) and toss it inside while you are outside the LTC. When your puppy is looking away, quietly leave.
  10. Do not return again until the next morning to let your puppy out. Some whimpering whining should be expected. Coming to check if puppy cries / barks, trains puppy to bark, whine or protest to get you to come. Remember this is a safe place so let your puppy work it out. If you have a higher energy puppy take it for a brisk 15 min walk or play fetch before starting step 10.
  11. When letting your puppy out of the LTC the next morning, wait for a sit before opening the door. Do NOT ask for a sit. Just wait for one. The instant your puppy sits down, open the door and invite it out. With practice, this will teach your dog that sitting calmly is the only way to get its release. This helps the puppy practice being calm.

If you follow the above steps the first day, your puppy should get used to and enjoy its puppy play area.

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