Setting Up a Long Term Confinement area (LTCA) / 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.

While the puppy will be with you a lot, there will be times when you need to put the puppy somewhere safe while you attend to other things. Crates and kennels are so confined that leaving puppies here often results in puppies who hate the kennel.

Setting up a Puppy Play Pen (LTCA)

Modern puppy raising has transitioned into something called a Long Term Confinement Area or (LTCA). This is a fenced off area where the puppy sleeps, eats and hangs out when you cant supervise it. A kennel is included as well as lots of fun toys and a water bowl.

Having a LTCA will make raising your puppy 200% easier (if you follow the steps at the bottom of this post). It also has several awesome benefits:

  1. It prevents the puppy from developing a habit of chewing the wrong things as it doesn’t have access to them unless its out with you. The longer they go without chewing shoes, carpet, furniture, etc, the less likely they will FOR THE REST OF THIER LIFE!
  2. It contains accidents to one area saving your carpet, rugs, etc.
  3. It prevents your adult dog from developing Separation Anxiety as it practices being in the LTCA alone.
  4. Its a safe place to out your pup when it gets cranky. Cranky puppies bite HARD and chew.
  5. It helps you get the puppy the proper amount of sleep. Puppies need to sleep between 12-16 hours a day. Often they will protest if you put the in a crate. But the LTCA lets them play and since no one is around, they often drift off to sleep peacefully.

We started recommending a LTCA when I got my puppy Quest and he was BY FAR the easiest puppy I have ever raised. I will NEVER get another puppy without using a LTCA.

In fact the LTCA worked so well with Quest (He started the first day he came home at 8 weeks), that once he turned 5 months, I was able to leave hi out of it without any accidents, chewing, etc. AMAZING.

One thing to consider as it comes up so often. Puppies go though developmental periods where they act certain ways for a period of time. This is often the reason people think they don’t need a LTCA; my puppy likes the kennel, my puppy isn’t chewing things, my pup doest have accidents. Then a few weeks or months later, things change and the puppy goes on a tear.

Problem is, now the puppy is bigger and has gotten used to NOT being in a LTCA. If you have a large breed dog, this means the window to use it is CLOSED. I bet I have had at least 200 puppy parents go though this EXACT situation and I have to tell them they waited too long and the LTCA is not longer an option.

One client had a puppy go through over $6,000 of electronics in 2 days. One ruined a thousand dollar area rug, another chewed through the crown molding next to the chair while the human was sitting next to the pup watching TV. One dog went through 2, $2,000 leather couches (that was my previous puppy Cali).

Setting up a LTCA is a hundred dollars or couple if you get two and the large breed version. I know that’s a lot of money, but its a hell of a lot less than the thousands the other puppy guardians I mentioned had to pay.

I promise you, you will regret not setting it up later (Unfortunately, I’ve had hundreds of clients fall into this group) if you decide against it now. And on top of that, later on it WILL NO LONGER BE AN OPTION FOR YOU!!!!

Do yourself a BIG favor and take my word for it. Set up a LTCA as soon as possible (preferably before you get your puppy or within the first week for maximum effect.

The LTCA should have a MINIMUM of 20 toys of different types that are not allowed out of the LTCA – this creates more of a longing for the puppy to stay inside.

Also be sure to pick up a heated heartbeat plush toy. This is something you will give your pup at bed time so they dont feel alone. Order it ASAP as you really want to use it the very firt night your pup sleeps in the LTCA.

This video shows the first version of the LTCA I set up for Quest. Since he was so small, I was able to start off with the smaller (cheaper) LTCA.

The LTCA should be set up in a guest bedroom, a finished room in your basement (never a furnace room), laundry room or other place away from where you and your family hang out. We recommend not using your kitchen or in your living room. If your puppy can see you, they will protest and fight being in there as they would prefer to be with you and seeing you reminds the puppy its away.

For larger breeds, you may want to get two play pens to combine together. Make sure the size is correct. If you use one that isn’t tall enough, the puppy will jump or climb out.

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

Playpen for Small Breed Dogs

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.

We’d also recommend getting a LTCA with a door you can walk through. Some cheaper pens do not have this, but considering how many times you will go in and out of the play pen, getting one with a door the human can use is HIGHLY recommended.

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.

Although its uncommon, if your puppy climbs out of the LTCA, this post will show you how to prevent your pup from climbing to escape.

If you follow these steps the first day or two, 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. Go into the LTCA with your pup and grab a seat. You can play with them a little, but our goal is for them to settle in for some petting from you, essentially practice at being calm and content in the LTCA. Once your pup settles down (wait for it dont demand a settle. If they are all worked up try again later when they are calmer), gently stroke it in slow, long strokes for 5 min or so.
  6. Feed your puppy lunch out of treat ball (You may need to roll the ball for the pup at first) or snuffle matt while you are inside the play area. 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.  If it cant figure it out after a few times, try a snuffle matt. When puppy finishes getting all the treats out, take him / her outside for a potty break.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Find a time (later in the day) where you can go into the LTCA and sit down (stand if pup wont leave you alone) and wait for them to self settle. We often micromanage puppies leaving them with no idea how to do things on their own. Staying inside the LTCA allows you to share your presence, but dont offer anything else for this visit. Your goal is to hang out until your pup lays down and settles on thier own. Try to hang out after they do. This is important practice. You need to do this once a day until your pup can just hnag out and lay down.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
    Heat up the bag for the Heartbeat snuggle toy, turn on the heartbeat and put it on your pups bed. This will help them feel not alone.
  12. 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.
  13. 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 few days, your puppy should get used to and enjoy its puppy play area. If your puppy still protests, repeat the steps a few more days.

The only people we have had report the LTCA didnt work were people who skipped the above steps. So be sure to take the time to go though them the first few days. If you do, this work will pay off for you and your pup big time.

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