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Puppy X-Pen Etiquette

What in the world is Puppy X-Pen Etiquette? Are we as breeders now expected to teach our puppies manners in the X-Pen? Yes, we are. If puppies are taught X-Pen etiquette at a very young age, they will become much better mannered adults. Most breeders know well-mannered dogs have a better chance of not becoming an unwanted pet as an adult. Every breeder should know it is their responsibility to do everything they can to ensure their puppy is off to a healthy start; however, breeders often overlook a few important details in the puppy hygiene department. This can lead to puppy/adult potty training disasters. Families end up parting with a puppy or adult dog because they cannot stop the soiling in the house.

After breeding several litters, I became dissatisfied with my puppy X-pens. I set them up like all the other breeders' X-pens I had seen and my puppies made all the same mistakes – pottying everywhere on the paper, near the food bowl, near the front of the pen, over to the side of the pen, walking through it, sliding through it. It was awful. You walk near the pen and all the puppies come running, you look and see the pile and race like a maniac to get to it before the puppies do, but they are always quicker. Invariably, at least two puppies get it on their feet as you are trying to roll up the paper quickly while the puppies are climbing your arms with puppy delight on those cute little paws. Nice!

Recognize this scenario? Why does this happen? If you analyze the way most X-pens are set up by the breeder, you will find we are setting ourselves up for disaster in the name of “convenience”. We lay the X-pen out in a way that it is convenient for us to clean, but we do not think about laying out the pen from the puppy’s point of view. Breeders put the bedding, toys, etc. toward the back and the paper toward the front so we can get to the soiled papers easily, thus we are teaching our puppies to soil in the front of the pen and then walk back and forth in it when we come to call on them.

Are you ready for a simple solution? Lay the paper all over the whole puppy pen to begin with, place the puppy bedding right up at the front of the pen, along with the food bowls, and place the water bowl in the corner. Now clutter the front of the pen with toys, empty shoe boxes (puppies love to play king of the mountain with these), empty paper towel cardboard roll, etc. Choose anything the puppies love to tug and play with that will provide hours of safe, varied entertainment. Puppies will begin to go to the back of the pen to soil away from their playground, food and bedding. As the puppies begin to catch on that they are to keep the front area clean, begin to remove a sheet of paper at a time, revealing bare floor (not carpet). Every other day remove another sheet of paper from the front of the pen. If puppies begin to regress, add a sheet back, then begin removing another sheet. Keep removing the paper until you have a single row of newspaper along the back of the pen. The puppies will keep the front of their home clean and soil only in the back if you have done your homework correctly.

I have used this method successfully for a few years. Puppy buyers say they take puppies home that are extremely clean in the house. Some owners have gone on to easily teach their puppies to use a litter box or go outside to potty in only a day or two.