Kong of the Month: Thanksgiving Leftovers!

I always make kong stuffing out of my Thanksgiving leftovers.   I use whatever safe and appropriate items we have and the dogs get to celebrate along with us.

1. The Turkey carcass.  I strip off all the meat and connective tissue and boil the carcass (I use an 8 quart stockpot) in enough water to cover plus fresh apple cider vinegar (I used 1/4 cup to 10 cups water).  Boil as long as suits you, the vinegar will help release minerals from the bones, these minerals are very healthy for your dog, so the longer you boil the healthier the broth.

Chop any meat you are not going to save for yourself.   The greater the proportion of meat to oatmeal the richer your finished product, so keep your dogs preferences in mind.  If your dog has trouble with digestion, leave the skin out, I’ve used all the skin because my dogs have amazing digestion and I know they won’t have any trouble digesting the fat.

I made extra veggies, I have both cooked green beans and Brussels sprouts.  The sprouts I’ve well cooked, otherwise they are difficult for dogs to digest.  Since my veggies are cooked, I do not boil them with the carcass You can use whatever veggie you want, don’t have any, try mixing in a bag of fresh leafy greens when the end product is hot but done cooking.

Green Beans!  Lightly cooked.

Well cooked Brussels sprouts.

Remove the turkey bones by running your stock through a strainer, be sure to get all tiny bones too!  Then add the chopped meat and veg back to the simmer stock.  Turn off heat!  The rest is done without any heat.

Tip: be sure to finely chop the meat and veg, otherwise it’s hard to get into the kong and hard for your dog to get out.

I’m using Old Fashioned oatmeal, just keep adding until your mixture gets thick.

I also had some stale Cheerios, so those go in too.

Keep adding oats until your mixture is thick and pastey.  Let this mixture cool until you can easily handle it.

Then start stuffing!

This makes a thick and sticky mixture that is HARD for dogs to remove, excellent for expert level de-stuffers!  If your dog isn’t yet level expert at de-stuffing, try stuffing cows hooves (puppies and beginners), hollow shank bones (intermediate), Kongs (intermediate), West Paws Tux (advanced) and Squirrel Dudes (advanced).  This mixture is also suitable for lick mats, and slow feeder bowls.  Offered fresh is easier than if you stuff and offer the item frozen.

Tip: If you are worried about suction forming in the toy when the dog is licking it, at this stage and before freezing, run the stuffing through with a skewer, chop stick, or straw, the hole should run through the toy, and will remain after you remove the skewer.



Stuffing of the Month: October, Pumpkin Spice

Zahara sneaking a bone, in the totally obvious way that GSs are known for.

As October approaches the world starts craving all things Pumpkin Spice!

Each October I make a batch of Pumpkin Spice stuffing mixture, but pumpkin is so healthy for dogs that you can add it to any stuffing recipe.

As with all my stuffing recipes, please note, I make huge quantities and stuff every Kong, Squirrel Dude, bone, hoof, and West Paw Zogoflex Tux that I have in the house and I just judge everything by eye, so please adjust amounts to suit your preferences.

This is an oatmeal based recipe and as such it’s sticky, sticky stuffing are more DIFFICULT for your dog to extract, taking more time and effort.  If your dog is new to enrichment see the bottom of the recipe for ways to make this activity easier or more difficult based on your dogs skill and drive level.


Oatmeal, either Old Fashioned, Steel Cut, or Instant, UNFLAVORED without sugar, or flavor added.   I’m using Quaker Instant Oatmeal because I found it on sale, I usually use Old Fashioned Oats.

Canned Pumpkin, or any cooked and mashed squash.

Eggs: The entire egg, shell and all.

Coconut Oil or Olive Oil (optional) some dogs cannot tolerate supplemental oil, others can.  Know your dog.

Spice:  Granulated Garlic and Ground Cinnamon.

Veg:  Whatever you have!  I used apple and rainbow kale, coarsly chopped.

Optional but Awesome:

I ALWAYS save the fine dust that is left over in treat packages, biscuit boxes, or when I chop up rolled dog treats (Natural Balance and Redbarn Rolls leave TONS of crumbs!) and instead of throwing these yummy bits away I save them in a plastic tub in the fridge.   When I made this recipe I happened to have crumbs from chopping up Natural Balance Rolls into treats and so I poured that in this recipe.

Quantities:  I make a huge batch and here is the recipe for that, followed by a smaller recipe for a single GS sized dog with 7 stuffable dispensers (Kongs, Squirrel Dudes etc).

Combine in a 8 quart stock pot or larger:

1 large tube of  Oats (42 oz)

1 dozen eggs, shell and all.

1/4 Cup Granulated Garlic (NOT Garlic Salt)

1 TBS Ground Cinnamon (No more!)

2 Cans Pumpkin Purée or 3 Cups Mashed Squash

4 Cups Vegetable (I used Rainbow Kale and Apple) coarsely chopped.  Only use dog safe fruits and veggies!

Optional:  Treat dust (I had 1 Cups worth, oil, I used 1/4 Cup Coconut Oil).

Small Batch:

1 Small Tube of Oatmeal
4 Eggs
1 TBS Granulated Garlic
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon (no more)
1 can Pumpkin Purée or 1.5 Cups Mashed Squash
2 Cups Veggie/Fruit.
Optional: Treat Dust or 1 tsp oil.

Make it!

I seriously eye ball this recipe because I’m going for a particular texture (sticky and clumpy) and not regular people eating oatmeal texture!

In your 8 quart stockpot over medium heat, add the amount of water recommended on the Oatmeal package (I start with 2 cups water per 1 cup uncooked oats, adding more water if needed).

Bring the water to a simmer and add all your veggies and fruit, cook lightly (dogs can’t digest plant matter unless it’s lightly cooked or puréed).

To simmering water/veggie mixture add eggs and stir to break eggs up as much/little as desired.  Cook until just set, about 2 minutes.

Add canned Pumpkin or mashed squash, stir to combine and heat through and return to a low boil.

Add Oil (optional), treat dust (optional), spices (also optional really), and Oatmeal.

Reduce heat to medium/low, you want the mixture to just barely boil, enough to cook the oatmeal.

Quickly stir to mix all ingredients, the mixture should thicken up rather quickly, so combine while you can.

Once well combined, and the oats cooked, remove from heat and allow to stand until cool enough to handle with your hands.  Mixture should thicken considerably upon cooling.

Once the mixture is cool enough to handle it should be really thick and gummy, almost like cookie dough consistency.   It sticks to EVERYTHING!   This makes it really challenging to get out of a Kong.

Stuff, Stuff, Stuff!  I stuff this into Kongs, Squirrel Dudes, cows hooves (for puppies/seniors only), Tux, and short shank bones.   You could also stuff this into a lick mat or slow feeder bowl.

Above: West Paws Tux
Below: Short Shank Bone.

Tux, Kongs, and Squirrel Dudes.

Save the extra!  This mixture is sticky enough that I also save some back and use this like a Pill Pocket, to wrap around pills so the dogs will eat them.

I also use it like canned food, to mix in with dry food at meal times.

It freezes well too, and can be used as a stuffing after being thawed.

The large recipe stuffs about 30 different items.  The small recipe will stuff about 10, depending of course on the volume of the item being stuffed.  

Remember, you can adjust the recipe to suit your needs!

Dogs benefit greatly from relaxing activities such as food dispensers, you can use this Relaxing Activity to balance Arousing activities such as fetch, tug, agility, or obedience to help your dog relax.

Tip:  Making it easier.   This stuffing, like all oatmeal based stuffings, is very sticky and difficult to extract.  This is perfect if you have a Kong Level Expert dog, you know, the kind who can clean out a Kong in under 30 minutes.   But this filling might be discouraging to a beginner dog or a lower drive dog.  To make this stuffing easier to extract from the toy you can:

1.  Fill the Kong half way full with kibble before stuffing.
2.  Coat the inside of the Kong with butter, coconut, or olive oil.
3.  Fill a slow feed bowl, or lick mat instead of a Kong or Squirrel Dude.
4. Feed it fresh instead of frozen.

Happy Enriching!

Tip Tuesday: Basic Kong Stuffing

We know so much more now about what dogs need to live fully involved lives, one of the most exciting areas to reach popularity recently among dog owners is what’s called environmental enrichment.

You might think of environmental enrichment from Zoos, as you walk around any modern zoo you will see all kinds of items placed in and around the habitats to give the animals a chance to use their natural, species specific behaviors.  If you’ve not noticed this, try pausing a few moments longer at each exhibit and scan the enclosure carefully.  I once noticed a carrot placed every few feet along a very high fence in our local zoo’s elephant enclosure, another time some boxes placed around a parrot aviary.

Searching for, and finding food is a very basic form of enriching an animal’s environment and dogs now benefitting from this knowledge.

While there are many ways to give dogs and opportunity to search out their food, one of the most basic is stuffing specially made toys, like Kongs and the less well known Squirrel Dude.

I love Squirrel Dudes!   We have plenty of Kongs too and this recipe works great with either a Kong or a Squirrel Dude, or any similar toy.

This is our “basic” stuffing for this type of toy, but don’t stop with this recipe, try your own or explore the HUGE variety of recipes and ideas to be found on the internet.

What you’ll need:

  • Kong or Squirrel Dude
  • Dry Kibble (your dogs regular food, I’m using Fromm Gold Adult.
  • Dry Kibble (NOT your dogs regular food, I’m using some Royal Canin I found on sale) for excitement value and optional.
  • Blender
  • Funnel (I make one from a small bottle of soda)
  • Small amount of cream cheese or peanut butter.
  • Cooked meat or egg (for excitement value)

You can manipulate the ratio anyway your dog likes.  My dogs love their kibble and would enjoy this filling even if it was just their regular kibble, Fromm Gold Adult.  But I mix about half of that with something special,  often this is some kibble from a different company, something high quality.   You can also use meat, as I often do, either cooked meat like beef, chicken, or pork, or occasionally canned fish.   I also often use a hard boiled egg or two.  Of course you could also purée some veggies into this mixture, puréed veggies do not need to be cooked for this recipe.


Plug the small hole on the bottom of the kong with cream cheese or peanut butter.    Fill the bottom half of the toy with DRY kibble, this will make the toy MUCH easier to clean later!

Place your funnel into the large hole on the top of the toy.

Place your toy in a heavy cup to hold it upright for stuffing.

Purée your ingredients in your chosen ratio in the blender, with warm water, until it’s a rather thin pourable consistency.  The kibble will firm up FAST, so be ready to pour into all your toys as soon as you are done blending.   If the mixture does firm up just add more water.

Pour until just full!

If you want, you can now stuff a few treats or meat in the top to encourage your dogs interest.  Mine are experts and don’t need any help!

Stuff a bunch at once, freeze them, and then offer your dog part of it’s meals this way.   Your dog will get better and better at unstuffing them, and you will find your dogs behavior improved too!

I use stuffed kongs/squirrel dudes as pacifiers!  Here are my favorite times to pacify my dogs.

1. When company arrives.
2. At training class or in the car.
3. On rainy, hot, or snowy days.
4. When I’ve work to do!
5. Any time as part of any meal.  My dogs LOVE them!

I hope you will provide your dog with a wide variety of pacifiers and teach him or her to make good use of them.

Most dogs don’t lead the most exciting lives, but we can make their lives much more satisfying with just a little effort.

Fate Favors The Prepared: Training Bags

You don’t have to spend much time at dog training clubs to notice that every trainer sports at least 1 equipment tote.

Trainers set themselves, and their dogs, up for success by being prepared.  You can tell, they take their training very seriously!

But raising any puppy is serious business, there are long term ramifications of NOT being prepared and NOT taking your puppy’s socialization seriously.   Indeed, it is serious work!

We send every puppy home with a tote bag, the reason isn’t just to hold all your supplies, we hope you will use this bag to set yourself, and your puppy up for success!

Here’s my present boobler puppy, Funneigh, and her tote bag.   I thought you might like to see what we take along EVERY time we take our puppy out for training and socialization.

Funneigh von der burg Austerlitz

First, we need her tote bag.  No worries, we have this amazing Puppy Culture tote bag.

We have two of these totes, a gray one and a blue one, love the quality and functionality of them.

I love my Puppy Culture tote bag,  it holds tons without ever feeling bulky, it’s easy to get into, and it’s made from durable materials so it will hold up to lots of toting!  But any roomy bag will work!

What do I bring when I take my puppy out and about for a basic socialization exposure?

Buckle collar with ID. We don’t hook the leash to the collar with the ID.

An emergency slip lead.

My leash, harness and collar, all ready for Funneigh.

Bait: I NEVER leave the house without bait. This great Bento box holds three different values: Highest is salmon cubes, then meatball, then a trail mix of different treats. The top has a cold pack! Super handy.

Bento box all closed up and ready for travel. I like this because i can grab just this if I’m really in a hurry.

Clean up supplies: papertowels, puppy pads, and waste bags.

of COURSE, a clicker or two.

Water from home, plus a small water bowl.

Optionals: For classes I take a chew for “down time” , a food tube, and an extra cold pack.

Bait bag: I often use my pockets, but if you prefer not to do that, bring a bait bag.

Optionals: Long line. If I’m going to a wide open park to walk or train, I always bring a long line. These are all 15 feet nylon.

Want to really do it right? Include a notebook (a small notebook was sent home in your puppy pack!) with your training and socialization goals for that day.

All packed up and ready!


Without being prepared, I would have missed being able to click/treat this voluntary attention Funneigh offered. And don’t kid yourself, puppies only become attentive adolescents if we reinforce attention consistently.  

So, I hope this helps you “pack like a pro trainer”!   Fate does favor the prepared, and mannerly, well trained dogs are NOT born, they are made through consistent reinforcment of the behaviors YOU value.

Treat every outing as a training class, practice all your puppies learned skills!  Make yourself the most interesting thing in her environment!   Always be prepared!

Note:  Not pictured, and the subject for a future post, a travel first aid kit for dogs.

Junco “checking in” on a walk around the lake. If I wasn’t prepared with my clicker, bait bag, and a high value treat, I would not have been able to catch and reinforce Junco for checking in with me. Given how interesting the environment is (lake!) I would likely see less attention to me, instead of of more. If you want an attentive adult dog, be sure to build a reinforcment history for attentive behavior from day 1!


Tip Tuesday: Pupcicles

How can my dog be bored when I spend half my paycheck on dog toys?

I know we, and most of you, likely feel like we are breaking the bank when it comes to providing for our dogs and consumer spending data backs this up, dog owners love our dogs and we love spending money on them!

So HOW can so many dogs be bored?

I’m so bored!

First, I think that we often forget that a bored dog is really just a dog whose species specific needs are not being met, usually because we don’t understand how novelty and food acquisition are inherit needs in the domestic dog.   Argueably, the scavenger dogs of the past had plenty of novelty in their lives, we didn’t have fences to keep them safe, there were lots of predators to try to eat them that they needed to avoid, and lots of prey animals and garbage for them to sniff down and eat.

We really shouldn’t give our dogs garbage and mice to play with, not in our modern world.   But we CAN provide our dogs with novelty and a chance to “scavenge” AKA work, for their meals.

Boredom is worth avoiding, not only is it an unpleasant and mind numbing state to be in, but it can lead to a myriad of undesired behavior as our dogs seek enrichment.

I just got a great idea from a member of our Puppy Culture Discussion Group for making a homemade teether for puppies, but I think this is an outstanding idea for a dog of any age, these pupcicles can be given as part of a meal, hidden around the yard for a dog to seek out and find, or used during crate time.

Here is our first batch!   I’ll update with more pictures when they are done freezing.


1. Muffin Tin

2. Kibble (dry dog food, but canned would work too)

3. If using dry food, a blender.

4. Small meat scraps (here I’m using chicken leftovers)

Spray your muffin tin with no stick spray (optional)


I’m using plain vegetable oil spray.

Drop some meat scraps in the bottom of the muffin tin. These are chicken.

Purée dry food with water to a milkshake consistency (I added more chicken to the blender but that’s optional) fill cups.

Fill nearly to the top with your kibble mixture.

Top with novel kibble (so not your regular kibble), treats, veggies, or other healthy foods (cheerios would be great!). Freeze until fully frozen.

Once your Pupciclies are fully frozen, pop them out, store in a storage bag in the freezer, and use whenever your puppy needs some quiet time!

Babsy really enjoyed her pupcicle, it lasted about 2 minutes.



One of our clients sent me this picture of Puppy Cam on their TV, staring Nanny Andeigh playing with the F Litter.

We, and our clients, love the puppy cam.  The puppy cam allows you to observe the litter in real time.

We turn the camera on around day 7, this marks the day the puppies can regulate their own temperature, so we can remove the sheet that covers the whelping box (which holds in the dams body heat).

We turn off the camera around Week 9, usually around the time the first puppies start going home.

The puppy cam is on 24/7, so you can and will often see the reality of raising puppies, including poo, puppy naughtiness, us in our jammies late at night tending them, and of course the entry and exit of the dam, and all the nannies and nannos approved to help teach the puppies.

The puppies may not always be on view, the camera doesn’t cover the entire space, they might be outside on their patio, or out in the house with us.

Sometimes, if there is a poosplosion, or if I’m particularly “unpresentable” I turn the puppy cam off for a bit, just check back later, it will be up again.

This year I am trying out a new way to have a “PuppyCam” with this litter.

The link to the the PuppyCam with this new hosting site is here. (This will open a new browser tab/window, so you won’t leave our site.)

Please try this out and let me know how it works. We are in a 5 day trial period with this hosting company, so there are a few limitations on streaming:

  1. I believe there is a time limit on how long you can connect and look, without reloading the page (but I am not sure how long that is).
  2. You have to visit the hosting site directly to view the PuppyCam.
  3. You cannot link the video into a web page.
  4. And it is hard (impossible?) to “brand” the camera.

If this works out and we like this host, I can upgrade the account with the company and get these issues addressed, and a few other extras to make it an overall better viewing experience.

A few other things on the video: the color (or lack of it) is due to our lighting (or lack thereof) where we have the whelping box. The camera is in color, but we don’t have enough artificial or ambient light to kick the camera into displaying color (unfortunately). The webcam is on 24×7, and has good night “vision” so you can see the puppies at all hours (I think it has infrared lighting built in). Also, I have the sound turned off, so don’t expect to hear anything…

So, please drop me an email and let me know how this looks and works.


Crate Conditioning for Puppies: An incremental approach.

What I remember most about bringing home my second GSD puppy, Indeigh, at 8 weeks was the screaming.   Even though it’s been nearly twenty five years, I can still hear it…..

She screamed in her crate the entire 5 hour drive home from the breeder.

She screamed in her crate for four or five hours EVERY night, and while I was away at work for the first month.   She would grab the bars, pull, and scream.  She bloodied her mouth, she tore her nails.   I lived in a duplex at the time and my neighbors daily notes about the noise made me feel terrible, so I started crating Indeigh inside my walk in closet in an attempt to muffle the sound.  I got zero sleep.

It took Indeigh months to stop urinating in her crate.

It took her weeks to give up screaming.

She grew into an amazing and accomplished dog, but she forever struggled with trusting me, and adapting to change.  I have always wondered if those first few weeks of struggle taught her that change was scary and that I was not really that helpful during those time.

I didn’t know what to do!   Nobody did, everyone I asked gave me well meant advice, but nothing worked. I felt helpless, I was a bad owner, she was a bad puppy, very dominate, no impulse control,  was trying to control me, just ignore her, spray her, shake her crate, and above all, never let her out unless she was quiet.  I did all the things, nothing helped.

Now, I can think about how much easier and enjoyable our first weeks together would have been if Indeigh had been conditioned to love her crate before I even brought her home.

Now, at this point, I have to warn you.  I have broken every rule of writing in this day and age.  There are lots of words here, some of you may be scared by the endless stream of paragraphs, some may think this will be boring (and it might) so flee if you must, I understand, but if you hang in there and follow the plan, you can make a different world for your puppies!

I want to give breeders the tools needed to create a +CER (Positive Conditioned Emotional Response) to the crate so no puppy needs to suffer as Indeigh did, and so no owner needs to struggle as I did, unable to help.   Before the puppy ever leaves the litter it’s in a period of exceptionally quick and easy response to forming such emotional connections and we breeder’s have a unique opportunity, and a limited window, in which to meet this goal.   The Critical Socialization Period (that period from 3 to 12/16 weeks when puppies are designed by nature to form rapid emotional responses, both positive and negative, with few exposures) it’s the perfect time to condition a puppy to LOVE the crate.

Why have I become to dedicated to early crate conditioning?

1. For Indeigh, to honor her memory.

2. Because puppies (and their caregivers) don’t need the added stress of crate training AND transition stress during their first weeks in a new home.

Above:  Eli (formerly Snapdragon) totally relaxed for the car ride home with his new family.   This is a good start!

Above:  Rook (formerly Cosmo) relaxed and napping within days of arriving in his new home.   Totally different from what my Indeigh experienced her first few days in my home all those years ago.  THIS is why!

Above:  Elizabeth aka Violet calmly napping on her drive home with her new family.   THIS!

3. Because it’s just so easy and offers lifelong benefits to the dog and owner.

If it seems like there are lots of tiny steps, that is by design, and it’s the reason this plan is so effective.

Goals: Please note, these are not hard target goals like “puppy will be quiet for twenty minutes”  Because puppies mature at different rates it’s important to have more subtle but much more important goals.  This is NOT a “crate training” plan, but instead a “crate conditioning” plan that focuses on goals associated with positive emotions.   

1. Puppy will choose to spend time in the crate as a preferred location and will experience positive emotions associated with all crate times and activities.
2. Puppy will not experience  negative emotions associated with the crate.   No screaming, crying, or attempts to break out.

So, here is a quick and easy week by week guide to creating a +CER (Positive Conditioned Emotional Response) to crates and confinement during the Critical Socialization Period.

Our plan starts at 4 weeks, when as per Puppy Culture we move the puppies from the whelping box to the weaning pen.

Week 4/5:   In the weaning pen we have a toilet for the puppies on one wall, and on the opposite wall I install a row of small crates with the doors removed so the puppies can easily enter/leave at will.   In each crate is a comfy bed, the only comfy bed in their weaning pen.   Already, their first exposure to the crate is a happy one, a nice comfy bed!

Week 4/5 weaning pen. Crates (L), play area (center) and toilet (R).

First crates: doors removed


First crates, doors removed.



In the Week 4 stage we deliberately use at least two wire crates and the crates are positioned with the back of the crate into the room.  This means that the puppies can see and touch noses with our Nannies and Nannos (older dogs experienced with raising baby puppies) through the back wall of the crate.   We can also give the puppies treats through the back of the crate.

This serves two purposes.

1. Gives the puppies two really good reasons to enter their crate, visiting a nanny or visiting with us.   Entering the crate  and napping in the crate voluntarily are goal 1.

2. Gives us lots of opportunities to observe puppies entering the crate, so we can click/treat, or at this age equally powerful,  use social reinforcement in the form of cheerleading to reinforce the puppies for entering or spending time in their crates.

Important!   It’s very UNDESIRED for the puppy to enter the crate and then cry or fuss at the back of the crate because they can’t reach us or a nanny.   This is the opposite of what we want!   So please note in the pictures above the presence of sheets or blankets as a visual block.   When we cannot attend the puppies we block their view out the back of the crate, to prevent frustration at the barrier presented by the back of the crate.   GSDs are very sensitive to developing barrier frustration, it’s imperative that we don’t allow them to learn this during the CSP.   When we cannot work with the puppies, we block their view!

Boom! Goal achieved, puppie are choosing to nap in their crates.

The puppies immediately start napping in their crates!  Yay!

Week 5:   During Week 5 we start feeding the puppies, in groups of two usually, inside their crates (doors are still off at this point, usually).   We remove the bed at mealtime and feed the puppies with the bowl at the back of the crate.

1. I put the puppies outside of the pen, remove the beds from the crates and place the food bowls in the back of the crates.

2. I  lift two puppies (I always choose two who are manding) into the pen and allow the puppy(s) to run into the crate for the food, I use a box to block off the crates I don’t want these puppies to enter since at this point the crates usually don’t have doors, if the crates do have doors I close them to guide the puppies into the crate I want them to enter.  I may also close the doors while they are eating.

3. I repeat with each group of puppies, ensuring one or two puppies per crate.   A helper is nice but not required.

4. After I take up the bowls I wipe down the crate if needed and put the beds back inside.

Bonus:  Towards the end of this week, I put the doors on the crates, at that time I wait to let the puppy enter the crate until it Mands for me.   Later I will use this association between the crate door and Manding to teach my puppies to Mand to ask out of a crate also.

In this photo I am feeding puppies in small groups inside the crate, I have just added doors, so this is the first meal inside the crate with the door closed.  We open the door the MOMENT the first puppy is done eating.   We do NOT lock them in during week 4 or week 5.

Week 6/7:   We know we are ready for Week 6 work when the puppies enter their crates frequently and happily for naps and meals.  Once we have met those goals we are ready to build duration inside the crate and teach the puppy how to ask out.

Goals for Week 6.

1. Build voluntary duration inside the crate.
2. Teach the puppy how to “ask out” by Manding (instead of fretting, whining, or crying).

To build voluntary duration we needed an activity the puppy would prefer to participate in INSIDE the crate.   The obvious choice was chewing, at this age puppies have a strong instinct to chew and also a desire to chew without sharing with littermates.   We capitalize on both.

During this phase, if the puppy exits the crate it’s chew must remain inside the crate.   If the puppy drops the chew to exit that’s great, if not we trade a high value treat for the chew.  In either case, leaving the crate = leaving the chew.

We also need to teach the puppy that while we are closing the door to the crate, the puppy can “ask out” by Manding (from Puppy Culture, and taught at week 5 separate from crate conditioning.  See Puppy Culture for how to teach puppies to communicate through Manding).   It’s vital to me that the puppy does not feel trapped, or regret being inside the crate.   To prevent this the puppy deserves a way to ask out of the crate!   Puppies who cannot express needs become frantic and frustrated, this is contrary to our goals.

Wren Manding to ask out of her crate. Notice how calm and confident she is. No sign of distress or panic that she can’t get out.

In week 6 and 7 we allow the puppy to learn that sometimes they might WANT to stay in their crate AND that they can ask out at any time and we will remove them from the crate.  These two lessons are learned together.

1. At this stage each puppy is fed individually in a crate.
2. After each meal we remove the bowl and at the same moment, give the puppy a HIGH value chew.   Something the puppy thinks is AMAZING!
3. Wait patiently nearby while the puppies chew away.
4. If a puppy drops it’s chew and moves to the door, open the door and remove the puppy (leaving the bone in the crate to be put away later), offer it a toilet break, and then return it to the crate.  Often if a puppy asks out, we find they will return to the crate to chew after a chance to void.
5. As the week progresses wait a bit longer to open the door, and see if the puppy Mands (if you have been doing lots of Manding in the weeks previous, it’s really likely the puppy will Mand if you just pause there).   The moment the puppy Mands, open the door and remove the puppy from the crate.
6. Give the puppy an opportunity to Mand to ask out each time, but I never “get in a battle” over this, if the puppy really wants out and is upset or fretting I let it out, this is not the age to expect adult behavior.   More important is that the puppy learn to trust that it can ask out and be let out, of the crate on demand.   Otherwise we risk creating a negative association with confinement.

Now, before you say that you “don’t have time” for this set up at every meal.  Don’t despair, I don’t do this at EVERY meal becuase like you, sometimes I don’t have time!   At the least I try to do this at one meal per day, some days I make it at two meals!

While the puppies are chewing, I clean up the weaning pen, tidy the toys, refill my success stations, and clean bowls.   I just stay nearby.

Win! After meal time, some choosing to nap, some choosing to chew, none asking out (yet).

  • Expectations:  During week 6 I expect the puppy to stay engaged with the chew around 5 minutes, some less, some more.   Please don’t expect your puppy to sit and chew for an hour!
  • Bonus:
  • 1. Sometimes, if the puppy wants out I ask the puppy if it would be interested in staying in the crate for a different chew.   So the puppy Mands to ask out, and I open the door and show the puppy a different chew, if the puppy takes the chew and lays down and starts chewing I close the door.   If the puppy wants out, it’s removed from the crate. This is most often how I build duration beyond five minutes or so.   But as always, the puppy chews as long as it likes, and it’s let out when it likes. If a puppy falls asleep in the crate we leave them to nap if someone will be there to let them out when they wake up.
  • 2. What is a high value chew?  These are listed in average order of highest to lowest.  I generally start with hooves and patella saving highest value chews for use in the Puppy Culture Resource Guarding Prevention protocols and for Bed Time Chews.Raw Bones (whatever type I have around)
    Bully Stick
    Cows hoof (I stuff the cavity with canned food and freeze)
    RawhideNote:  the ONLY time my puppies get high value chews is during crate conditioning sessions.
  • 3. Take it on the road!   During Week 6 and 7 we do at least one “chew session” in the crate inside the car (ideally running) and if possible we take a short drive.  But car conditioning is a subject we will deal with later.Week 8 and up:

    If you wanted, you could just continue using The Week 6/7 protocol until you send your puppies home at 9 to 16 weeks weeks.   JUST doing that would be a great benefit to your puppies, creating a positive emotional response to being crated and confined, and teaching them they can ask out instead of screaming.

    A typical example, a few puppies have chosen to remain in their crates, a few crates are empty because those puppies have asked out.

    But if you want MORE, here it is!

    Goals Week 8 through Send Off Day:

    1. Puppy will sleep through the night in the crate with minimal to no fussing.
    2. Puppy can remain crated up to 10 minutes during the day, with chews.
    3. Puppy will Mand to ask out of crate.
    4. Puppy will enter crate when asked.

    Some of these goals will have been met during the previous week or two.   If so we continue to practice them!  Rotating Chews to encourage longer chew times.

    Crate Nights:   One of our primary goals with this program (remember Indeigh) is that puppies are conditioned to sleeping through the night in their crate before they leave for their new family.   While this certainly doesn’t guarantee no sleepless nights in the new home, it does reduce the odds a puppy will panic in the crate or form negative associations with the crate or worse, the new environment or family.

    I really struggled with how to do this, because I could not imagine how this would work with baby puppies.   What if a puppy needed to potty in the night?   I KNEW if a puppy woke up and needed to potty that all HELL would break loose in the puppy room when I went to let that puppy out.   I KNEW I would end up with a room full of puppies all frustrated and crying for their release, then crying and frustrated at being crated again.  Not to mention spending an hour in the middle of the night getting them all out, then in again.   NOT good learning, NOT good for my sanity, NOT good for my marriage!   But if I didn’t get up to let a puppy relieve itself it might have an accident in the crate, also NOT good.

    I never solved this problem, but happily for me another breeder (the Amazing Paula Zaro) posted a picture of her crate training and what did I see but a LITTERBOX in the back of each crate.   How CLEVER, no, GENIUS!   My problem was solved.  If a puppy had to void in the night, it would have a small litterbox in the crate with it.   No need to wake up all the other puppies, no need to spend an hour pottying puppies at 2:00 am, no need to be sleep deprived!  And, SQUEEEEEE, No poop covered crate or poop covered puppy!   And at that moment the last phase of my crate conditioning program was born.

    Starting 7 days before our Send Off Date (which is timed between 9 and 10 weeks) we plan for Crate Nights!

    Now, I am going to admit something.   By week 8 the litterbox gets really dirty during the night and AM clean up can be messy.  So I really look forward to starting the puppies to sleep through the night in crates.  REALLY.

    The Plan and the Set Up!

    Above:  Crate (22 x 36) with cat litterbox in the back.

Above:  Same crate, litterbox in the back and bed in the front.

What works for us:  My husband goes to bed much later than I do.   I set up the crates for bedtime and he gives the puppies one last potty break outside and then crates them around 1:00 am.

Bedtime set up:

1. Place litterbox (with litter pellets of choice, I use hay pellets) in the back of the crate.
2. Place a small bed in the front half of the crate, spray with DAP.
3. Place two HIGH VALUE chews (I use a Frozen raw bone and a bully stick) on the puppy’s bed and CLOSE the crate door.   By placing the chews in the crate early the puppies get really excited to ENTER the crate later, when Larry puts them to bed.   Baiting the crates is super helpful!

Above: Crates all set up for Bedtime!

Right before bedtime:

1. Puppies get last outdoor potty break.
2. Puppies are placed into crates, soothing music such as Through A Dogs Ear is played.
3. Lights off.
4. Everyone to bed, household is quiet now, lest we wake the puppies.

Note:  Tired puppies sleep through the night better!


1. First thing I get up and remove puppies from crates and take them to their Puppy Patio to void.   I toss treats out the door to ensure the puppies all run out quickly before they are tempted to use the indoor litterbox.
2. I remove crate litterboxes and clean any that have been used.
3. Remove chews.
4. Set up crates for daytime use (bed but no litterbox) being sure to sanitize if needed.

Repeat every night for seven nights before the puppies go home.


During Week 8/9/10 we are also doing the Puppy Culture Resource Guarding Prevention Protocols, I use the puppies crate time around meals for this and we do some RGP at almost every meal time.   Please see Puppy Culture for information on that.

During week 8-10 we don’t offer Chew Times after meals, instead we reserve Chew Time for Bed Time, and offer chews primarily at bedtime to make the puppies more excited about going to bed.

The exception is the car, we give chews in the car every time.

And we use various chews/toys/bowls for the Resource Guarding Prevention.

Some breeders double up the puppies, I have no problem with that, we don’t have crates large enough for this, and if we did I don’t think they would fit in our space.   So single puppies in 22 x 36 inch crates works for us, but don’t feel like it MUST be just as we do it.  Do what works for you.

Some breeders do some crating of puppies AWAY from the litter, I’ve come to believe this is a really sound idea and something we will be adding on our next litter.   I think this will be super beneficial for puppies who are going into “only dog” homes.

Above:  Argent (formerly Clover) and Scout (formerly Parsley) preparing for a 12 hour road trip to their new families.   Because they were well crate conditioned, and used to the crate litterbox, they were able to be calm and confident for the drive to their new families.

Need Help?  We’re happy to help you implement this plan, or design a custom crate conditioning protocol based on your breed and needs.   Contact us and ask about distance consulting!

Frequently Asked Questions:

The single most FAQ is “doesn’t having a litterbox in the crate teach the puppies to potty in their crate?”   I admit I had this same concern, after all a dog who is dirty in the crate is a HUGE problem.   My own Indeigh struggled with being clean in the crate and I remember that she was nearly a year old before I could expect to come home from work and NOT find a urine soaked dog and crate.

I can say that we have done this protocol now for 5 litters, the oldest of which is nearly three years, and we have had ZERO reports of puppies who are dirty in the crate.

In fact, the puppies we start this way have far FEWER accident in the crate in their new homes, and most families actually report to me that the puppies NEVER have accidents, or only have accidents with extenuating circumstances (like someone delayed getting home from work, or the puppy had developed a UTI).

My guess is this is because of the litterbox.   Young puppies may need to void more frequently than we think, by offering them a litterbox we just give them a place to void if needed, but as they mature and can physically go longer between voids, they don’t need the box.   Once removed, the puppy doesn’t “go” because the toilet isn’t there AND because they don’t need to.  Because they are conditioned to love their crate they are also NOT having frequent urination due to stress/distress (which is why I think poor old Indeigh struggled so with accidents, she had such a -CER to the crate and confinement).

So, while your experience may be different, we have had only beneficial results with using an in crate toilet for the first couple weeks.

2. When do you remove the box from the crate?   On my keeper puppies I remove the litterbox from the nighttime crate at 10 weeks.  We don’t instruct the new families to use crate litterboxes at all, some do, most don’t.

3. How long will you let a puppy cry in the crate?   During the daytime, never.   During Bedtime Week, we rarely have any fussing by that age, but I remove a puppy who is really freaked out, I do not remove a puppy who is just restless and whining a little bit.   I try again the next night if I remove a puppy from the crate at night.

4. Is it a lot of extra work?   Not really, once I gathered all the supplies and had a schedule it really didn’t add much to the time we had already budgeted to raise the puppies.  Keep in mind that we already plan to devote a TON of time to raising our puppies!   I just want to use our time effectively and for the long term benefit of the puppies, this protocol is not designed to allow me to neglect spending time raising my puppies but instead to invest my time in those things with long term benefits.

5. Won’t letting the puppies out when they ask “spoil” the puppy, teaching it that it controls the human, or that crying “works” to get out of the crate?    To answer this I have to explain that I don’t believe baby puppies cry in crates for any reason other than distress, it’s natural for a puppy to panic and cry when it’s unsure about what’s happening, it’s also normal for any animal (human or canine) to panic when it feels trapped and unable to control being able to leave.  I don’t think puppies cry in crates to dominate or control humans, puppies cry in crates because they are distressed and their ability to handle that distress is limited by their immaturity.   When we consider the puppy’s emotional response and why it’s vocalizing, our path becomes more clear.   Behavior is very fluid and it IS easy to teach a puppy that crying will bring relief from distress, that’s not really a bad lesson, we don’t want our dogs to silently tolerate being distressed anyway, but it does mean we have missed something in our plan.  Our puppy should not feel distressed period.   A bit of stress (fussing for example) is OK, but distress (screaming, biting bars as examples) means we have messed up, it’s not the puppy’s fault and the puppy should not be punished.   We need to reevaluate our plan, and go back to conditioning again.    In fact, what we’ve observed is that by teaching puppies a polite way to ask out of the crate, we actually create more positive emotion, the puppy feels (and IS) in control of it’s outcome.   Dogs are happier, more secure, and confident when they know how to control their outcomes and consequences.    By allowing the puppy to ask out, we actually create a puppy who doesn’t want to!

Lastly, a breeder asked me why I do this, this extra conditioning, clients don’t expect it (I might argue that point with her, clients SHOULD expect it!), why bother?

I sent her this picture. A picture of Scout in her new crate, in her new home, happy and relaxed.   I tell her about happy puppies, sleeping beside their new person, in a crate by the bed.  About puppies adapting quickly and without trauma, about puppies and their caregivers able to really enjoy each other from the start, without screams, fights, and fear.   I told her, I do this for Indeigh, even though her behavior wasn’t typical, my ignorance failed her, I wasn’t trustworthy, I allowed her to struggle, to be scared, to panic.   Now I can do better, and I do better in her name and to honor her.

I love you Indeigh, I’m sorry I failed you,  and I’m going to honor your memory by doing better and by helping others do better too.

You’re a good girl, thank you for teaching me.

The Good, The Bad, and The Poopy.

If anyone had told me I could raise a litter of German Shepherd Puppies from birth through 9/10 weeks in my home without going stark raving mad,  I would never have believed them!

Too big!

Too many!

Too much Poop!

Prior to Puppy Culture we raised puppies inside our home, for the first six weeks, and then when the poop got too much, we moved them outside to a large indoor/outdoor puppy pen and yard.    Good enough, right?  We thought so and indeed this worked ok for many years.

But times, and paradigms, change.   Along came Puppy Culture and it’s community of breeders dedicated to doing the best they can for their puppies, to challenge us to do better.

While our older model worked well, we (well, actually our puppies) missed out on a lot.    There was so much more we could accomplish if the puppies were inside the house, and we couple spend our time on more than poop patrol!   We had been doing good, but we could do more.   Puppy Culture showed us how much more.

So I became dedicated to figuring out and getting really good at teaching my puppies what they needed to know in order to live inside with us full time, the full nine to ten weeks they were here.  With less mess, and less time investment in clean up.   That would give us the time we needed to complete all the puppy culture protocols, to truely do “our best” for our puppies.

If I was going to keep a bunch of little poop machines in my house for weeks on end, I decided they would have to be litterbox trained, for the sanity of all involved.  Litterbox training is covered in Puppy Culture, but what worked for me is just a little bit different.

As an unexpected bonus, our puppies were much easier for their new families to house train.  Talk about a win-win!

Here’s what I learned in a week by week guide.

2/3 Weeks:  I put  a small potty pad (secured in a plastic frame, both from Amazon) on west wall of the whelping box.  I have found it’s really important to keep the litterbox in the same “place”, when I’ve done it this way, as I make the puppies area larger, they can always find the litterbox and I have fewer misses.     On the other side I place a small bed.   So, sleep area and toilet area, baby version.   The puppies hit the toilet about 10% to 20% of the time.

What I used:
1 Durawhelp (largest size).
1 24 x 20 potty pad frame (Amazon) with potty pads.

First toilet! I want to leave room for the dam, so it’s just one pad/holder and a small bed.

4/5 Weeks:   As per Puppy Culture we move puppies to the weaning pen around week 4.   I remove the whelping box, and put the larger toddler toilet where the whelping box was (along the western wall of our dog room).  In front of the new toilet is a slightly larger play area, on the eastern side of the pen I put in a row of small puppy beds (during week 4) and small crates (week 5).  Before I add the crates I want to be sure the puppies are NOT urinating on their bed area, they don’t have to make it all the way to the litterbox but at least moving off their bed area.   This is because I do not ever want puppies urinating in crates.  Once the puppies are moving off their bed area to urinate I add the crates.   By now the puppies poop in the toilet most of the time, but they still miss as much as they hit with pee.

It’s important to have realistic expectations.  During week 4 the puppies rarely make it all the way to the toilet to urinate, they are just not mature enough, what I’m looking for is that the pee spots on the brown pads are moving CLOSER to the toilet, this tells me the puppies are trying to make it to the box, which is the best I can hope for at this age.

From the moment we move the puppies to the weaning pen we start to carry each puppy to the litter box immediately after eating.   Someone watches them to make sure they actually hit the toilet when they void.   Doing this religiously really helps the puppies understand to “go to” the litterbox when they need to void.

During week 4 we are often placing the puppies in the toilet when we know they need to poop.   SOME of the puppies will start going to the toilet to poop during this week and by the end of week 5 we hope that most of the poop will be in the toilet.   Please don’t expect your puppies to be perfectly litterbox trained, they are not adults, we are just looking for an effort to reach the toilet to tell us the puppies are learning and trying.

F Litter, first weaning pen toilet. Pads with holder on L and R, and new this week a 24 x 24 inch rabbit hutch pan with litter pellets.

Next step, I’ve removed the pads and holders, and replaced with three pans and pellets.

On the F Litters 5 week birthday I expanded the weaning pen and added 4 crates. Toilet is the same size and same location.

Crates for 4, all bedding is moved into the crates. The doors open facing the toilet.

Puppy eye view, week 4, baby toilet and bed directly across. Once these beds stay dry crates are introduced, usually week 5.

What I used.

Toilet:  3 plastic rabbit hutch trays from Tractor Supply Company 24″ x 24″
Litter:  Standlee Alfalfa Pellets 40# also from TSC.
Footing:  EZ Whelp Pads
Pen: Midwest Metal 36 Inch X Pen (2 units to start, but I use about four by the end)
Crates:  1 200 Vari Kennel,  3 24 x 17 inch wire crates (all crates have doors removed)

TIP!   I have learned that keeping the toilet in the same place speeds toilet training.   Now, I always have the toilet on the west wall of their pen, even starting as early as the whelping pen pad, and THAT was really helpful.  On previous litters I experimented and moved the toilet around often, that really made it harder for my puppies to find.   My suggestion is you decide before the litter is born how you will build out from the whelping box, to the weaning pen, to the toddler pen.  Plan in advance, so your litterbox will stay in the same area the entire time.

Week 6/7.  At the end of week 5 we enlarge the weaning pen.  The puppies are now using the toilet most (but not all) of the time and their pen is enlarged to make room for more exercise and passive enrichment.   At this point you can also see the door is available (left) to their puppy patio outside.  The crates are still on the wall opposite of the toilet, the pen opens into the kitchen and living room (right), and outdoors (left).   We are still using the three pan toilet for these two weeks.   Please note, there are still plenty of pees outside the toilet, but most of the poop is inside the toilet.

We continue to ensure the puppies either run to, or are carried to, their litterbox after each meal.  By this age we are feeding the puppies in their crates, so after each meal the crates are opened and the puppies encourage to their toilet area to void.


What I added:
Toddler Slide (Amazon)
More EZ Whelp Pads
Larger (24 x 36 inch) crates not visible here.

Week 8-10: For the last two or three weeks the puppies are with us we expand the weaning pen until it takes up the entire dog room.    I found my puppies do not like to touch poop, and will choose to poop outside of the box if they must touch poo to void inside the box.  Not a problem during the day when we pick up constantly, but at night the box can get poopy.   So once that starts I enlarge the toilet again, adding two larger trays.   During the day, we leave the larger two pans in place (against the western wall) at night we add the three smaller boxes.  The photo below shows the boxes reversed!  They are usually the other way.     This largest toilet helps the puppies succeed in getting fully into the box to void, even if there are some poops in it.   Puppies are now taken outside for potty breaks as often as possible, through their exterior door and onto their puppy patio outside.   They still need and use their litterbox however, and there is the occasional accident on the EZ whelp pads.

So, during the day we keep down the larger boxes, and at night, we enlarge with the three smaller boxes.   This worked really well keeping the area clean at night, but still allows play room during the day.

Of course by now we are encouraging the puppies to void outside, they have a doggie door that leads to their puppy patio, so they can go outside often.

One week before the puppies are scheduled to depart for their new homes we begin crating them at night, you can find information on that protocol in our Crate Conditioniong blog.

What I add this week:
2 Rabbit Hutch Trays (24 x 36) TSC

Crates with 9 week old puppies (above)
Expanded play area with EZ Whelp pads for footing.

Clean up station, paper towels are held in place with a bungee.

Puppies this age have water from this Neater Feeder which works great to contain spills.   One of my favorite things!  No more water soaked pads!

Outside puppy patio.  To keep puppies clean during rainy seasons we put in this patio made from stall mats (Tractor Supply Company) and old x pen panels.   The puppy patio opens into a grassy area on the left.

At 8 weeks puppies get cup chairs to rest in.  They use the steps to climb in.

Crates, cup chairs, and part of play area.  Exterior door on the right, and kitchen on the left.

I hope this guide helps you litterbox train your own puppies, we found by starting early, creating an environment designed for success, and not expecting perfection we have been able to enjoy having our puppies in the house with us with far LESS work than ever imagined.   This has freed up even more time to implement Puppy Cultures core protocols, active enrichment, training, socialization and teaching puppies to be enrichment seekers.

To be covered in a future blog, crate training for baby puppies!

Welcome to our new website!

Welcome to the new version of our website, that is now based on WordPress. At present, we have just moved most of the old site directly into WordPress, without a lot of editing or changes. However, over the next few days, we will be making a lot of changes to the pages, updating, restructuring, adding new content, etc.

So, please check back frequently, as things will change!


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