Crate training is a great way to give your puppy its own space while establishing house rules for your pet.
Getting a puppy is an exciting time in anyone’s life. You think about how adorable it is, how you will always have someone to greet you when you come home and building a life-long friendship with the new love of your life.
After bringing your puppy home, you might realize it is going to be a little more work than you thought. Your pup might tinkle on the rug, chew your favorite pair of shoes or even steal the beautiful roast you cooked for dinner! You ask, “How will I ever survive training this puppy?” Crate training can be a very successful training technique to help you maintain your sanity (and your dog’s) while beginning your journey with your new puppy. Below we have listed 10 starter steps for crate training your puppy.
Select the right crate
When you start crate training, you’ll find that dog crates come in different sizes and are made from different materials. Most indoor crates or kennels are wire or plastic. A wire crate allows the dog to see all of its surroundings and is good for socialization. A plastic (or covered) crate serves more as a den and plays on your pup’s natural instincts. Whichever type you choose, your dog will view its crate as a place of comfort, safety and relaxation.
Size is going to depend on how much your dog weighs. Most crates are rated up to a certain number of pounds. A dog just needs enough space to stand up, turn around and lay back down.
When potty and crate training, you want to make sure you don’t give your puppy any extra room since a dog will not urinate where it sleeps. Some dog crates come with dividers so you can adjust the space your dog has as they grow. For adult dogs, length of time to be left in a crate should be a factor, as they might need food or water dishes.
Introduce your puppy to its crate
Start crate training by putting a towel or blanket in the crate so the puppy will have something to cuddle. Fake furs and fake lamb’s wool also work well for crate training. If the kennel is big enough, you can even put in a dog bed. A good tip is to sleep with the towel or blanket before bringing your puppy home, allowing your scent to absorb into the material. Most puppies find it calming. Watch for chewing behaviors. You do not want the puppy to ingest the material fibers. Then let your puppy explore their crate by letting them wander in and out with the crate door open.
Encourage positive association by placing treats in the crate and praise them when they go inside.You don’t want your puppy to become scared of their crate or identify their kennel with any sort of negative feelings. At this point, you should also start training them with a command word or phrase for them to go in their crate. Crate training commands may include: “Kennel”, “In your house” or “In your cage”.
Start leaving your puppy for short amounts of time in his kennel while you are home
When you begin crate training, the crate should be within view. If you place a crate in a completely secluded area, the puppy can get anxious and associate the crate with social isolation. Start by locking your pup up for 20-30 minutes at a time while you do housework or cook. Make sure the puppy can see or hear you so they don’t link being in their crate with you leaving them. They could develop separation anxiety. Slowly build the puppy’s crate time over a period of time.
When potty training, a good rule of thumb is to only leave a puppy one hour per the number of months they are. For example, a two month old puppy should be let out every two hours. A four month old puppy should be let out every four hours.
Leave your puppy in its crate while you leave your home
It’s a good idea to start by running small errands and only leave for 30 minutes to an hour. Give your puppy its command, praise it and give it a treat, shut the door and leave. Do not make a big deal out of it if they start to whine or bark. In a calm voice, simply say, “No” and leave. When you return, praise your puppy and let it outside to relive itself.
By keeping the time short when you are away from home, you train the dog that you will always come back. This prevents anxiety or separation issues. A quiet radio or a TV on low may help calm your puppy while it is alone. You can build up leaving for longer periods of time over time.
Crate your puppy at night
Having a dog sleep in your bed may sound warm and cozy, but may not be the best idea until your puppy is older and can be completely trusted. When you’re crate training, move the crate into your bedroom so the puppy will be comforted and actually sleep, knowing you are there.
Also, if you put the crate into another room or in another area of your home, you may not be able to hear the puppy whine if it has to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. As the puppy grows and its bladder gets bigger, you can move the crate to a more desirable area. We also suggest removing any toys from the crate at night. Most toys have squeakers in them and that can make for a terrible night’s rest!
DO NOT use the crate for punishment
Never yell or get mad at your dog and punish them by telling them to go in their kennel. Crates should only be associated with safety and positive reinforcement. If you are angry at your dog, they might decide to hide out in their crate and that is fine. Never go to the crate and yell at your dog while he is inside or try to pull him out. Your puppy has taken a “time out” on their own and that is enough.
You may or may not be able to leave toys in your dog’s crate
This depends on the dog. If your dog has a habit of tearing their toys to shreds, don’t leave toys in the kennel. Toys that have been destroyed should be taken away and disposed of immediately to prevent choking or the digestion of fibers. Most dogs grow out of this stage, but it’s usually not a good idea to leave play things in a puppy’s crate unsupervised.
Crate your puppy while you are gone
As your puppy ages and matures, it is up to you whether you leave your dog in a crate throughout the night and while you are gone. Crate training can help prevent potty accidents and keep your dog out of trouble. If crate training is done correctly, a dog will view the crate as a den and it will keep them calmer than roaming a house when nobody is home. You will find most dogs that are left to roam will choose to retreat to their crates anyway.
Provide food and water as needed in their crate
Along with crate training, dogs can be trained to eat twice daily. Therefore, it is not necessary to leave food in your dog’s crate. However, if your dog is going to be crated for roughly 8 hours, water should be provided.
No dog should be left in a crate for more than 8 hours at a time
Many dog owners have full time jobs and need to leave their dogs during work hours. Crate training is a great way to make sure you’r dog is comfortable with being in a crate while you’re away. However, no matter the breed, size and age, no dog should be left in a crate for more than 8 hours at a time. If your work schedule doesn’t allow you to let your dog out in 8 hours or less, there are dog sitters, doggie day care and dog walkers that can lend a helping hand.