Introduction to Crate Training Puppies
A crate can be a great way of keeping a puppy calm and relaxed and it is also a safe way to prevent it from destroying your house when you are out. Before your puppy is trained properly the crate can be used to control it while you are not present. A crate is a very good tool for housetraining. As it limits access to the rest of the house and since dogs don’t like to soil their dens, the crate will make it easier to toilet train your puppy. All in all a crate is a good way to keep control of a puppy until it has learned its rules and can be kept more freely.
A confined space like the crate is appealing to a dog’s natural instincts. In the wild the dog would have a calm protected space where it can rest and sleep and to a domestic dog the crate can be the equivalent. A confined, comfortable space can make your puppy feel safe and calm. The same thing can be said for a cage used for travelling. When a dog gets inside it, it will feel safer and more comfortable as it is then protected against the world outside. Travelling can sometimes be stressful for a dog or puppy, especially if you travel by airplane. The noise and all the people around it at the airport can be very stressful. The cage will help it to calm down. I have had the same experience when travelling with a cat. It calmed down and relaxed inside its cage when travelling. A crate at home will have the same effect when you are away.
Precautions and advice when crate training puppies
It is very important that your puppy sees the crate as something positive. The crate should be a place where they feel good and safe. Therefore you should never put your puppy in its crate to punish it. It will then be fearful of the crate and might refuse to enter it.
A dog should not be left too long in the crate. Dogs need exercise, stimulation and human intervention. The crate should only be used when you are out or when you do not have the possibility to keep an eye at it. Puppies under the age of 6 months should not stay longer than 3 or at the very most 4 hours at a time. Puppies do not have the bowel or bladder control to stay longer. It is important to note that the primary purpose of a crate is for training. A dog needs time and care and a crate is not a place to dump a dog just because the owner do not have time for it.
Crate Training Puppies- The Process
The first step is to choose a crate. Crates comes in different shapes and sizes. Some of them are collapsible and can be folded and put away when not used and then there are models which are used when travelling. The most important issue here is the size. Your puppy should be able to stand up inside the crate and turn around. There should not be much more space than this. The confined space is what makes the dog calm and it also prevents it from elminating at one end of the crate and then retreat to the other side.
The first step to crate training is to introduce your puppy to the crate. The best way is to let your puppy explore the crate on its own. Place the crate in a room where the family spends a lot of time. Take the door of the crate, place a blankett or towel inside it and let your puppy explore it. Most puppies are naturally curious and will go inside it to take a look at it on their own. It is important to have patience (this goes for all puppy training) and remember that crate training can take several days or in some cases several weeks. Puppies are individuals just like people and not all of them react the same way.
If your puppy does not want to go inside the crate on its own then you simply need to take it step by step. Try to make the puppy come close to the crate. You can for example stand by the cage with a little treat and call it over. Place treats around and near the crate to make the puppy go there and slowly get used to the crate. Next step would be to place a treat at the entrance of the crate and then to place a treat just inside of the entrance to the crate. Thus you will get your puppy closer and closer to the crate until it will eventually step inside it. Important to remember not to force your puppy inside the crate. The crate should be a positive experience for the puppy.
Next step would be to feed the puppy inside the crate. Put the meal at the entrance of crate. If it works, then continue to put the food further and further into crate until your puppy is inside it while eating. Next thing will be to close the door while the puppy is inside, eating. When the puppy has finished eating leaving him or her inside for a few more minutes. You then gradually increase the time when the puppy stays inside the crate. If your puppy is whining because he/she wants to go out, try to calm the puppy down before let him/her out. If you let your puppy out because she is whining, she will always do this when she wants to leave the crate.
Now you are on the right way and you simply need to gradually increase the period when the puppy stays in the crate. There are different ways to do this but I propose the following: Call your puppy over, praise her and give a small treat. Then you give the command to enter the cage. When the puppy has entered you leave the room with the crate and you go to another room for a a while. You start with a few minutes and gradually increase the period. When your dog can stay alone in the crate for about half an hour you can start leaving it for longer periods of time.
When your puppy can stay comfortable in its crate for longer periods of time then you can start leaving it when you leave your house. Put the dog in its crate a few minutes before leaving. This time can be somewhere between 5 and 20 minutes and it is good idea to vary this period of time.
Make your depature calm and not too emotional otherwise your puppy might beome anxious when you leave. Upon returning home you should also stay calm and avoid rewarding your puppy for exited behavior by being too emotional and giving it too much attention right away. This is also to done to prevent your puppy from becoming anxious.
When you can leave your puppy in its crate when you go out you can also begin to crate your puppy at night. In the beginning you can put the crate in your bedroom or nearby so that your puppy can feel your presence and you can hear her. Younger puppies might need to go to the toilet during the night, soo you must be able to hear your puppy whining. If your puppy do need to go out, take her out and once she has finished put her back in the crate. Make sure to do it quietly. This should not be a time for playing. If she continues to whine after that then you must ignore her. She must not learn that whining is a way of getting out of the crate.
When your puppy can sleep comfortable in the crate the entire night then you can gradually move to the crate to a location you prefer. However, keeping your puppy close by is a not a dissadvantage and it can also make the bond between you and your puppy stronger.
Some final thoughts about crating
A crate should primarily be used for two different purposes. One is when travelling and other one while training your dog. When you are not travelling or when you have your dog is properly trained there is no need to use a crate. Crating should only temporarily be used to avoid problems like destructive chewing or separation anxiety. When you have a problem with your dog such as destructive chewing, separation anxiety or aggressive behavior, you must solve the problem at its root and not just isolate the dog. If your puppy or dog suffers from any issue like this, take a look at my site and see if you can find a post dealing with this. If not, feel free to contact me and I will do my very best to help you.
I also recommend that you take a look at my review of the Online Dog Trainer. The online dog trainer is in my opinion an easy and convenient way to learn how to train a puppy, and at a very reasonable price.
Feel free to ask any questions or share your own experiences by leaving a comment below.