Crate training a puppy is a necessary process for most dog owners. Follow the crate training steps below to ensure the process is quick and easy for yourself and your dog. Crate training your puppy is a fantastic way to manage the safety and wellbeing of young puppies. When used properly the crate is an invaluable tool for establishing good habits in your puppies from day one and also for preventing problem behaviors before they arise.
In spite of what you may think or have read about puppy crate training the truth is that we crate train our puppies for their benefit – that’s why we do it. Secondly to that is the fact that using a crate also benefits us and our property.
Puppy Crate Training – Why Do We Do It?
Over time the crate becomes your puppy’s own private area that they will grow to love and feel secure in. You will come to rely on the crate in many day to day activities including:
* One of the first and most important uses of the crate is in the puppy housebreaking process. Crate training is the best way to quickly teach your puppy to eliminate (go to the toilet) outside.
* Crating our puppies teaches them to chew on the toys we provide to them and prevents them from chewing on the things we don’t want them to chew on (shoes, furniture, curtains etc.). This is the key to establishing good habits and preventing destructive habits which can be very difficult to rectify.
* When your young puppy is in his/her crate he is safe from any number of dangerous household items. Unfortunately many puppies are severely injured and killed every year as a result of chewing wires, ingesting poisons or eating foreign objects.
* Separation anxiety is a huge problem with many dogs. Proper use of the crate can help reduce the chance of your puppy developing it. The crate becomes a place where your dog is calm, out of trouble and accustomed to being alone. I should add here that if you are away from home all day every day is a puppy really suitable for someone with your lifestyle anyway?
* If you have friends or visitors of any kind coming and going from your home the crate is the perfect place to keep your puppy confined for a little while.
* Because most crates are lightweight and portable you can move them from room to room so your puppy can be close by you all day long!
* Many crates are suitable for putting into your car which makes your puppy’s travelling experience safer and often less stressful.
* When your puppy grows to love his crate it makes trips and stays at places such as your Vet and Dog Groomers a more bearable experience.
* When a puppy is crated they cannot get into any mischief which significantly reduces any need to discipline them. This makes for a far better environment to live in (for dog and owner).
* If you plan to partake in activities such as competitive obedience training, fly-ball or agility training you will find your crate is the best place to confine your dog in between training sessions or competition. Be sure to put it in a nice cool spot out of direct sunlight.
Never Ever Use Your Crate
As A Tool For Punishment!
Selecting A Crate For Your Puppy
The crates basically come in two general styles – durable plastic and an all wire mesh type, which is often collapsable. It’s really a personal choice which style of crate you go for but the most important thing is that you buy one that is the appropriate size for your dog. Get a crate that will be large enough for your fully grown puppy – partition it off until he grows into it.
I like the plastic Vari Kennel style because they are lightweight, tough, can be carted all around the place and they are very easy to clean.
Apart From Your Dog What Goes In The Crate?
1. Bedding – choose a nice comfortable bed that can’t be chewed up and swallowed by your feisty little pup. Be sure to choose a bedding style suitable for your climate.
2. Chew toys – get a couple of good chew toys that you can stuff. This keeps your puppy busy and teaches him what is appropriate to chew on. My dogs love Kongs and Buster Cubes.
3. Water – keep a nice supply of clean fresh water. Heavy wide based bowls that won’t be tipped over are best or you can get one that clips onto the crate wall.
Introducing Your Puppy To The Crate
Your puppy’s first impression and experiences with the crate are all important. We need to set it up so your puppy views the crate as a positive thing right from the start. You want your puppy to love the crate and choose to use it himself rather than a contraption he associates with isolation and loneliness.
Try some of the tips below to make the crate inviting to your puppy – always take it slowly. Put the crate in the room with you and your puppy and leave the door open:
* Drop a few tasty treats in and around the crate and let your puppy clean them up. Be sure to give heaps of encouragement and then praise when your puppy bravely steps inside the crate.
* If your puppy has a favorite dog bed or blanket put this inside the crate to encourage him and make it more homely to him.
* Feed your puppy his meals in the crate (door still open).
* With your puppy outside the crate place a chew toy inside the crate and close the door. Your puppy will literally beg you to let him at it! Open up the door, let him in and praise his efforts.
* When your puppy is not around tie a chew toy (like a stuffed kong) inside the crate and leave the door open. Let him discover the “treasure” and leave him inside to enjoy the find.
* When your puppy is comfortable in the crate close the door and feed some treats to him through the mesh. To start with just leave the door closed for 10 seconds then gradually increase the duration. Don’t increase to quickly, if your dog becomes distressed or whines you are moving too fast.
* Build up the amount of time he is in the crate slowly when you are in the room, then step outside the room for a short time etc. The first really long stretch in the crate should be overnight, with the puppy in your bedroom if possible.
Puppy Crate Training – Shaping The Behavior
I find that the tips outlined above are more than enough to get most puppies comfortable with their crates. If you are having trouble with a difficult or nervous pup try this puppy crate training exercise to shape the desired behavior.
1. Place the crate in an area where you and your puppy spend time together – leave the crate door open.
2. Any time your puppy shows any interest in the crate (like a look) praise him/her and throw him a tasty treat. Repeat this over and over.
3. You’ll find that your puppy soon becomes very interested in his crate. This step asks more of your puppy. Don’t praise and treat only a glance at the crate now, wait until your pup walks over towards the crate, then praise and reward with a treat.
4. Repeat Step 3 many times and then make it harder again for your puppy to earn a treat. Hold off with your praise and treats until your puppy actually steps in the crate now. Repetition and reinforcing the desired behavior is the key.
5. Now your pup should be popping in and out of the crate to work for his treats. Now you hold off with your praise and treats until your puppy goes into the crate and sits down.
6. The final step is to have your puppy step inside the crate, sit down and then you will close the crate door (only for a few seconds to start with) and feed some treats through the door.
7. Attach a cue word to this process such as “bedtime” or “go to crate”
General Rules Of Puppy Crate Training
* Always take your dogs collar off when he is put in the crate. Otherwise the collar can get caught on the crate which is potentially very dangerous.
* Ensure that you aren’t asking your puppy (or older dog for that matter) to hold off from going to the toilet for longer than he is capable.
* If your puppy does have a toilet accident inside his crate of course punishment is not an option, but you should be angry at yourself for allowing it to occur. Immediately clean up the mess including the use of an odor neutralizer.
* Be careful when crating your puppy in hot weather. Be especially careful when you have your puppy crated in your car, temperatures can become extreme inside cars and in a very short period of time.
* Except for overnight and one off occassions you should never crate your dog for more than 4 or 5 hours at a time. Why have a dog if you have to confine him for such long periods? Perhaps a goldfish would be a more suitable pet for you?
* Dogs love their exercise, particularly nice long walks with you. So if you are going to crate your puppy or older dog they will require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation throughout the day. This can also include some obedience training sessions.
* Never release your puppy from his crate (unless the situation is getting dangerous) if he is causing a fuss by whining, barking or being destructive. If you do this you are actually rewarding and therefore reinforcing this undesirable behavior.
* Don’t only crate your puppy when you are about to leave the house – the crate will begin to be associated with you leaving if this is the case.
Good luck when training your puppy to accept and utilize his/her crate.
Chris Smith is the owner and creator of How To Train A Dog website which is designed for home based dog trainers who want to train their dogs the right way.