Crate Training A Puppy Successfully

puppy training

Crate training a puppy, also refer to as puppy kennel training, is a practical and efficient way to housetrain your dog and protect the home at the same time. Not only is it beneficial to crate train your dog during your dog's puppy years, but crate training also has many great advantages throughout the life of your dog.

The purpose of crate training a puppy is to teach your dog to go into its crate (a rectangular enclosure which acts as a substitute for a den), on command for safety, obedience and general behavior control. It is an effective training method used successfully by many dog owners and trainers alike.

Although for some dog owners, putting your puppy in a crate may seem unfair and cruel, you should understand that dogs learn to consider their crates as their own homes. Dogs are by nature den dwelling animals and the crate helps satisfy their den instincts, at the same time providing them protection and security.

The Advantages and Benefits of Crate Training a Puppy

crate training a puppy

The benefits of crate training a puppy are many. Above all, it is a safe place to put your puppy. As any puppy guardian will attest, puppies are curious and energetic and this combination often results in “getting into” objects that are not meant for puppies, such as your sofa pillows, your new pair of shoes, or that research paper you were working on for a month. When you can’t keep an eye on the puppy, whether you are making dinner or leaving the house to run an errand, the crate is a good place to put the puppy to keep him or her out of trouble! With a successful crate-trained puppy, you can be quite reassure that your dog won't destroy items from your house, cause any accidents or develop bad habits while you are out.

A crate is also a happy place the pup can go if they need a chance to unwind. Giving the puppy access to their crate, even when you are home, allows them a place to go that is “just their own”. The crate offers your dog a sense of security, privacy and comfort. It is also a good place to put your pup when they become overly excited when playing.

Crate training a puppy can also help with potty training. It helps by teaching and motivating your dog to wait until being taken outside of the crate. Dogs, by nature, do not want to soil the same place they eat or sleep, so they will avoid going to the bathroom in the crate – if they can.

Keep in mind that puppies have small, puppy-sized bladders than adult dogs, therefore it is important that they are able to have the opportunity to relieve themselves in an appropriate place. A simple rule of thumb is that the puppy can hold their bladder the number of hours equivalent to their age. So if your puppy is 1 month old, he or she will need to go outside or have access to a potty pad, every hour. You never want to keep your puppy in their crate without the opportunity to go to the bathroom for longer than they can hold it.

crate training

Traveling with your puppy is also easier and safer with the use of a crate. Crates can easily be strapped down in a car, so the dog can rest comfortably and securely while traveling to the vet office, the dog park, or on vacation. Having the dog out of the way also is safer for the driver as there is not the risk of a dog blocking their view or being a distraction.

How to Proceed with Crate Training A Puppy

  • Crates recommended for puppies are the wire or plastic models, which are secure and easy to clean. Purchase the crate from a specialized pet store and make sure that it provides enough space and comfort for your dog (a smooth floor or a crate pad, a bowl of water and your puppy’s favorite toy).

  • The first thing to do when crate training a puppy is to make the crate a positive place. The best location to place the crate is in a busy area of your house (where you have dinner, or where you spend most of the time with your family), as dogs are social animals and they will enjoy your company.

  • Use a piece of string or a bungee cord to tie open the crate door so it can’t accidentally close on the pup when he or she bravely ventures inside.

  • Give the puppy rewards for exploring the crate by planting yummy treats inside. Surprise them with really good treats, such as chewies and food-stuffed Kongs waiting for them in the crate.

  • Feed your puppy his or her meals near the crate – since this has the effect of creating a positive association between the puppy’s home and his meal.

  • Praise the pup enthusiastically in a happy voice any time he go inside the crate. Make a game of it so it is fun for puppy and you.

  • Once you see your puppy eagerly entering their crate on their own, start moving the crate door while feeding them delicious treats. The nice thing about most crates is that the wire meshing allows you to still feed the puppy through the holes. Start with just the movement of the crate door while feeding the dog simultaneously.

  • As the puppy stays calm, continue to slowly move the door closed, keeping it closed for only a second or two in the beginning, treating the puppy simultaneously, and then opening the door. As long as the puppy remains calm, continue to increase the duration of the door being closed with the pup inside.

  • Once you work up to longer time periods, give the puppy something to eat, like a frozen Kong stuffed with goodies, which will take him or her a while to work on. Once your puppy is done with the treat, open the crate.

  • Continue to work on the duration of the crate door being closed with the puppy inside until the puppy rests easily. Remember to move at the rate the puppy seems comfortable with and always make the crate a positive place. Keep the crate training sessions short and fun.

  • Young puppies adapt easily to crates however there will be some initial whining or barking. Still, these will go away once your puppy realizes that the crate is his/her new home.

  • Make a schedule for your puppy’s toilet needs and avoid leaving him inside the crate longer than 45 minutes after each meal as puppies cannot hold their bowels or bladder very long.

  • If the puppy eliminates in the crate, try to figure out the causes: is it health related, the duration inside the crate or too much time spent there being ignored.

Potential Problems To Look Out For When Crate Training a Puppy

  • Your puppy might become anxious and fearful if you put it in the crate for long periods of time. Do not leave your puppy in the crate more than three hours at a time.

  • Your puppy might whine during the night, as he might feel alone, scared or ignored. Move your puppy's crate into your bedroom where he/she can see you. You can also hear your dog if he/she needs to go out.

  • You have to make sure that your puppy doesn’t get weak and bored – you have to combine crate training with long walks, running and other physical activities.

Things to Avoid When Crate Training A Puppy:
  • Don't crate your young puppy for more than three hours at a time. If your puppy soils the crate, this can do severe damage to progress made.

  • Don't use the crate to punish your puppy. He will fear it and want to avoid it.

  • Don't force your puppy into the crate. Tossing treats or favorite toys inside should be enough, and creates a positive association.

  • Don't use too big of a crate. This allows the dog to create a potty area within the crate separate from the sleeping area.

  • Don't ever send your puppy to its crate in response to bad behavior. A puppy's attitude to its crate must always be positive.

The main idea of the crate training a puppy is to help your dog feel comfortable and safe in the crate. At the same time, crate training can help you develop a better relationship with your dog without the need for you to feel worried when you aren't around to supervise him. With proper training, a crate can be a safe, enjoyable, positive place for your dog for the rest of his/her life.

(See also on Crate Training Your Dog)

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