Crate training a puppy is a wonderful thing. Why?
Let me ask you this:
Have you ever had a friend’s dog chew up a pair of your favorite shoes while you slept? Or poop in the house while you were out only to step in it later?
Yes to both for me.
Luckily, crate training your new puppy can help avoid this type of troublesome behavior.
In this post, you’ll learn:
- The benefits of crate training a puppy
- How to choose the right kennel crate
- How to crate train a puppy in 5 easy steps
Let’s get started.
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Benefits Of Crate Training A Puppy
If you’re reading this, you may have already decided to crate train your puppy or maybe you’re just wondering if it’s right for you.
Here are several reasons to consider crate training:
- Speeds up potty training time
- Keeps dogs out of trouble when unsupervised (chewing shoes, pooping in house, getting into garbage)
- Provides a safe place to feel secure
- Prevents anxiety
- Eliminates crying at night
- Provides a safe way of transport in the car
- Prepares dogs for places they cannot roam freely (the vet, the airport)
You might be wondering:
Is crate training cruel to dogs?
Unless you’re leaving your dog in a crate all day long depriving them of food and potty breaks and room to run around, which would be cruel…
…the answer here is no.
Before dogs became primarily house pets, in the wild they would seek out small dens as shelter to protect themselves.
So in essence, by giving a puppy an indoor kennel crate and crate training him or her to go there as “home”, you’re satisfying the dog’s need for a den-like environment.
This is their own space that they can go to feel safe when they are feeling overwhelmed or to rest when needed.
If you crate train your puppy correctly, he will be happy to spend time in his crate and go there on his own without direction from you.
Why The Size Of The Kennel Crate Matters
Before you can start crate training a puppy, you must choose the right crate for your pup.
This is more important than you might think.
When purchasing a dog crate, the most important thing to consider is the size of the crate relative to the size of your dog.
If you choose a crate that is too big for your dog, you can count on there being consequences:
- Harder time crate training your puppy
- Negative experience for both you and the dog
- Defeats the purposes of crate training altogether
Crate training a puppy is helpful with potty training, but if the kennel crate is too large, your puppy may use one end of the crate to do his business and the other unsoiled side to lie down or sleep.
Not only does the larger crate provide an opportunity for the dog to “abandon” his potty training he wouldn’t otherwise have, it will leave you frustrated and more likely to scold the dog for his mess.
That’s exactly what you don’t want.
Creating any type of negative association with the kennel crate will only hinder the crate training process and make your puppy less likely to want to be in it…
…that means your dog may whine, cry and feel anxious while inside the crate rather than safe, calm and secure.
The bottom line?
To crate train a puppy effectively, buy a crate that is just large enough for your dog to stand up in, turn around and lie down.
You might be wondering:
How do I account for my puppy’s growing size?
To solve this problem, a great indoor kennel crate that I recommend is the Midwest iCrate.
This metal crate comes in many different sizes for small to large dog breeds and has the option to use a divider panel inside the crate.
Choose the size crate based on what your dog will need when he or she is full grown and use the divider panel accordingly to reduce or enlarge the space for your growing pup.
How To Crate Train A Puppy
Now that you have the right size kennel crate, let’s get into the steps of how to crate train a puppy.
Step 1. Introduce The Crate
First things first. Always remember that you want your puppy to associate the crate with positive experiences only.
Never force your dog into the crate, scold or use the crate as a place of punishment.
Begin by transforming the kennel crate into a cozy home for your pet – place a soft dog bed or blanket and favorite toys inside the crate.
Leave the crate door open and locked in place to avoid it flapping around.
Some puppies may be naturally curious and enter the crate on their own.
If your puppy needs some encouragement though, leave dog treats around and inside the crate to entice him.
Don’t worry if he won’t enter the crate at first – just be patient while he warms up to it as it could take several days.
Step 2. Use The Crate For Feeding
Once your puppy willingly goes into the crate calmly on his own, you’ll want to use it as his “feeding station”.
Because feeding your dog his meals inside the crate will accomplish 3 things:
- Extend time spent in the crate
- Associate a new positive experience in the crate
- Get him fed (duh)
Your puppy may not go all the way into the crate to his food bowl at first, in which case you can begin by placing the bowl nearer to the crate door.
Slowly over time, push the bowl further into the crate until your dog is eating every meal successfully all the way inside the crate.
Step 3. Close The Crate Door
At this point, you’re ready to close the crate door.
The first time you close the crate door while your dog is eating, open it up immediately after he has finished.
Do this over and over again adding a little more time with each door closing until he is spending about 10 minutes with the door closed after his meal.
If your puppy whines, make sure that you wait until he stops to let him out.
Otherwise, just like a bratty kid, he will learn that whining gets him what he wants.
Step 4. Lengthen Time In Crate
Once your dog is using the crate for meals and short periods of time comfortably, your next goal in crate training a puppy is to increase his time spent in the kennel crate while you are home.
Start by using a phrase that signals your puppy to go to the crate.
Whichever phrase you choose is up to you. Just be sure to use the same phrase consistently in a happy tone of voice.
Some popular phrases used when crate training a puppy are:
- “Go home”
- “Kennel up”
When you want your dog to go into the crate, point to the crate and say the phrase.
Praise your puppy and reward him with a treat once he goes into the crate. Then close the door.
You can also give him a treat dispensing toy like the Bob-A-Lot. This will serve as a great distraction while he’s in the crate..
For 5-10 minutes, sit quietly near the crate where your dog can see you.
Leave the room for a few minutes, then return and sit where he can see you again. After a few more minutes, let him out of the crate.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Do this several times a day gradually increasing the time that you are out of view.
Once your pet can sit quietly for 30 minutes with you being in another room for the majority of that time…
You have achieved some freedom from your pet and can start leaving him home alone for short periods of time.
You should, however, continue to put him in his crate when you are home though, so that he doesn’t only associate being in his crate with being alone.
At this point your pup may also be ready to sleep overnight in his crate.
Of course, whether you want your puppy to sleep in his crate overnight is up to you.
But even if you have dreams of snuggling in bed all night with your dog, it’s still a good idea to crate train your puppy until he is potty trained so that he doesn’t wander off in the middle of the night and pee in the house.
For overnight, keep the crate nearby or in your room so that you can easily hear your puppy and take him out to eliminate.
Puppies generally need a potty break every 3-4 hours.
Your puppy should be able to sleep through the night without having to go potty between the age of 4-6 months, at which point you can begin slowly moving the crate further away from you to your preferred room in the house.
You might be wondering:
What if my puppy whines in his crate at night?
Some whining is to be expected at first. If your puppy whines in the crate overnight and you are certain he doesn’t need to eliminate, do your best to ignore it.
He may be just testing you.
Be patient and don’t teach him that whining gets him what he wants.
Even in the wee hours of the night when you’re grumpy and groggy, remember that your puppy is also just getting used to being alone in his new home without his mother and brothers and sisters.
If whining becomes a persistent problem though, you may need to start crate training all over again.
Step 5. Coming and Going
While we’ve discussed the importance of making crate training a positive experience for the puppy, there are times when should downplay the excitement.
When you leave the house, do your usual routine of getting your dog settled into the crate, reward him with a treat and then quietly leave the house.
Make it quick and don’t make it emotional.
The same is true for when you return home.
Don’t make a big deal out of it.
The goal here is to make this a normal routine and avoid excitement.
Instead, casually open the crate door when you get home. If your puppy acts rambunctious and excited, don’t reward him by responding in a similar manner. Maintain your normal demeanor.
Crate Training A Puppy Key Take-Aways
To summarize some of the key points discussed, here are some important things to remember when crate training a puppy:
- Buy the right size crate. To solve the problem of your growing puppy, choose a crate with a panel divider like this one.
- Make crate training a positive experience
- Don’t reward whining
- Don’t move onto the next step if your dog exhibits signs of fear or anxiety
- Don’t use the crate for punishment
- Once trained, don’t leave your pet in the crate longer than 4-5 hours at a time during the day
When your dog seems to be happy to go into the crate on his own, that’s when you know you’ve crate trained correctly.
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