Navigating how to crate train a puppy may be time-consuming and require a great deal of patience, but yields many benefits. When used for a reasonable amount of time, crate training can help set boundaries for your puppy, such as letting him know where he can and cannot go within the house and what he can and cannot chew on.
Crate training helps your puppy to learn to hold his bladder for longer periods of time. There may be times when your puppy may need to be crated, such as a trip to the veterinarian or for travel. Learning how to crate train a puppy properly fulfills your pup’s instinct to be in a den and can help your dog feel he has a safe place of his own.
What Is a Crate?
A crate is a plastic, metal, or collapsible enclosure with a door used to secure a dog for training and transportation needs. Crates come in a variety of sizes and may be purchased at most pet stores. As a general rule, it is best to select a crate rated for your dog’s weight, which will require buying different sizes as your pup grows.
The kennel should be large enough to allow your dog to stand up and turn around comfortably. You can place items like blankets, toys, and water dishes inside the kennel to add comfort.
Why Do Puppies Need Crates?
Learning how to crate train a puppy has many uses. Using a crate helps the pup learn the rules of the house by preventing him from getting into trouble when you cannot supervise. The crate can be used while you’re cooking, doing household chores, at work (for reasonable amounts of time), or asleep at night.
When done correctly, learning how to crate train a puppy will help to teach excited pups how to settle and relax. Much like we have our bedrooms, a crate acts as your puppies bedroom. Your dog will grow to view the crate as a safe space where he can go to escape when he feels nervous, anxious or when he wants a sense of security.
Learning how to crate train a puppy will also be valuable when you need to transport or travel with your pup. Having his crate in an unfamiliar place helps to provide a safe space.
Tips on How to Crate Train a Puppy
Using a crate for potty training is also a useful tool. Dogs tend to view the crate as a clean space, which results in your pup learning bowel and bladder control, as he will not want to mess where he sleeps.
Depending on your pups age, temperament, and experiences, crate training can range from days to weeks. The crate should always be associated with positive things.
Never use the crate for punishment while working on how to crate train a puppy, as this will make him fear the crate and ultimately reject it. To set your puppy up for success, crate training should be done in a series of small steps, allowing your puppy to acclimate to the crate on his terms.
If your pup will go into the crate at the beginning of step 2, then you may place the food dish at the back of the crate or as far inside as he will go. The goal is to place the food dish a little farther back each time you feed your pup.
1. Introducing Your Puppy to the Crate
When learning how to crate train a puppy, it is best to place the crate in an area of the house where you spend the most time. Place a blanket and toys inside and encourage your pup to check out the crate on his own terms. Take care to leave the door open and secure it in a way that does not move and frighten him.
To encourage your dog to investigate, it may be helpful to place treats outside the kennel and just inside the kennel. It is okay if your pup does not want to go in right away, do not force him. Continue to place treats inside the kennel until your pup feels comfortable enough to walk into the crate to retrieve the food.
This initial step may take several days so patience is key. If you find that your pup isn’t interested in treats, a favorite toy may do the trick.
2. Using the Crate for Meal Time
Once your puppy is comfortable going in the crate on his own, the next step in learning how to crate train a puppy is feeding him regular meals near the crate. The placement of the food next to the crate will create a positive association.
Once your pup is comfortable standing in the crate to eat his meal, it is time to close the door. After your pup has finished his first meal in the crate, immediately open the door. Gradually increase the time that the door remains closed after each successful feeding until your puppy stays in the crate for 10 minutes after his meal.
3. Extending Crate Time
After your puppy is eating meals in his crate without signs of stress, step 3 of how to crate train a puppy is lengthening the time spent in the crate. In this step, confine your dog to the crate for short periods of time while you are home. Encourage your pup to enter the crate with a favorite toy or treat. Once he is inside, praise him and close the door.
Sit quietly by the crate for several minutes and then go to another room for several minutes. This allows your pup to get used to staying alone in the crate. When you return, sit quietly next to the crate for a few more minutes and then open the door. Repeat this process several times a day, gradually increasing the time your puppy spends in the crate and increasing the time you are out of the room.
Once your pup stays quiet in the crate for half an hour without your presence, you may leave him crated while you leave for short periods of time or while you sleep at night. This step may take several days or weeks as your puppy adjusts to being in the crate for longer periods of time.
If you crate your puppy while you sleep, it is important to place the crate nearby. Puppies frequently have to go outside to eliminate during the night, placing the crate nearby will allow you to hear the puppy when he whines to go outside. Once he sleeps comfortably through the night, the crate can be moved to a different location.
4. Leaving and Returning to Your Crated Puppy
Once your puppy has achieved calmly crated for 30 minutes, you can leave him alone while going for short periods of time. By this point in learning how to crate train a puppy, it is likely that your pup knows the command to enter the crate. Always give lots of praise and encouragement when your puppy enters the crate and include toys to create a positive association.
During the “leaving the house routine,” you can put your pup in the crate anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes before leaving. Returning and leaving should always be calm events that seem normal and avoid excitement. Encourage and praise your pup but keep it brief. When you come home, stay low-key rather than rewarding your pup’s excited behavior.
Continue to crate your puppy while you are home so he does not associate being crated with being left alone. Your pup should be crated for only 4 to 5 hours at a time.
Too Much Crate Time
When not used properly, a crate can cause your puppy to feel trapped and become frustrated. Crating your pup while you’re gone all day and again at night means that your puppy is spending too much time in a confined space.
Puppies should not spend over 3 to 4 hours at a time in a crate as they haven’t yet learned to hold their bladder and bowels for longer amounts of time. If you have to be gone for longer periods of time, other arrangements should be made to meet your pups physical and mental needs.
It is important to note when your pup is whining to be let out of the crate and when he needs to go outside to eliminate. If you have followed the steps of how to crate train a puppy outlined above and your puppy has not been rewarded for whining, it is more likely that he needs to eliminate.
If your pup whines to be let out, try to ignore him for several minutes. Giving into whining behavior only rewards him. If a whining problem becomes unmanageable, start the training process from the beginning.
Using a crate to manage separation anxiety is not a solution. Your puppy may not be destructive but could harm himself in other ways trying to escape. In cases of separation anxiety, contact a veterinarian or an animal behavior specialist.
Available Crates for your Puppy
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Learning how to crate train a puppy should not be viewed as punishment but rather as beneficial. When used correctly crate training is a valuable tool for helping a new puppy learn household boundaries, how to control elimination, and how to settle down and relax in a space just for the puppy.