Our most recent blog article was focused on house-breaking, we also started to address crate training and its importance to assist with many aspects of your puppy’s development. Here is a link to that article.
Today we’ll look at conditioning your puppy to a crate; how to keep it as a pleasant place for your puppy, not a punishment. Your dog’s safe place.
Crating is critical and needs to be taught with patience and kindness. Crating your puppy helps them to develop their independence and that will avoid the potential for separation anxiety. It can also help your puppy stay out of trouble and eliminate bad behaviours like chewing.
A crate is a tool in your puppy’s learning and behaviour development. It must be introduced properly to be effective.
Here are some important things to keep in mind as you introduce your puppy to their crate:
- The crate you choose should be big enough to allow your puppy to stand up and turn around.
- Avoid using your puppy’s crate as a punishment. Your puppy will fear it and refuse to enter.
- Consider using your crates as a safe way to transport your dog in the car.
- Monitor the time you leave your puppy in the crate. As a guideline, puppies should be let out every 3-4 hours until they can control their bladder.
- Avoid leaving your puppy in their crate all day and night, they will not get enough exercise or time with you and can become depressed or anxious. If your schedule is such that this might happen – consider a dog walker or daycare to help break up your puppy’s day and offer them positive stimulation.
- Crate your dog only until you can trust them to let you know when they need to go outside and you can trust them not to get into things in your house.
As you crate training your puppy – remember to take your time and be patient.
Here are some recommended steps to help you crate train your dog:
STEP 1: Introduce the crate.
- Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time.
- Let your puppy explore the crate; go inside, sniff around, and walk away when it wants to.
- If the puppy avoids or ignores the crate, bring them over with a happy playful voice. Be aware of the door as it may close and startle them while they are exploring. You can encourage them with treats around the crate and then finally inside the crate. Avoid forcing them to go in. Wait and try again later.
STEP 2: Feed your puppy in their crate.
- Once your puppy is comfortable exploring their crate start to place their meals close to the crate and over a few days, gradually move meals into the crate.
- Now that your dog is eating comfortably in their crate you can close the door while they are eating. The first time that you do this open the door immediately after they finish.
- Next – gradually increase the amount of time that you leave the door closed before you let them out. Be aware that if you increase the amount of time they are in with the door closed too quickly they might whine or start scratching at the crate. Slow down and try leaving them in the crate for a shorter time period.
STEP 3: Building up to longer periods in the crate.
Once your puppy is calmly eating their meals in their crate you can start to work on building up non-meal time. Short periods of time when they are in their crate while you are home.
- Call your puppy over to the crate and give them a treat.
- Give them a command word “Bed” or “Crate” which means you want them to go into the crate. Encourage them by keeping a treat in your hand and motion by pointing into the crate.
- After your dog enters the crate, praise them “good dog”, give them the treat, and close the door.
- Sit quietly near the crate, no more than 5 minutes to start, and then leave the room for a couple of minutes.
- Return to the room and sit again quietly for a few minutes then let them out of their crate. Continue to repeat these steps a few times a day while gradually increasing the length of time.
STEP 4: Crate your dog when you leave.
Once your dog is able to spend about 30 minutes comfortably in their crate you can begin leaving them crated for short periods of time when you leave the house.
- Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave them with a few safe toys inside the crate.
- Make your routine for leaving the house different each time. Don’t ask them to get into their crate right before you leave the house. Dogs quickly pick-up on your routine and will begin to anticipate your departure. Vary the amount of time they are in their crate before you leave the house.
- Avoid long emotional good-byes. Give them a treat and quietly leave the house.
- Your approach is just as important when you come back into the house. Keep everything calm and a non-event, avoid fussing or rewarding your dog for excited behaviour. Vary the amount of time it takes for you to open the crate upon your return. Your puppy will continue to learn that being in their crate is a quiet, safe place. It is their place – like we have our own bedrooms.
STEP 5: Crate your dog at night
- To start you will want to put the crate near you so that you can hear if your puppy whines to go outside during the night.
- Put them in the crate using your regular command and a treat.
- Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night you can slowly move the crate to whatever is your ideal location
Remember patience and kindness will help your puppy succeed!
In our next article, we will address puppy nipping and biting. This is also an early behavior that needs to be managed right away. Your crate will be an important piece of the puzzle.