How to Crate Train Puppies

Crating philosophy

bobbys eyesPuppy-hood is a time when good and bad habits are formed.  When puppy is left alone often they’ll find things to entertain themselves with,  things that involve mouthing and chewing, which are totally natural things for a puppy to do!

Crates are a very good management and training tool to use to prevent puppies from developing those naughty behaviour such as inappropriate greeting and chewing of  your precious furniture and shoes.

Crate training allows your dog to have a safe place to sleep and to relax in when stressed. It allows them a place of safety and security especially when there are lots to things going on around him or when she simply needs to sleep.  To a young puppy a crate should be a positive place where good things happen.

For owners crates can be used for safe transport of their dog in the car and can be used for management at home during short absences and  around toilet training puppies.

Cautions to take while crate training

  • Never use the crate as a punishment. Your puppy will come to fear it and refuse to go inside.  Instead teach her to enjoy going into her crate.  You can feed her in the crate or allow her to chew her kong in there while the family are having dinner.  You want her to have a positive association with her crate.  It should be her den.
  • Don’t leave your puppy in the crate too long.  A dog that’s crated day and night doesn’t get enough exercise or human interaction and can become depressed or anxious. Puppies under six months of age shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time other than night-time.  If you are going to be working long hours maybe employing a puppy walker would be a good idea.
  • Respect your puppies space.  If she is in the crate sleeping don’t allow children or family members to lift her out. How would you like to be dragged out of bed when asleep!
  • The living room or kitchen is a good place to have your crate so that puppy is close to the family and in a place where puppy can go in and out as they want.  Blankets and bedding can be placed inside to make it comfortable and welcoming to the puppy.

Using a crate for puppy time outs

Sometimes you may need to ‘time out’  your puppy  in certain situations such as when they get over-excited or nippy when playing with children, or get a little too physical with other dogs.  Timing out allows puppy to calm themselves down.

However it is important to note that you are not sending your puppy to the crate as a punishment, just for a 30 second to 2 minute time out.   Do not lock them away otherwise puppy will never learn which part of her behaviour was not acceptable!

Calmly speak with your puppy, take her to the crate gently and place her inside for just a few short minutes  If your puppy is whining and barking wait until she is calm before releasing her again.

What type of crate should I use for my Puppy?

Plastic_Crate    wire crate

The crate should not be so big that puppy can create one end for her bed and the other as her toilet.  It should be just big enough to move comfortably around.  If you decide to buy a big crate that a larger breed puppy could grow into use a divider until she has grown.  A wire crate or airline style crate are all good types that can be made comfortable as well as being safe.

Toilet Training puppies

Crate training can be an efficient and effective way to toilet train puppies. Dogs do not like to soil their resting/sleeping quarters if given adequate opportunity to eliminate elsewhere. Temporarily confining your dog to a small area strongly inhibits the tendency to urinate and defecate.

If your dog does not eliminate while she is confined, then she will need to eliminate when she is released.  This way you can reward and praise her when you see her toileting outside.  You may even put toileting on cue.  As you see her just about to go toilet say ‘go potty’ and make a big fuss of her and feed with a high value reward such as chicken or hot-dog.

Except at night, give your dog an opportunity to relieve herself every hour. Each time you let her out, put her on leash and immediately take her outside. Once outside, give her about three to five minutes to eliminate.

If she does not eliminate within the allotted time period, simply return her to her crate. If she does perform, then immediately reward her with praise, food treats, affection, play, an extended walk and permission to run around and play in your house for a couple of hours. For young pups, after 45 minutes to an hour, take her to her toilet area again. Never give your dog free run of your home unless you know without a doubt that her bowels and bladder are empty.

With your consistency and abundance of rewards and praise for eliminating outside, she will become more reliable about holding it until you take her out. Then the amount of time you confine her before her scheduled outing can be reduced, then eliminated.

Mistakes and Accidents During Training

If you ever find an accident in the house, just clean it up. Do not punish your dog. All this means is that you have given her unsupervised access to your house too soon. Until she can be trusted, don’t give her unsupervised free run of your house. If mistakes and accidents occur, it is best to go back to the crate training. You need to more accurately predict when your dog needs to eliminate and she needs more time to develop bladder and bowel control.

Teach your puppy to enjoy going into her crate

lilly and teddy

By taking the time to go through small incremental steps, from slowly introducing your puppy to the crate, to spending small but increasing amounts of time in there, they will learn to love it and you can both enjoy the enormous benefits it offers.

Step One

Set up crate close to you and have plenty of treats ready in your pocket or in a pouch. Ensure you are in a closed area so that the puppy cannot run out into danger. Sit or kneel somewhere you are comfortable with.  Leave the crate door open so that puppy can wander in and out.  

You can place some of the treats in the back of the crate so that puppy goes in to investigate. Do not lure her in, you want her to work  it out for herself and to start to associate the crate with wonderful things!

Step two

When puppy has gone into the crate you can then add more treats while she is in there.  If she comes out do not give her treats, you want her to learn that going into the crate earns her the rewards and that coming out gets her nothing not even attention.  And the longer she stays in the more you give her!  You can practice this over time so that she is getting more and more confident about going into the crate.  Have her sit at towards the back of the crate so that becomes the place where treats are given.

 Step three

When puppy has learnt to stay longer in the crate in order to get the rewards you can now practice closing over the door.  Give her more treats while you are doing this to help her remain calm and not to feel trapped in any way.  This stage of adding duration can take a few days to teach puppy to stay longer in her crate.  Ensure she has had adequate exercise and is tired so that she is learning to associate her crate with rest and being calm.

Be aware if she becomes anxious in any way as you don’t want her to stop enjoying being in the crate.  If she starts whining or barking don’t let her out immediately as she will learn to do this in order to get out.  As soon as she is quiet you can open the door and let her out.  Alternatively you can drop another treat into the crate so she has to go retrieve it and then open the door and let her out.  Once she is out don’t give her food rewards or attention so that she associates the crate with the rewards!

Step four

When puppy starts going into crate herself and lying down you can now start to add duration to stay in crate.  You can do a couple of things: you can put treats one by one into the crate or you can place puppie’s kong into the crate with her.  By allowing her to chew on her kong, you are giving her something to satisfy her need for chewing, teaching her to deal with frustration and she is learning that being apart from the owner is not something to be worried about at all!

At this stage also you can add a cue for going into the crate ‘into bed’ or ‘crate’.  She is already going willingly into her crate but you can repeat the verbal cue just as she is entering to help her make the association with the cue and rewards.

Step five

Continue to make crate training fun and increasing length of time puppy spends in the crate.  Crates are where the rewards are for puppy!

You can now also add the release cue, ‘enough’, ‘lets go’ or whatever suits you as an individual and once released from the crate you can reward puppy with lots of attention, play or toys for not leaving the crate until released.

In this youtube clip Donna Hill a Canadian dog training coach explains the importance of introducing the crate in such as way to puppies are comfortable with going into her crate and make a positive association with their crate.