Crate training is the process of teaching your dog (in this case your pup) that their crate is their own special place associated with good things; where they can go to hide out when they feel uneasy or to relax when they need to.
Being den animals, like their wild cousins, the wolves, dogs have a natural tendency to feel a sense of security when they’re in a small den-like enclosure. This behaviour can be seen when dogs get scared, running to hide under a table or behind a piece of furniture.
Crate training uses this natural instinct to get your puppy used to staying in a crate for house training or to keep them out of trouble when you can’t keep a constant eye on them.
Benefits Of Crate Training
Crate training your puppy has several benefits, the key ones are:
- Giving you pooch her own space where she can get comfortable and feel secure
- Helping speed up house training – dogs will generally not eliminate where they sleep
- Keeping your pup out of trouble when you can’t supervise him
- Preventing damage to your items when you can’t keep an eye on your puppy
- Getting your dog ready for when they need to be kept in a crate, for example, when they’re travelling or at the veterinarian.
The benefits of crate training your puppy are numerous, but care must be taken to ensure crating is not abused – which could easily make it a cruel practise.
Steps For Crate Training Your Puppy
You need to keep two things in mind when crate training your puppy: going into the crate should be associated with pleasant experiences; and, patience is critical – rushing could cause your dog to resent crating.
Crate training could take anywhere between a week and a month depending on the personality of your puppy.
Here’s how to crate train your puppy:
- Get a good crate
A good crate should be large enough for your puppy to be able to get in and turn, stand, and stretch out comfortably. But do not get a crate that’s so large as to allow your pooch to move to another spot when they toilet in one. This will make it difficult to house train your pup.A metal crate with a tray floor will do just fine. You could also get one that is partitionable so that you can adjust its size as your puppy grows.Make sure the crate is comfy enough by placing your puppy’s bedding on the crate’s floor. It might help to cover the crate with a light blanket to create the illusion of a den.
- Introduce your pup to the crate
You should place the crate in a location that’s frequented by people such as the living room, kitchen, or bedroom so that your puppy doesn’t feel isolated. You want going into the crate to be a positive experience, so don’t force your puppy in. Just leave it open and let them explore it by themselves out of curiosity.You can entice him to get in by putting his favourite treats inside; or better yet, by placing a puzzle toy or a Kong toy stuffed with treats inside the crate. Place the treat further into the crate each time until you pup goes all the way inside.Repeat this until your pooch can go into the crate comfortably without hesitation. Reward your puppy each time they go inside with a treat and a short praise like “good!” or “Yes!”
- Feed your puppy inside the crate
Once you puppy is fine going into the crate, start shutting the door for short periods (just a few seconds at the beginning) while your dog plays with their toy or enjoys their treat inside. Extend this time gradually until you can get them to stay for about ten minutes while they’re preoccupied.Serve their regular meals inside the crate as a way to extend their in-crate time. Depending on your puppy, there might not be any protest – but some may start whining when you lock them in. Open the door and let them out when they do. Make sure to stay close when she is inside the crate so that you pup doesn’t get anxious.
- Extend crate time
When the puppy is comfortable staying in the crate for longer durations, you need to ensure that he stays calm inside the crate even after he finishes his food or treats.Because you don’t want to be feeding them all the time while they’re in the crate, start leaving them a while longer with just their toy after they’re done eating. You can give treats periodically, but make sure to stay close to the crate.After the pup is fine with this, start moving away from the crate – each time creating more distance but still remaining in the room. If your pup starts whining, get back closer until they stop and then move back away.Next, do some activities in the same room like working on your computer or cleaning while your puppy’s in the crate. Get them used to stationary activities like reading or eating, and activities with motion like cleaning or cooking. Ignore whining noises if any and pop-back periodically to give a treat.
- Leave the room
Once your dog is ok with you being away from the cage but in the same room, now start going to other rooms but still staying inside the house. Again, ignore noises and drop-by periodically to give a treat. Reduce the treats gradually until you no longer have to give them.You can start to pair a cue with the action of going into the crate such as “go to bed” or “in your crate” so that you can call up the action easily in the future.Take your pup out to eliminate each time you take them out of the crate so that they can associate toileting with being taken outside after crating.
- Crating your puppy overnight and when leaving the house
After your puppy is ok with you leaving the room while they’re locked in their crate, then you can start leaving the house. Keep it short initially, a few minutes, tops, and increase the time gradually.Don’t make a fuss when you’re going out or coming in. crate your dog a few minutes – up to 20 minutes – before you leave and take him out a few minutes after you’re back. This will help ensure your dog doesn’t associate crating with you leaving or returning home.When keeping your pooch in a crate at night, make sure you’re in the same room at first so that you can monitor their reaction and act accordingly. You can keep your puppy in a separate room later when they’re more used to crating. Remember never to leave your pup in the crate for more than 2-3 hours without taking them out to toilet – even at night.
The trick to crate training your puppy is ensuring you don’t leave them in the crate for longer than they can handle. 2-3 hours is the ideal time to crate a fully trained puppy before letting them out to play or toilet.