Crate Training Your Puppy
Many new puppy owners, wanting to get off to the right start, wonder why they should crate train their puppy. After all, locking your brand new puppy into a small wire box doesn’t seem very “friendly,” does it? In reality, it can be one of the best choices a new owner makes, assuming it’s done correctly.
What the crate IS NOT: a doggie sitter for the puppy. It’s not meant to be used all hours of the day and night, as this would be bordering on cruel.
What the crate IS: a perfect tool for housetraining and limiting destruction. Without being maintained in a smaller space, a puppy can easily wee, poo, and chew his way through a whole home, if left to his own devices!
One of the key components for housetraining is complete supervision, so when you’re not there, the crate becomes your supervisor. It limits the puppy’s freedom until you can return, and since most puppies really do prefer to remain clean and dry in their bed, the crate works well. Most puppies will try really hard not to have an accident in their crate. To succeed, all an owner must do is make sure the puppy is comfortable in the crate, doesn’t have too much space (there should only be enough space for the puppy to stand up, turn around, sit, and fully lie down), and isn’t confined for too long at one time.
Adjusting to the Crate
Every puppy has to adjust to a crate in order to be comfortable in it. The goal is for the puppy to view it as a comfortable spot to go, and for most puppies, this is pretty easy to accomplish. Teaching your puppy a “Kennel” command from the very beginning is the best way to begin the process.
You want your puppy comfortable running in and out of the crate with no worries at all. This can be done by tossing a treat or two into the crate as your puppy watches. Say “Kennel” as you toss the treat and the puppy runs inside. Allow him to come back out and repeat a few times. Once he is eagerly running in and out, try closing the door briefly the next time. Wait just a moment and open the door to let him out. Gradually keep the door closed longer each time and return to the puppy to treat and release when he is quiet. In the matter of a day, your puppy will be running in and waiting quietly for cookies and thinking the crate is a great thing!
Crate training goes downhill if the puppy has a bad experience in the beginning such as being forced into the crate or getting frightened. Keep it all light and fun and full of cookies, and your puppy will take to it easily.
For a slightly more reluctant puppy, you can take a dab of peanut butter and place it on the back wall or floor of the crate or give your puppy a size appropriate Kong toy with a little peanut butter inside as a more special and longer lasting reward.
Length of Time
Next, we’ve got to discuss the length of time the puppy is in the crate. The general rule of thumb is 1 hour plus (maybe 1) per month of puppy, so a 2 month old puppy can likely go 2-3 hours at a time before he needs a potty walk. Puppies and dogs should really be given potty access every 4-6 hours, ideally, at any age. If you ask your puppy to go too long in between potty breaks, accidents will inevitably occur.
What can you do if you are gone for longer periods of time than that? Honestly, you’ll need to more creative. Can you come home from work to walk the puppy at lunchtime? Do you have a neighbor or pet sitter that can visit?
If not, you might consider using a puppy play pen instead of a crate. You can use an indoor potty system (like a simulated grass system or something similar) inside the puppy play pen while you’re away for longer periods of time.
Every puppy will bark…be forewarned! That first night home, and perhaps the first week even, your puppy will bark to try and get out of the crate. This will be most obvious at night time. Don’t be fooled into getting him out, talking to him, or returning to pet him! This will only make his barking worse, and you’ll be investing in lots of ear plugs.
At night time, don’t wait for him to bark to get him out for a potty break. Instead, set your alarm clock for halfway through the night. Then, get up and take him out. This way he gets a potty break, but he doesn’t learn to bark for it. You’ll get a much better night’s sleep this way!
Any other barking he may do, ignore it, and it will go away. He’ll learn that bedtime is for sleeping, and that’s it. That’s how you create a happy but quiet crate trained puppy.