Puppy and Dog Crate Training
The thought of placing their new puppy in a "cage" isn’t appealing to most new pet parents. However, to your puppy, the crate is a very natural and comfortable experience. As a den animal, your puppy will likely feel safe and secure in small, confined area and a crate can act as an artificial den. It makes house training much easier and protects the dog and your home when you are not able to closely supervise your new companion. You will even find your puppy retreating back to the “den” for a nap if they are exposed too crate training from a young age as they will find comfort in having a place of their very own.
Selecting a dog crate
Finding the best dog crate for your pet mostly focuses on finding the right size for your dog and the material that will suit your needs best.
Dog crate size
A crate should only be big enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around and lie down in. For puppies, it is important that the crate not be big enough to allow the puppy to eliminate in one corner and sleep in the other as this will make potty training a more difficult task. To avoid purchasing a smaller crate when your puppy is small, and needing to get a larger one as it grows, you can opt to buy a crate that will fit your puppy when it is full-grown and then use a crate divider to make the crate the appropriate size. Similarly, if your crate didn't come with a divider, you can always use a box or other material, just make sure it's something that your puppy won't chew and ingest while unsupervised. As your puppy grows, you can replace the blocker with something smaller, so the floor space continues to be sized correctly.
Types of dog crates
Wire dog crates often fold flat for storage or travel but can be heavy. Since wire crates are open on all sides and your puppy will be able to see what is going on around them, getting them to feel secure and comfortable in their crate may be more difficult. To combat this you can cover the crate with blankets or a crate cover. By covering the crate, you will also be creating warms within the crate, which is great during cooler months, but be aware of this during summer and warm months.
Plastic dog kennels are more similar to a den since they feature more enclosed sides, so they may feel more secure for your dog. They are warmer inside, and many are airline approved. These plastic options are lightweight, but they are bulky to store or bring in a smaller car.
Soft-sided dog crates are light and portable, but may be more difficult to use when first crate training your puppy as they are not as stable for puppies who may be exploring ways to escape their crate. As your dog becomes more accustom to a crate, a soft-sided crate may be a good option.
Crate training a dog or puppy
Although your puppy instinctively wants a den, they may not immediately fall in love with their new kennel. Gradually introduce it to your puppy. Place a treat into the crate and allowing them to go in, eat it and come back out if they want to. Praise your dog each time they enter their crate. You can also feed your dog in their crate so they continue to associate it with something they enjoy. Don't close the door until your puppy seems very comfortable. Then, open it immediately. Gradually increase the length of time the door is closed until your puppy is comfortable staying inside.
Once your puppy is used to the crate, allow them to spend longer periods of time in it while you stay nearby. Never open the door of the crate while your dog is whining, barking, scratching, or doing anything you don't want to encourage. When you let your puppy out of the crate, do so nonchalantly.
It's important to remember that crate training is successful when your dog thinks it is their safe space. Never use the crate as a punishment and don't drag your dog over to it. Your puppy will react poorly to the crate if it is seen as punishment. Never allow children, or anyone, to tease a crated dog, bang on the crate, or enter the crate with the dog. The crate is your puppy’s private space and should be seen as a retreat.
Potty training with a crate
Since dogs are den animals, instincts encourage them to keep where they sleep clean by eliminating somewhere outside of this area. This instinct makes using a crate to help house train your puppy easier.
Advantages of using a crate during house training:
- No intermediary steps
- Uses dog's natural instincts to control bathroom habits
Disadvantages of using a crate during house training:
- Must go outside regardless of weather or time of day or night
- Dog must wait until parent can take them outside
With your dog safely kenneled, you can begin the process of house training. Anytime you are unable to actively supervise your puppy, place them in the crate with a toy or chew. Each time you take your dog out of the kennel, take them straight outdoors. Do not play with your pup until it has gone potty. Praise your puppy profusely, then play.
Some experts believe that puppies may not be developed enough physically to completely control their bladder and bowels until they are at least four months of age. While you will start your house training steps long before that, you should also keep in mind:
- Routine is key. A consistent schedule for eating, drinking and potty breaks is the key to establishing good bathroom habits for now and the future. Within 15 minutes of eating, drinking, waking or play sessions, your puppy should have the opportunity to go potty. If you don’t give them the chance, they will go anyway.
- Have Patience. Some breeds, especially certain toy breeds, are more difficult to house train than others. Patience and persistence are always important. Seemingly stubborn cases may actually be the result of a medical condition. Always talk to your veterinarian if you are having difficulty house training your dog or if your previously trained dog starts having accidents.
- Clean up after accidents. If an area of your house smells like a bathroom to your puppy, it is a bathroom. If you find an accident, use a stain and odor remover to reduce the chance of repeats.
Along with being a helpful potty-training tool, your dog's crate can be used as their safe spot to nap, decompress and feel safe throughout their life. However, getting your dog used to a crate is something that should start early in their life in order to allow them to become accustom to it. If you're looking for more help with your new pet, visit your local Petco.