Training your puppy using a crate can be a great way to help encourage house training such as not chewing or eliminating inside.
For some, crating may seem like an extreme measure but is not as harsh as it may first appear to be.
Wild ancestors of the domesticated dog would use a den as its home. Dens would be provide a small, safe space to sleep, retreat and for mothers to raise her young. As this is a natural instinct, a new puppy or dog is likely to feel safer in a smaller confined space.
However, successful crate training is hugely dependant on the right approach. An important part of which is effective introduction of the crate to your new dog or puppy.
What is crate training?
Essentially, crate training is utilising the confines of a cage to manage behaviours, aid training and establish routines with a new dog or puppy.
Crate training is also particularly effective for toilet training puppies and dogs. Due to replicating a natural sleeping den, your dog will instinctively not want to soil this area. This ensure less accidents and the opportunity for you puppy to quickly grasp the concept of relieving itself outside.
This method isn’t a fool proof method though and much like any other puppy training method, it requires an owner’s dedication and persistence. Moreover, do expect that crate training puppies at night can be as challenging as any other method.
Which is the best puppy crate?
There are a wide variety of training crates to choose from and which you choose will depend on the specific breed of dog you have.
The most popular and durable option is a metal crate with a plastic base. Metal cages are popular for good reasons – they are easy to assemble and disassemble, easy to clean, provide plenty of ventilation, escape proof and give much needed visibility to what you pup is up to (plus they can see you too!).
The size of the crate is a very important factor, especially for growing puppies. Your dog needs to be able to stand up, easily turn around and lie down to sleep when inside the crate. However, you should avoid the space being too big that an area is far enough away from the sleeping section and so used as a toilet!
For puppies which will grow into large breeds, you can purchase a large crate and use a divider to make a suitably sized den. This way you can adapt the crate to each stage of your puppy’s growth, without having to buy several different sizes.
Puppy Crate Training Steps
Any training method is only as good as the process being following. To ensure success with crate training, it is vital that the crate is used correctly and no negative association is created.
Therefore, if you would like to succeed in crate training your puppy and building a strong early relationship, you would do well to adhere to these important instructions:
- Never leave your puppy or dog crated for more than two-three hours at a time
- Allow plenty of regular intervals outside of the crate for exercise, play and toilet
- Never use the crate for punishment
- Cease crate training as soon as your dog has mastered house training. After this, you can keep the crate as your dog’s sleeping area if you wish, but ensure the door is always open
To ensure the crate becomes a safe and positive place for your dog to relax in, you will need to create a positive association with it.
This is a gradual process where you leave the crate door open and allow you dog to investigate and only step inside of its own free will. Once inside, do not immediately shut the door. Instead, use positive praise, encouragement and treats.
To assist this process and make the crate as inviting as possible, put a blanket inside, which has both your smell and your puppy’s smell on it. Alternatively, you could place a favourite toy, treats or bone inside.
Increase Crate Use
Once your dog has been successfully introduced, start to feed your puppy its regular meals inside the crate. This will help establish that much need positive association.
Now you can gradually introduce shutting the crate door each time your pup eats its meal. Then overtime, build up the time between your puppy finishing its dinner and you opening the crate door.
When you get to a stage when your puppy is settled for a period of 10 minutes or more with the crate door closed, you are ready to try a separate and longer period of crating.
Similarly, you need to gradually build up the time that your dog is enclosed in the crate.
When you feel your pup is relaxed enough with longer periods in the crate, the next step is to remove yourself from the environment in preparation for night training.
Overnight Crate Training
It may take you a few days or even a few weeks to establish a positive and relaxed association to the crate. However, only when you have achieved this, can you move on to leaving your dog overnight or for extended periods in the crate.
On the first night, keep the crate close to you and gradually increase the distance over a period of time.
If your puppy whines whilst in the crate, don’t ignore it until you are sure they are not telling you they need to go toilet. Calmly take them outside to eliminate and if they do not go toilet, you can ignore the whining until it ends. Remember, a puppy needs to be given regular toilet breaks as they cannot hold their toilet for as long as an adult dog can.
Furthermore, be sure not to leave your dog alone each time you crate them. This will undo all of your earlier work and create an association of being alone with the crate.