Crate Training your Puppy

Question: Imagine you are living with a small child. You are unable to watch him for a few moments while you take a shower or cook dinner. Where will you put him so he doesn’t get into harm’s way?

Answer: You would most likely place him in a playpen or his crib.

It is the same logic with a dog. It only takes a moment for the dog to potty on the rug, chew a shoe, or do some other unwanted behavior. For this reason, it is important to provide a crate for your dog. Using a crate helps to prevent unwanted accidents of any kind. Your dog will see their crate as a safe place of their own. If properly trained, your dog will love their crate and seek it out.

Start by making sure the size of your crate matches your dog. There should only be enough room for your dog to go in, stand up, turn around, and lie down. Anything larger than this is too big. Many crates come with a divider to adjust for growing puppies. If you don’t have a divider, one can be made with pegboard and held into place with wire.

Dogs like to be near others. Try to put the crate in an area of your home where you often spend time. Once the dog enjoys the crate, you can move it to a more convenient location.

Get your dog accustomed to the crate by placing their food in the crate and allowing them to eat with the door open. If the dog is very timid, start by putting the food at the door of the crate and slowly moving it toward the back with each subsequent feeding. You should praise the dog for going in the crate, but never for coming out. You can also leave the door of the crate open and place treats and toys inside for the dog to discover.

When you feel your pet is ready to be in the crate with the door closed, close the door, lock it, and then open it immediately. He or she can come out when they are ready. Slowly increase the amount of time the dog is locked into the crate. You may want to vary where you are while the dog is crated; sometimes you should be in the room with them, or in another room, or outside. If every time the dog is crated they are left alone in the house for hours, they will associate crating with separation from the family. In some cases, they may not enjoy crating or may even become anxious and destructive.

This reinforces bad behavior. Wait for the instant they stop barking before opening the door.

The only thing that should be in the crate with your dog is an indestructible toy. Rawhides and soft toys can pose a choking hazard for pets if they are not attended while chewing on them. Placing food or water in with them can cause them to have accidents. There should not be bedding of any kind if you are housebreaking your dog. Bedding can be pushed aside after being soiled causing setbacks in housebreaking. Bedding is not needed by dogs and can be torn apart and ingested, causing injury.

When done properly, crate training your dog benefits you both. You will have a place to put your dog so that you needn’t worry about them when you can’t watch them and they will have a safe place they enjoy that is all their own.