Are you getting a new puppy and wondering whether or not you should crate train them? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is crate training?
Crate training is when you have a designated crate to help not only potty train your pup, but to also give him his own den to go to for sleeping or resting purposes.
It can also be used when you’re away from home for a short period of time to make sure your puppy — and your home — is safe from accidents or destructive behavior.
Crate training is an amazing tool to make sure your puppy gets the structure he needs to adjust to life in his new home.
Benefits of crate training your puppy
“I think if you are getting a young puppy it’s a great decision to try and crate train your pup,” Shelby Semel, head trainer at Animal Haven rescue in New York City, told The Dodo. “It’s great for bladder control/house-training, management, safety, and travel.”
According to Semel, there are many times where having a crate-adjusted pup is going to help reduce anxiety or stress all around. Situations can include:
1. Someone comes into your home who’s scared of dogs — like a maintenance person or plumber
2. Your puppy just had surgery and requires rest
3. Your puppy chews wires and you can’t keep an eye on him while you’re working from home — and he knows how to escape from a playpen
4. You have a pup with separation anxiety who may hurt himself when left alone
“Having a crate as a safe space can provide you with many options in many circumstances,” Semel said.
How to crate train a puppy
When you start the journey to crate training, you first need to get one!
You don’t want the crate to be too big, because that’ll encourage your puppy to use a corner of it as a bathroom! A good rule of thumb is to make sure your pup can turn around in it and lie down, but no bigger than that. (Adjustable crates are great for this, because you can make their space bigger as they grow.)
You can get a crate like this one from Petco for $16.99+
After that, Semel has shared some steps to help make the crate training process as seamless as possible:
Make sure all your puppy’s physical and mental needs are met
According to Semel, your puppy will have a hard time enjoying his crate if he really needs to go to the bathroom, if he’s full of crazy puppy energy, or if he’s bored — so make sure you’ve addressed these issues prior to starting training.
Load up the crate with exciting things
Of course most puppies prefer to be roaming around or hanging out close to their owner. However, according to Semel, this is usually not safe unless you’re literally keeping an eye on him at all times, as free-roaming young dogs tend to have house training accidents and chew things they’re not supposed to. “To ensure that your dog enjoys hanging out alone in a confined location, we need to build positive associations to their crate,” Semel advised.
To do this, Semel suggests that while your puppy is watching, you place his favorite things in the crate and close the door (while your dog’s still outside it).
These things may include favorite toys, but should also include high-value food rewards. “Let him explore outside around the crate, and look in and see all the amazing things that are inside the crate that he currently cannot reach,” Semel said. “This helps build your puppy’s desire to go in the crate!”
Open the door and let your puppy in
When he’s really interested in the crate and trying to get inside — pawing at or scratching the door, lots of sniffing — open the door and let him go in.
Semel advises that it’s important that you don’t force him in the crate — let him explore at his own pace! “Prop the door open so he isn’t shut inside,” Semel said. “If he runs out of cookies in the crate, simply toss some more in. If your pup leaves the crate, close the door behind him and reload with more treats. Wait for him to really want to go back in again, and open the door. Repeat, repeat, repeat!”
Shut the door
When your pup seems to want to spend more time in the crate than out, begin shutting (but not locking) the door.
“If your puppy wants to come out, that’s fine!” Semel said. “Just close the door behind him and reload the crate with your tasty yummies.”
According to Semel, the goal is to get your puppy to realize being inside the crate is more exciting than being outside it. “When your pup is comfortable with the door closed, begin locking it and giving him something longer-lasting to chew, such as a stuffed Kong, or similar. He’ll be learning that sometimes crating lasts a while,” Semel said.
Leave your puppy alone
When your puppy is comfortable with being crated for a few minutes, you can start leaving him alone. “Just for a little bit!” Semel said. “Choose tasks that will only take you a couple minutes — bring the garbage to the chute, fix yourself a drink, and return.”
“We’ll be teaching the pup that when he’s crated, sometimes you leave, but you always come back and it is not a big deal!” Semel said.
In regards to timing, you should be able to leave your puppy in his crate for as long as he can hold his bladder, with a rule that you’ve given him plenty of exercise before going inside. You can start with keeping your puppy in his crate for two hours, and gradually work up to four.
If you need more help on crate training your puppy, reach out to your veterinarian or a dog behaviorist for more individualized tips!
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