THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO CRATE TRAINING YOUR PUPPY (2023)
Many experts agree that crate training is an excellent way to improve your puppy’s life. But what is crate training, and how can it help your puppy?
A crate is a small space your puppy can be in for extended periods in your home. This gives them a ‘safe space’ to retreat to while helping with potty training as well. (The puppy will seek a place outside the crate to go potty.)
In This Article
- When Should You Start Crate Training a Puppy?
- What Are the Benefits of Crate Training A Puppy?
- When Should You Start Crate Training A Puppy?
- Crate Training Is Beneficial For Dogs of All Ages
- How Do You Train An Older Dog To Sleep In A Crate?
- How Do I Crate Train My Puppy? A Step By Step Process
- Crate Training A Puppy At Night
- How To Choose The Right Crate For Your Puppy
- What Not To Do During Crate Training
When Should You Start Crate Training a Puppy?We recommend crate training your puppy from 8 weeks old – so, pretty much as soon as you bring them home! This gives your puppy plenty of time to get familiar with their crate, which will help them feel more relaxed and settled in your home.
It’s a great idea to have your crate set up before the puppy even gets through your front door, so you can introduce them to their crate right away. Keep the crate open during the day, so they can go in and out of it as they please. Don’t keep them in their crate for long periods of time in the beginning, as they need to get used to it gradually.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF CRATE TRAINING?
Having a puppy crate eases many of the challenges of everyday life with a dog. The biggest motive for teaching a puppy to use a crate is that it’s an extremely handy tool for potty training a puppy. As a bonus, it’s also the easiest form of transportation when your puppy needs to visit the vet, when you need to travel to a friend's house, or when you’re going on a road trip – just close the crate and away you go!
To explain why crate training a puppy is so important, we’ve created a detailed list outlining the benefits. Let’s get started
1. Crate Training Helps A Puppy With HOUSE TRAINING
Crates are really useful for potty training. Puppies are very clean by nature, and they don’t like to be near their own urine-soaked space any more than you do.
That’s why selecting an appropriate crate size is essential for successful training. If you choose a crate that’s too large, your puppy may see this as an invitation to pee in one corner and sleep in another. By using a crate, you’re teaching your puppy to control their bladder and display clear signals to let you know exactly when they need to go potty.
When your puppy wants to go, they may whine and scratch at the crate. Whenever you see this behavior, it's important to act quickly by leading them to their designated potty area outside. Remember, they can’t hold on for long!
2. Crate Training Can Help With Separation Anxiety:
Crate training can really help puppies who suffer from separation anxiety. Unfortunately, the gradual return to normal after the Covid epidemic has made this condition more common among dogs. This is because pet owners were spending more time at home, but are now returning to their standard work schedule.
If you create a positive association with the crate, your puppy will want to use it more often. Soon enough, they’ll view the crate as a safe space to retreat to whenever they feel the need.
You can help create this positive association by offering your puppy food or a verbal reward for entering the crate. Remember, don’t rush things. To avoid overwhelming your puppy, their first sessions in the crate should be short – no longer than 20 minutes. You should also ensure your puppy’s had ample opportunity to go potty before entering the crate. This will help prevent separation anxiety, which is much easier to avoid than to untrain. (Take our word for it.)
3. Crate Training Can Help To Prevent Bad Behaviour In Puppies:
With a new puppy, you’ll need to be on your guard constantly. Of course, because you’re not superhuman, this isn’t always realistic. One of the biggest perks of crate training is that it provides your puppy with some much-needed downtime while you go about your day.
It’s not a good idea to leave your puppy unsupervised in their crate (even if it’s tempting). Puppies can become destructive when they’re left alone for too long without you around to entertain them. This is where a crate comes in really handy. If you give them a couple of toys, some food, and a comfy bed for them to rest while you’re gone, they’ll be as happy as can be in there.
4. A Crate Provides A Safe Space For Your Puppy
Just like us, puppies need their own space. Giving them an environment where they feel secure to retreat is essential for their overall happiness and mental health.
This is harder than it looks! All we want to do when we get a new puppy in the door is to round up our family and friends for playtime. Introducing a puppy to the family is a magical and exciting time, so organizing an impromptu family gathering is pretty tempting …
Not so fast, though. While exposure’s good for young puppies learning socialization, it can be stressful and overwhelming if it’s too much, too soon. That’s why a crate can be great, because it gives them a space to retreat to when they’re feeling stressed.
And because it’s their own space, it’s important not to physically remove your puppy from the crate when they have chosen to retreat there. (Think how it would feel getting dragged out of your bedroom for no apparent reason.) If you need them to come right now, it’s time to get some treats and entice them. That’ll encourage them to emerge on their own.
WHEN SHOULD YOU START CRATE TRAINING A PUPPY?
We recommend crate training your puppy from 8 weeks old - pretty much as soon as you bring them home. This gives your puppy plenty of time to familiarise themselves with their crate which will help them feel more relaxed and settled in your home.
We suggest having your crate set up before the puppy even breaches the front door so that you can introduce them to their crate straight away. Keep the crate open during the day so that they can go in and out of it as they please. It’s important that they’re not kept in their crate for long periods of time in the beginning, as this needs to be a gradual process.
CRATE TRAINING IS BENEFICIAL FOR DOGS OF ALL AGES
There’s no reason why an older dog can’t be crate trained - it just may take a little longer to train them than it would a puppy. Here are a few benefits to crate training an older dog:
- Safety and preparedness in the case of an emergency
- Safe transportation when going on road trips or visiting the vet
- Provides safe confinement during illness
- Provides a safe place for your dog to relax during stressful or overwhelming situations
Because they’re more set in their ways, it often takes more time for an older dog to get used to its crate than it does a puppy. For a puppy, everything’s new and exciting – there's no routine or habits for them to fall into. Older dogs are creatures of habit, and that’s why most of their training will involve helping them unlearn old habits and form new ones.
How Do I Crate Train My Puppy? Step By Step Process
Crate training a puppy takes time. How much time, though, depends on many factors – and it shouldn’t really influence how you train your puppy. You need to be consistent with their training, keeping patient and positive throughout your crate training puppy schedule. To enjoy the many benefits of crate training, proceed with the steps below … and whatever you do, don’t rush them!
1) Introduce Your Puppy To Their Crate:
Place the crate in an area of your house you’d like your puppy to spend most of their time in, such as the living room. Make the crate look as enticing as possible for your puppy. You might include a toy (or two), their food bowl, and perhaps a few treats scattered around the entrance and inside (to encourage them to enter). Never force your puppy inside, as they’re likely to resist. And when that happens, your training time will increase as well.
2) Feed Your Puppy Inside The Crate:
After introducing your puppy to the crate, begin feeding them regular meals nearby. This will help create a positive association. If your puppy’s feeling more confident, start slowly pushing their food bowl into the entrance of the crate, moving it a bit further back each time until they’re comfortable eating their meals fully inside the crate.
Once your puppy’s begun eating comfortably inside the crate, you can close the door behind them. When they’ve finished eating, open it again. After every successful feeding, increase the amount of time they spend in the crate.
3) How To Teach Your Puppy To Spend More Time in Their Crate :
When your puppy can eat their meals in the crate without showing any signs of anxiety or fear, you can start leaving them inside the crate for longer periods.The best way to encourage your puppy to spend time in their crate is by offering a reward. Start by calling your puppy over to the crate. Once they’re close, introduce a command such as “kennel” or “in”. Then, once inside, reward them with a treat and close the door behind them. Sit quietly near the entrance of the crate for 10 to 15 minutes before going into another room, which will get them used to being inside the crate on their own. Repeat this process several times a day, slowly increasing the amount of time you’re out of sight when they’re inside the crate. Once your puppy’s learned to sit inside the crate for longer than 30 minutes without whining, you can begin leaving the house for short periods of time.
It’s important to remember that a puppy under the age of six months shouldn’t be left inside a crate for more than three to four hours at a time - as they have weak bladders with little to no control.
Crate TrainING A Puppy At Night
Crate training your puppy at night follows pretty similar principles to regular crate training, however, it may be best to start by placing the crate in your bedroom or in a hallway nearby. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night, so you’ll want to place them somewhere you can hear them whining. Once your puppy is comfortable with falling asleep through the night beside you, you can start to gradually move their crate to your preferred location.
How To Choose The Right Crate For Your Puppy
There are many considerations when choosing the crate that best suits your puppy’s lifestyle. Some of your first questions should be: Where will you use the crate? Are you wanting to move the crate around a lot? Or are you hoping to use it as a training tool? Either way, you’ll be glad to know there are different crates to choose from, depending on your ideal activity.
Metal Crates For Puppies
Metal crates provide a sturdy, safe place for your puppy to roam. Metal crates allow for plenty of ventilation for puppies with thick coats that feel the heat – and your puppy can see you the entire time, which helps with separation anxiety.
The downside to metal crates is that they’re heavy, which makes them difficult to move around.
Plastic Crates For Puppies
Plastic puppy crates are more enclosed, offering more privacy and space for your puppy to spend on their own. If you have a puppy that needs to escape when they’re feeling overwhelmed or simply needs some downtime, a plastic crate could be the ideal choice.
Plastic crates are lightweight, as well as being easy to move and clean. Another major benefit is that puppies find it harder to escape from plastic crates, whereas wire crates can sometimes allow your puppy to pull a Houdini.
The only thing that you may need to be mindful of is that plastic crates don’t have as much ventilation as metal crates.
Soft-Sided Crates For Puppies
These types of crates aren’t for everyone. They’re more destructible than metal and plastic companions, making them the wrong choice for puppies who like to scratch and chew at their confines.
For crate-trained or exceptionally calm puppies of any size, though, a soft crate is a comfortable, lightweight travel option.
What Not To Do During Crate TrainingWhatever you do, don’t use the crate as a form of punishment. It’s important that your pup feels secure, safe and protected when inside their crate, which essentially acts as a haven for them to escape to when needed. If you start using their crate as a form of punishment, it will confuse your puppy, and they’ll most likely run away.
Don’t Leave Your Puppy In Their Crate For Too LongIt’s important to err on the side of caution when crating, because crating a puppy for too long during the day can cause serious separation anxiety issues. It may also have an adverse effect if your puppy starts holding on for too long during the day, or develops a habit of going potty inside the crate.
As we’ve mentioned before, it’s best to start slowly and increase their crate time over longer periods. Make a clear puppy crate training schedule, and stick to it.
Don’t let your puppy out of the crate because they’re whiningWhining is tricky. It’s hard to know if a puppy’s whining because they need to go potty, or simply because they want to be let out of the crate and have learned that whining will accomplish this.
Don’t Force Your Puppy Inside The CrateForcing your puppy inside the crate before they’re ready can have an adverse effect. They will most likely grow to fear the crate and run away, rather than treat it as a safe and relaxing space.
When it comes to crate training your puppy, the key to success is patience combined with plenty of positive reinforcement. With consistent training and well-planned strategies, you can teach a puppy to feel comfortable in their crate within one to three weeks of training.
There will be ups and downs during your puppy’s crate training, but success will come – in time. It’s important to remain patient during this entire process. Getting angry, frustrated, or aggressive with your dog will probably reverse your training efforts, and even cause them to mistrust you.
So as long as you remain calm and consistent in your training, your puppy will eventually reward you by getting the hang of using their crate. Before long, it will be like a second home to them!