How to Crate Train a Puppy
Experts recommend crate training for myriad reasons. First and foremost, crate training can make house training a lot easier on everyone. It’s also a good way to provide your dog with a “den,” a safe space for her to relax and feel comfortable.
Before you get started crate training, you’ve got to decide which kind of crate to purchase. There are several readily-available crate styles to consider:
- Plastic Crates (sometimes known as “flight crates” as they’re allowed on most airlines)
- Collapsible Metal Crates
- Fabric Crates with Collapsible Frame
Most dog experts recommend a collapsible metal crate for home, and a plastic crate if you plan on traveling with your puppy often. But how do you select the right size crate for your dog? Of course, you want a crate that’s adjustable so it grows with your dog. Most metal crates include a sliding ‘wall’ piece that can be moved back as your dog gets bigger; you want to situate the wall so your dog has just enough room to stand up and turn around inside her crate. It may feel too small, but don’t worry! A snug, cozy crate is best for you and your dog.
Steps to Crate Training
When you first bring the crate home, show it off to your puppy and make it as inviting as possible. Throw in her favorite toy, cover the bottom with towels, and generally act excited to show her the new den you’ve brought! If your dog is initially scared of the crate, toss in a few treats to entice her to check it out.
Once your puppy is comfortable eating treats out of the crate, start feeding her meals inside the crate itself. If she’s anxious, don’t force her! Put her food close to the front of the crate and give her plenty of time to warm up to the idea. Over a period of hours or days, move the food dish further back into the crate so she gets used to the feeling of being inside it.
When your puppy is happily eating meals inside the crate, it’s time to start crating her for short periods of time while you’re home. Start by first closing the door on her while she’s eating, then opening it immediately once she’s done. Add a few minutes each time, then eventually start crating for an hour or so at a time while you watch TV nearby or shower.
***NOTE: Once your dog is comfortable being inside the crate, it’s fine to start teaching her to sleep there at night. If she’s hesitant, move the crate close to your own bedroom so she can smell you; she may whine but as long as she doesn’t get too upset, leave her be.
Once your puppy will calmly stay (or sleep!) in her crate, you can start leaving her for short (2-3) hour lengths of time while you’re out. It is VERY IMPORTANT to take your puppy outside to eliminate immediately after letting her out of her crate. She’ll eventually start to associate her crate with a place to “hold it” and somewhere to rest, be safe, and clean. She’ll undoubtedly have a few accidents – remember, her body’s still growing and she may not be able to hold it for long lengths of time. She doesn’t want to be in a soiled crate any more than you want to clean one up! Eventually your puppy will fully learn the difference in going to the bathroom indoors and going outside, and crate training is a great tool for reinforcement.
A Few Things to Remember:
- You want your puppy to have a positive association with her crate. Never send her to her crate for punishment.
- The one thing you need lots of during crate training is patience. It’s a learning process for both of you, and it takes time to get it right.
- Never leave your puppy in her crate longer than 4-6 hours. Her bladder and bowels aren’t big enough to hold it that long. The more time she spends in her own “mess” without you coming to her rescue, the more afraid she’ll become of her own waste as well as her crate.
- Don’t make too big a deal out of anything that happens in her crate. She’ll be very excited to see you when you get home, but be casual as you greet her, give short praise, and let her outside. Likewise, don’t draw out goodbyes when you leave the house.
House training your puppy is a stressful experience, but it’s well worth it! Having a crate will make your life easier as well as make things easier on your pup. Who wouldn’t want a safe, comfortable space to call her own?
Send us pictures of your pet’s cozy crate on Insta! We love to see how our fellow dog owners are tackling crate training, too.