Crate training is a fantastic idea and has huge benefits while raising your puppy and all through your dog’s life. Here are our simple guidelines on how to get started with crate training your puppy, or adult dog :
Getting set up
The crate should be large enough to allow the pup to lie down, stand up and turn around in comfortably, but not large enough to let the pup relieve itself at one end and sleep at the other.
Bear in mind as well, the size the puppy will grow too. If you do buy a bigger crate, simply block off part of it with a chew-proof obstacle until the puppy grows into it. This is much cheaper than buying several crates. You can use a something like a cardboard box/cooler bag to make the crate smaller.
Make sure that the crate is inviting before starting the training. Put in a favourite blanket or toy and make it comfy and inviting. Be careful not to put in too many blankets or it may make the crate too hot.
Start off by throwing in a nice tasty piece of food. Make sure your pup is hungry when you do this! If the pup prefers toys to food, then simply substitute a toy instead. Practise this over and over; at this stage don’t attempt to close the door. As the puppy is going in and out happily, you can add a cue, such as ‘bed’ or ‘crate’ or ‘house.’ Whenever it is sleep time for your puppy, take him/her to the toilet first, then simply pop him in as described above, and let it have its sleep inside, remembering to take puppy straight out to the toilet on waking.
Closing the door
When your puppy is happy with being in the crate, you can start closing the gate. Do this for short periods initially, always starting with a treat and leaving a nice chewy distraction inside to keep them occupied. You can slowly make the time period longer.
What is very important here is that if your pup is crying or pining to get out, that you do NOT take the pup out till it is being quiet. If you take the pup out whilst a noise is being made all you are achieving is having the pup train you that ‘when I make a noise and cry, mum and dad let me out or come and see what I am doing!’ If the pup is barking, whining etc, simply ignore it (keeping an eye on the crate) and praise and take the pup out as soon as the noise stops.
When to Crate?
Having a puppy, or adult dog that’s comfortable in it’s crate has so many wonderful benefits. Use your crate for toilet training young pups through the night, use it for safe containment when you can’t supervise, or for a gentle timeout with a nice chewy treat when the mischief gets too much! It’s also a safe space for your dogs to retreat to when there’s something disruptive or stressful going on on your house – like builders, or a dinner party with lots of noisy guests!
If you haven’t already, you should also read What is Crate training? (and why it’s amazing!)