Crate training is a popular way of encouraging puppies to hold themselves for longer periods of time and of keeping them safe when unsupervised. Used correctly, a crate becomes a favorite place for sleeping and/or quiet time but keeping a puppy or a dog in a crate for too long can also inadvertently encourage them to toilet where they sleep, increasing the potential for anxiety problems to develop. If you use the crate correctly, it can be a highly effective toilet training tool as well as a comfortable den.
Some puppies love their crates while others need time to acclimate. Introduce your puppy to her crate by leaving the door open so she can investigate, and make the crate comfortable with bedding and safe toys. Encourage her to go into the crate by throwing a favorite treat or chew inside. If your puppy decides to settle, allow her to do so without closing the door so she can make her own decision about whether to stay or leave.
Once she is comfortable going into the crate, begin closing the door for a few seconds at a time, gradually building up the duration as long she is relaxed.
At this stage you can give your puppy a durable rubber chew toy with some food in it so that she has the pleasure of chewing and eating while she is in the crate. Start putting space between you and the crate, gradually increasing the distance while puppy is settled. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, but it’s important not to rush. If your puppy begins to whine, make sure you only let her out when she is quiet. Wait for five seconds of quiet before you open the crate door.
Each time puppy goes into her crate, pair her decision with cue words such as 'go to bed.' This builds up an association between the cue and the action of walking into her crate. Building up a positive association with puppy’s crate also means you can travel more successfully with her in the future.
This whole process can be used to help adult dogs acclimate to a crate too, but remember that some pups and dogs do not adjust well to being confined in this way and do better in an enclosed pen or a puppy proofed room in your home.
Crate training is a popular way of encouraging puppies to hold themselves for longer periods of time and keeps puppies safe when unsupervised. If you use the crate correctly, it will become a safe space for your puppy as well as a highly effective toilet training tool.
Quick tips on How to Make the Crate a Nice Place to Be:
- Make the crate comfortable with bedding and safe toys.
- Leave the door open to the crate so your puppy can investigate inside.
- Encourage your puppy to go in the crate by throwing a favorite treat or toy inside.
- Do not close the door to the crate until your puppy is comfortable and relaxed in the crate.
- Begin closing the door for a few seconds at a time, gradually building up the duration as long as your puppy stays relaxed.
- At this stage, give your puppy a durable rubber chew toy with some food inside while in the crate.
- Do not rush this process – gradually increase distance between yourself and the crate.
- If your puppy whines or barks, wait until she is quiet before opening the door to let her out.
- Feeding your puppy’s meals in the crate will help build a positive association.
- Your puppy should always have access to water.
What Not To Do
- Never force your puppy inside the crate.
- Never use the crate as a punishment when puppy misbehaves.
- Do not rush the crate-training process or you will end up with a puppy that is fearful or wary of the crate.
- Do not leave your puppy in the crate for longer than she can hold herself. Doing so will force her to have accidents and make the house training process a lot harder.
How to Crate Train Your Puppy
As with most teaching, successful toilet training depends on consistency and repetition. Creating a recurring schedule that everyone in your household follows is crucial to helping your pup learn what is appropriate and what is not. Here is a typical schedule you can use to crate train your puppy but is a general guide only and can be changed to fit your specific needs.
- 8am Take your puppy out of the crate to toilet as soon as she wakes up. (when she is very young you might have to get up during the night to let her toilet.)
- 8:30am Feed your puppy the first meal of the day. Leave the food down for twenty minutes and pick up any leftovers. Take pup outside or to her pad immediately after eating and give her time to toilet again.
- 9am Your puppy can now have supervised free time in the home as long as she has toileted.
- 9:30am Take your puppy to her crate for an unsupervised nap or some play time.
- 10:30am Take your puppy out to toilet again if she is awake.
- Noon If your pup is eating three meals a day, feed her at this time. When she is six months old you can reduce feeding to twice a day. Leave the food down for twenty minutes and pick up what is left. Take her out to toilet immediately after feeding.
- 12:30-2:30pm Puppy goes back into her crate for a nap, play, or chew time.
- 2:30pm Take your puppy out to toilet.
- 3-5pm Give your puppy half an hour of full supervised home access only after she has toileted and follow that with unsupervised time in the crate.
- 5pm: Give your puppy the last daily feeding. Leave the food down for twenty minutes and remove any food that remains. Take her out immediately after feeding to toilet.
- 6pm till bedtime: Use a mixture of crate and supervised free time in the home, and/or access to outside for toilet breaks.
As your puppy grows, you will find you don’t need to take her out as often. As a general rule, puppies at rest can hold themselves for up to one hour for every month of age. Vigorous play or other stimulation can reduce this time. Crate time can happen throughout the day, but it should not last longer than your puppy can cope with, which will depend on your puppy’s age and the progress she is making. Keeping a pup in a crate for too long will cause accidents, inappropriate chewing, and anxiety.
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