Crate Training Your Puppy

One of the most exciting things in life is bringing home a new puppy. They’re tiny, soft, adorable, and you always fall in love at first sight. But beyond those cute looks and playful antics is a living being with needs—and those needs are our responsibility as pet parents! Puppy training takes a lot of work and you want to make sure you get it right.  Puppies that aren’t trained and are left to their own devices often experience behavior issues as they get older. Now, incidents can and will happen with pets as anyone pet parent can attest to, but with the right training, those incidents can be minimized.

Crate training is one effective tool for house training a puppy. While many people think that a crate is used as a form of punishment for a dog, it can actually be a very safe, effective, and comforting tool.  If doggy parents introduce a crate as a safe place the puppy can go for quiet time, individual play time, or sleep, the dog is unlikely to view their crate as someplace scary or negative.  Your puppy should never be sent to their crate in anger; they should be corrected and trained away from the crate so it can remain a safe place.  Dogs, even puppies, understand the different tones in our voices, so make sure you are communicating clearly to avoid training confusion.

When potty training puppies, many consider the crate an invaluable tool. The crate should fit the puppy or dog’s size.  It should be big enough for them to lie down and turn around, but not so big that they can pace around in it. This is important because animals instinctively avoid relieving themselves in the same space they eat or sleep in.  If the crate is too big, the puppy can simply relieve himself on one end of the crate and sleep at the other.  So keep it close to his or her size!

Since our goal is to housetrain and make the crate a safe space for your puppy, outfit it with soft blankets or a cushy dog bed.  You can put her favorite toy inside as well.  All these “creature comforts” will help to make the puppy feel as though they have their own nest.  If you are just starting your training, you can line the bottom of the crate with puppy potty-pads before arranging the blankets.

Start by placing yummy puppy treats inside the crate and letting your puppy eat it inside. Close the crate door while he eats it and sit there with him for ten to fifteen minutes. You can repeat this method several times throughout the day, making sure to take your puppy outside for bathroom breaks. Always praise him liberally when he relieves himself outside.

Eventually, move yourself to another room after you close the crate. Your puppy should begin to associate the confines as a safe place to eat his treats, even without your presence.

Always take your puppy outside immediately after crate time/training so they can relieve themselves and be praised for it. If you let your puppy out of the crate and then go grab her leash and collar, you might return to find she’s already relieved herself on the carpet. And you don’t want to punish her because she doesn’t know any better yet, right?  Keep your leash and harness/collar handy when you open the crate.

Puppies need frequent bathroom breaks and shouldn’t be left in crates for too long. For puppies under 2 months, let them out every 2 hours.  Between 2 and 6 months, 4 hours should be the longest they go.  If they are 6 months and up, you should have a pretty good idea as to what their bladder and bowel limits are, so plan their “out” time accordingly.

After your pup is comfortable taking treats and being in the crate by themselves for a short period of time, you can start feeding their meals inside it, too. It may take da

ys or weeks for a puppy or dog to adjust to crates, but persistence and patience will pay off. The crate can become a place they enjoy sleeping in or feel safe in—great for dogs with separation anxiety.

Housetraining takes time, which is why it’s important that puppies go home with families who have the time to dedicate to puppy training. However, crates shouldn’t be overly relied on. If you’re gone all day, a doggy day care may be a better option when your puppy gets a little older (after they get their rabies vaccine at 4 months).  Dogs need exercise and being cooped in a crate for more than 6 hours can be unfair to them. If you crate your puppy or dog at bed time, keep the crate close to your bed, whether it’s the hallway outside your door or inside the bedroom. Dogs are social creatures and being isolated for hours at a time can make positive crate relationships turn sour.

As always, we are here for your questions or comments when it comes to crate training or any other canine questions you have!

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