Crate Training Your Puppy [Back to Training Tips]
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Crate Training is an essential part of your puppy’s first few days home and it’s importance carries on into their young adult life. The crate is their home, their den, and their quiet place where they go to feel safe and secure. It is our job to create that experience for them! The crate also helps with housebreaking.
The first few nights home your pup may cry. It’s the first time in their short lives that they haven’t been with their brothers and sisters. I keep the crate next to my bed to help provide comfort. If the pup cries, I stick my fingers in the crate and comfort them. If they cry at 3am, it is probably because they have to go to the bathroom! Take them out, praise them for going outside, then put them back in the crate. They will probably continue to cry, but here is the golden rule, NEVER give in! Don’t let your pup sleep in bed with you or let them out when they cry. You’re just teaching them that crying and barking gets them freedom. After a few tough nights, the pup will learn to be quiet in the crate and fall asleep. Before bedtime, I always take the pup for a long walk. This will tire them out and increase your odds of a more quiet night ahead. On a side note, I don’t give the puppy water after 7pm or so. By doing this, you can be sure the puppy has an empty bladder before bedtime!
There are a ton of options for picking a crate, but I suggest a large enough crate that will allow the puppy to grow into it. Choose a style that comes with a “divider” piece that will allow you to section off the crate and increase the room the puppy has to move around as it grows. The key to crate training is to provide enough space for the puppy to stand up, turn around, and lay down. If they have too much room, they will go to the bathroom on one side of the crate and sleep in the other. This is not ideal! A puppy wants to keep it’s home clean. It doesn’t want to sleep or stand in it’s own mess, so by leaving just enough space to sleep, you will create good habits and prevent accidents.
Give your pup something to chew on when they’re bored in the crate. Nylabones and peanut butter filled Kong toys are great! Steer clear of toys they can shred and ingest. You don’t want to come home to a sick puppy that ate their teddy bear or rope toy! I don’t put blankets in the crate, and I understand this is controversial. The only time I put something in the crate is during the first few nights. I like to will wear an old t-shirt around in order to get my scent on it, and put it in the crate for the pup to snuggle up to. After they get over the crying at night stage, I pull everything out and leave their chew toys. Again, the pup will get bored and shred anything that stays inside the crate!
To teach the “Kennel” command, which means, go inside your crate when told to, I use a light leash and easy to swallow treats like cheese or small bits of hotdog. I make a game out of it! I get the puppy going inside and then praise them with the treat immediately. I don’t make them stay in the crate long before I pull them out and repeat the process. I like to keep the tempo up so they’re moving quickly and excited to run inside and get the next tasty treat! Even when I’m not doing these short, 2 minute training sessions, I say the word Kennel every time I put the pup inside. Repetition of the command, treats, and feeding them inside the kennel will help let the puppy know that the crate is their home!
Lastly, do not make the crate a punishment place or “time out” location. Dog’s don’t understand that concept! If you follow these steps you’ll have a dog that loves it’s crate, is easier to housebreak, and will stay out of trouble when you’re not giving it your undivided attention!
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