Crate Training Your Dog or Puppy
Crate training is so important! It’s not a punishment and many dogs prefer a smaller space they can have for their own. Here are a few key tips and things to remember when crate training your puppy or new dog.
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Choose the Right Crate Size and Type
There are a variety of crate options. The most common are wire kennels and plastic transport-style kennels. Some dogs prefer one type over the other. If you have friends with crates, see if you can borrow one of each type to try for a week before you buy one for your dog. There are also fabric pop-up crates, but these are best used for dogs that are already well crate trained since they can be easily chewed out of!
The crate should be just large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lay down in comfortably. If it’s larger, your pup may decide to use one area as a potty zone, which is not desired! If you’re getting a crate and you know your puppy will be growing and need a larger size, you can find crates with dividers so you can slowly enlarge the size to accommodate your growing furry family member.
Be sure to have a soft blanket, towel, or bed in the crate so it’s comfortable to lay in. If your dog chews up the blanket, rubs their nose raw trying to bury the blanket, or uses it to potty on, they may have to just lay on the crate mat alone. Some dogs even prefer this since it’s a cooler surface.
How to Start Crate Training Your Puppy
Initially, always have the crate door open so your dog can go in and out, exploring on their own. You may need to toss in treats or even offer meals in the crate to get your dog initially interested.
Be sure to remove their collar when they’re in the crate. The tags and clips in the collar can get caught in the crate and cause your puppy pain, stress, and even potentially strangle them.
Once your pup is comfortable with the crate, you can start closing and locking the door. Do this for short periods initially, just a few seconds, then open the door again. If your puppy or dog seemed relaxed, you can try to shut and lock the door for a longer period and leave the room.
If your dog starts to whine or bark, try to ignore them until they calm down and relax. If you immediately open the crate door, they’ll learn that crying or barking will get them out! If your dog starts to drool excessively, bite or chew on the crate wire, or digs frantically trying to get out, open the door and let them out. These are often signs of separation anxiety that need to be addressed first. Easing separation anxiety can take a lot of time, patience, training, and possibly medications to help them overcome.
Classical music can soothe dogs, so playing it may help your puppy adjust to crate training better. There are also stress-reducing pheromone diffusers that can help your dog relax.
Keep a couple of toys and a comfy bed or blanket in the crate. Many dogs and puppies like having something with their owner’s scent on it, so a worn t-shirt can also be added to the crate for comfort.
How long can my dog stay in the crate?
Remember from our House Training article, puppies can typically hold their bladder for 1 hour for each month old they are, plus one (so a 3-month-old puppy should be able to hold their bladder for 4 hours). This is the longest amount of time your puppy should be in the crate before they are let out for a potty break and exercise.
Adult dogs and pups over 6 months can often remain in the crate comfortably for 8 hours.
Like with all training, it takes time, patience, repetition, and rewards! Crate training can take months, so stick with it!
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