Crate Training Success
There is a long-standing belief that crates are like dens for our dogs. BUT, there is a key difference that makes crates more challenging: dens don't have doors! Being confined can be naturally stressful, so we want to help our puppies out!
Choosing a Crate
Hard plastic or metal crates are best for young puppies. (Ensure any bars are close enough together that the puppy’s limbs will not get caught in them.)
Choose a crate large enough for your dog to comfortably lie down, turn around, and stand in. Many come with dividers that allow you to increase the available space for growing pups.
The crate should be not be so big that the puppy can toilet on one side and lie down on the other. (But bigger is generally better for housebroken dogs.)
Ideally, have two crates for your dog.
One crate in your bedroom.
One crate in the main living area of your home. It should be placed out of the way of heavy traffic, but within sight/smell of where people and dogs normally hang out. This crate may also have an exercise pen attached.
Making the Crate Awesome!
If you are not using kibble for a training session, feed your dog in his crate. You can leave the door open.
When you have a new toy or chew to give your pup, leave it in his crate for him to find there.
Occasionally toss treats in the crate when your dog isn't around so that he can "find" them when he wanders in.
Many puppies do better when their crate is covered. This limits what they can see and be distracted by. Experiment to find out if this is true for yours. (Be mindful that your puppy doesn't eat the cover.) There are official "crate covers", but you can also use a lightweight blanket, towel, or sheet. (Remember to give your pup a cross breeze!)
If you're using a wire crate with a plastic tray, you can reduce the noise the crate makes when it's walked in! Lay a towel between the wires of the crate floor and the plastic tray. (Less noise to keep you from sleeping or to startle your pup if they're cautious!)
Introducing the Crate
Partially fill a food toy, such as a Kong, with food your dog LOVES.
Place the food toy in the crate while your pup watches.
Let your dog eat the food while the door remains open.
If your dog brings the toy out of the crate repeatedly, smear or scatter the food on the floor of the crate, instead.
Repeat until your dog seems very comfortable in the crate with the door open. (Just 2-3 times for most.)
Repeat with the door closed. Open the door before your dog finishes the food.
Building Up Time in the Crate
The keys to crate training are keeping it positive and gradual.
Your puppy should be a satisfied, exercised puppy prior to going in his crate. We want to aim for times when our pup is likely to want to relax or nap. This means they should have pottied, been fed, received attention, and gotten a chance to play! As your pup gets used to the crate and matures, you can start to put him in with less prep.
Begin leaving your dog in the crate for longer and longer periods of time, with you further and further away from him. Think of crate training in 3 phases
"I'm right here": Start in this phase, sitting right next to your puppy's crate. Stay quiet and don't pay much attention to your puppy, just be there :)
"I'm busy": In the second phase of training, you'll walk around the room occasionally and be in sight of your puppy while he's in the crate. You're adding some action and some distance!
"I'll see you soon!": Finally, begin leaving the room and house entirely. A webcam or Furbo can be handy to make sure your pup is doing well while you're gone.
Sessions should ideally end before your dog starts crying.
Try to build on success; don’t move to longer times if he’s crying much. Make the next session shorter. You may also need to break your steps into smaller increments.
Even once your puppy can be crated happily home alone, continue to have occasional sessions when you are home. This way, your dog doesn’t associate the crate only with you leaving!
By following these guidelines, you can help your dog become independent and confident on his own as well as comfortable with being confined!
If your dog isn't making the progress you'd expect, contact us for help.