(or any dog – because you CAN teach an old dog new tricks)
Most dog trainers will tell you, a crate is the best place for your puppy to stay when you are away for any length of time. It keeps him safe, prevents him from chewing on things, and aids in house training. Crates are portable, so the training also prepares your pup for automobile rides in his crate. Sometimes, a crate can be a comfortable and peaceful place for a pup to retreat and relax (ie: holidays when the house is noisy and crowded). Once your pup is no longer tempted to chew on such things, a blanket draped over the crate will help contribute to privacy and act as a sound buffer. Thus, the crate should always be available, with the door open, for your pup to come and go as he pleases, even after he has earned the freedom to remain uncrated while you are away.
Following these tips will speed up acceptance of the crate. They will also assist in potty training, as dogs typically will not potty where they sleep.
Tips for successful Crate Training:
- Introduce the crate by setting it up in the desired location and leaving the door open (when your dog wanders in on his own, leave the door open and let him come out freely).
- Make sure the crate is sufficient in size: your dog should be able to stand up, turn around, and stretch out in the crate.
- Make the crate cozy & inviting; place a properly fitting dog bed or blanket inside (spritz a little Bitter Apple on it if puppy is prone to chewing). Perhaps include something that smells like you, such as an old t-shirt or pillow.
- Make the crate a magical place; have yummy treats “appear” in the crate when your pup is away & let him discover them. Do not close the door when he enters to go after the treat. You can also feed your pup his meals in the crate, leaving the door open, to increase his enjoyment of and comfort in the crate.
- Next, toss his favorite treat or chew toy inside – while he’s looking – and close the door. He will clamor to be allowed inside to get to the goodies. Always reward your pup for using his crate.
- In preparation for instructing your dog to go to his crate on command, say your verbal cue every time your dog enters the crate, ie: “Go to bed” or “Go to your crate”. It doesn’t have to mean anything to him at first, but your pup will start to associate the phrase with being in his crate. Keep it positive & cheerful.
- Start closing the door for short intervals (30 seconds, then a minute, then a minute 30 seconds, etc.) while your pup is inside. Make sure there are treats, a Kong, something he enjoys, in there with him. Stay with him. Gradually increase the time that the door is closed, still staying with him. It’s also a good idea to start taking his collar off; it should not be on him when he is crated unsupervised, and, your pup will start to associate the process of removing his collar with going to his crate. Routine is good 🙂
- As the duration of your pup’s time in the crate increases, begin to increase your distance from the crate, and eventually leave the room, then stay out of the room for longer periods of time.
- This process can take hours or it can take days. Be patient and do not rush these steps!
- A few toys and a Kong stuffed with yummy treats should be provided when you leave your dog for extended periods of time (but no more than 4 hours at a time for puppies), giving him mental stimulation and things to do while you’re away.
- Use the crate regularly, not just when you are going to be leaving the house for a while. Don’t cause your dog to associate being crated with being left alone, which can cause negative associations and distress for him. That being said, don’t use the crate to keep your dog from being underfoot; your pooch loves you and wants to spend time with you.
- The crate should never be used as punishment, as this will cause your dog to think of the crate as a negative place, and you will have to start all over teaching him that it is actually a good place.
NOTE: If your puppy whines or barks when he is in the crate with the door closed, wait until there is a break in his whining, then let him out. Do not let him out as he begins to whine or before he settles down; this will encourage the whining or barking – it teaches the puppy he can get you to do what he wants when he makes a fuss. You don’t want that! Wait for even a 5 second break in the whining or barking, then open the door and let him out.
Need help with training or behavior modification? Contact us! Our training methods work because we start in your pets environment; your home. We provide one-on-one training with no distractions. Schedule an in-home evaluation to have a certified trainer meet with you and your pooch, prepare a thorough, written plan of action, and then help you meet your training goals through weekly Train ‘n Play Sessions and Personal Consultations.