Beginners Guide For Crate Training New Puppies
A crate can be a tremendously useful and rewarding tool for you as the dog owner and your puppy. However, if done incorrectly, crate training a puppy can be disastrous and could be looked upon by your dog as punishment and not as their safe place.
Crate training puppies does take time and work, and patience, but if you do things the right way the first time, you will begin to reap the benefits early on.
Let’s have a closer look at a few things before we get into the actual section of how to crate train your new puppy.
Three Things to Keep in Mind
Now, it’s essential to keep some things in mind when you are crate training your dog.
1. Their Crate SHOULDN'T Be Seen as Punishment
When you look at a crate, be honest with yourself, and answer this question – What does it look like?
In all honesty, it looks like a cage.
You don’t want your dog to see their crate as a place where they go as a form of punishment.
One of the worst things you can do (and if you have, all is not lost!) is to shove them in and lock the door shut.
Any type of forcing and enclosing them in as they cry WILL NOT help in crate training your puppy.
All this will do is serve as reinforcement that they are being punished.
2. Their Crate SHOULD be Seen as a Safe Place for Them to Hang Out
What you do want is for your dog to see their kennel training as a fun thing.
Let’s put this in relatable terms.
When you think of children and their rooms, they are really like a big crate. Stick with us; we know it sounds funny and weird, but trust us, and you’ll see.
Now, if you were always forcing them into their rooms, forced them to go in there when they misbehaved, and locked them in there when you left the house, what do you think they would do?
That’s right – they would probably scream and yell to get out and try to break out through that door.
Are you starting to get the picture?
Your dog will bark and yell, and ALSO try to break out.
Let’s flip things here.
What if you allowed your children to gradually get used to going to their rooms, leaving them fun things to do in their rooms?
Closing the door for more extended periods increases the duration over time until they get used to it.
Now, imagine that you did this until they got used to it and didn’t make a big deal or fuss when you left the house, merely closing their door when you left.
Then upon returning to the home, you didn’t make a big deal about seeing them.
Do you think they’d likely stay in their rooms?
Yeah, now you are getting the idea.
3. Be Patient
How long does crate training a puppy take?
Some dogs will take easily to the crate, enter and stay there for more extended periods, and adapt to it faster than other dogs.
It honestly depends on how long it will take.
What’s important is that you stay as patient as possible and not force them during this training process. When you get forceful and impatient, what you may find is that your dog will see their crate as a form of punishment.
Once they start to view their crates as a place they go when they are bad, then guess what?
Yeah, they won’t want to go in there and won’t want to stay in there for very long.
How Big of a Crate Should You Get?
You should get a crate that is big enough to accommodate their size.
Your dog should be able to get up, stand up, and turn around easily in the crate.
However, it shouldn’t be too big that you find that they can relieve themselves on one side and then walk over to another side to go to sleep.
They shouldn’t be associating their crate as a place to go to the potty.
If your dog gets bigger, then you will need a larger crate to accommodate them.
Some places will allow you to rent a crate, which will allow you to get a bigger one and trade up as your dog grows.
If your dog is at its full size, then buying your crate will do.
Now On to How to Crate Train Your New Puppy
Phase One - Hello Crate!
During this phase, you will be introducing your puppy to the crate.
This is a time when you will need to exercise extreme patience. Your puppy will naturally be curious about what this mini structure is.
Place something nice and comfortable at the bottom of the crate for your puppy to lie down on, perhaps his or her favorite blanket.
Also, be sure to leave the door off or open on the crate. You want this open to ensure that your pup sees it as a safe place. You will eventually be closing the door, but for now, all you want to do is get them used to go into the crate.
As we mentioned earlier, you may be one of the lucky ones with a puppy that quickly takes to dog crate training. You just may find that some treats and toys will be enough to lure them into the crate.
If you are at this point, you can move on to the next phase; however, if you are not, you will need to keep introducing them.
Here are some tips for this phase:
Once they can walk in and out of the crate independently, you can start the next phase of introduction that calls for them to “hang out” in their new digs.
When your dog realizes that this kennel training is really to get them used to their new safe, cool, and fun “room,” then they will start to see this as a place they want to relax in for more extended periods.
Phase Two - Let's Chill!
Now that they have gotten used to going into the crate, what you will do next is ensuring that they see this as a place they can hang out in.
Place one of their meals in the crate and let them start to eat in there so they get even more used to the environment.
If they aren’t going into the crate, you can try another step, which is to start their meal times near the container, so that they begin to realize that this is their pad, that this is their cool room.
When they can get comfortable eating near their crate, you can now place the meals inside the crate.
Don’t force the issue, though.
If you find that they are not going inside to eat, then pull their dish closer to the entrance to the point that they ARE comfortable entering and eating.
Again, be patient. As your pup begins to get more comfortable, start pushing the bowl further and further back into the crate with each meal until your dog is entirely inside of the container and eating.
Phase Three - Shut It
Now that you have them eating their meals inside the crate, the next thing you need to do is get them used to staying inside the container with the door closed.
You will progressively do this until they begin to get used to eating and having the door shut for longer and longer periods after they finish their meals.
Keep in mind the comfort factor.
If you leave that door closed too long, too quickly, then they may start to whine.
For example, if you just got them used to eating in the crate and opened the door right after they ate their meal, then on the next meal left them in for 15 minutes after they ate, you may have increased the time too quickly.
You will have to start over and reduce the time, then gradually increase it.
Remember that this crate training process is about your puppy’s comfort, not your own.
It’s also important not to teach them behaviors you don’t want, inadvertently. For instance, if they start to bark or whine, don’t let them out right away.
You shouldn’t because it’s a patterned behavior that you are teaching that says a) if I cry, then b) they will let me out.
Don’t teach them this behavior.
Phase Four - Where the Bulk of The Training Begins
Now that they are going into the crate voluntarily during meals, crate training your dog now kicks into full gear.
At this phase, you will need to do some testing and tweaking.
What we mean by that is you will need to get them to go into the crate and leave them in there with the door closed for short periods.
Again, you need to be patient and adjust the lengths of time and increase the lengths of time during each stay in the crate.
The hope here is that they will start to see this as their safe place where they can hang out and relax for long periods.
Remember the example we used earlier of the child and his or her room?
Once a child sees their room as a safe haven to hang out in, it can get difficult sometimes to get them to leave.
This is the point you want to get your dog at, not that they never want to leave, but that they go in and stay in.
Note: While we are talking about staying in rooms too long, it's important to note that you don't want the same thing to happen with your puppy training crate.
Don't let them stay in the crate TOO long as you can run into other issues like a lethargic dog.
At this point, you should be able to leave your puppy in the crate for short periods.
If you will be crating your puppy when you leave the house, it’s important to do some further training that will involve you not letting your puppy know when you are going and staying.
For starters, if your puppy knows your routine of leaving, they may get hip to it and NOT want to go into their crates.
The following phase will help to address this.
Phase Five - Mix it Up!
You may want to crate your puppy when you leave the house, but what you don’t want to do is get them into a routine of knowing when leaving.
One of the things you can do to avoid this is to randomly crate them while at home. This ends up not signaling to them that you only crate them when you leave the house.
What you will also want to do is NOT signal when you are returning as well.
It’s a natural reaction to make a big fuss when you come home from work and see your puppy.
Well, if they are in a crate and you excitedly let them out and make a big deal out of seeing them, then you may be setting yourself up for more harm than good.
What happens in this situation is that you will find a puppy that gets anxious when you return and perhaps anxious in general when it comes to crate training.
If you follow these five phases, stay patient, and remember that crate training a puppy is all about their comfort and not yours, then you will be much more successful in this endeavor.
Now before we go, we want to address an area that is very relevant to crate training.
Crate Training Your Puppy At Night
You want a good night’s sleep. Right?
What you don’t want is to have to get up and clean up the mess your dog made from tearing up the furniture or chewing up your shoes.
This is why some dog owners choose to crate their dogs during night hours when they go to bed. There are some things that you will need to keep in mind when you do this.
One of the things is knowing when their cries to be let out are from actually having to use the restroom, OR because they are upset and want to come out.
The other thing you need to take into consideration is your frustration level when this occurs. You may think that yelling at them or hitting the side of the crate with loud commands will work, but honestly, this is just from being frustrated.
As you spent time and patience in training, you will need to do so during this time, though it may be more challenging because you will be getting up from being asleep.
While crate training can be beneficial for many different reasons, it can be trying and a tiresome task. Some things that you will need to remember as you go about this process are things like:
- Remaining patient and loving even if you don’t feel like it.
- This is all about your puppy’s comfort and not your own.
- Don't force the issue or allow them to see their crate as punishment.
If you can remember those three things as you proceed through crate training your dog, it will make things much easier AND make your life less stressful.
Who knows, you just may be one of the lucky ones whose dog takes to their crate quickly, but if not, love them anyway – they are worth it.
Additional Resource: Doggy Dan, The Online Dog Trainer