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Crate training is an important part of your puppy’s development. You cannot be with them all the time and crate training them whilst they are a puppy and ensuring they like to be inside a crate is something you need to achieve early on in your dog’s life.
Crates are also helpful when housebreaking a dog because the dog thinks of the crate as their personal den and won’t want to go to the toilet there. Crate training can be tricky at first, but here are some ways you can make the process easier for your dog.
Before you begin crate training, you will need to find the best dog crate you can find that will ensure they feel right at home. If you have a small dog, you may want to search for a puppy crate that isn’t too large.
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Make the Crate a Safe Place
Your dog needs to associate the crate with safety and comfort. It’s important that the crate is well-sized for your dog, and that you put their favorite blankets and toys in there to make it a most enjoyable place.
It’s crucial that you never use the crate as a punishment. This will cause your dog to develop a negative association with the crate and start to avoid the crate entirely. This is the complete opposite of what you are trying to achieve by crate training.
Treats and Toys Inside the Crate
Your dog will likely be very wary of the crate at first, and that’s completely normal. The best way to get them to go into the crate at first is to lure them in with some small training treats or their favorite toys. Firstly start putting the treats near the crate, then just inside, and then finally at the back of the crate.
Crate training will take time and you cannot rush it because you will end up getting frustrating. The time you have invested in crate training will be worthwhile and you need to remember that it’s only temporary and it will all be over in a short period.
Reinforce with Meals
Once you’ve gotten your dog to be comfortable in the crate, it’s time to start reinforcing their time spent there with meals. Meals are a very positive association for dogs, so serving them meals in their crate will motivate them to go inside. Continue serving your meals at a regular time and using a regular amount of food.
At first, you should only keep your dog in the crate for a short amount of time, and increase it in very small increments. If you increase the amount of time your dog is spending in the crate too quickly, they will become stressed out and start to develop negative associations with crate time.
Wear Them Out
If you know you’re going to need to put your dog in the crate, be sure to take them for a walk and give them some quality playtime before you do so. The half-hour of exercise should be enough to tire them out and give them some much-needed stimulation.
If your dog is tired, they’ll be much more likely to want to go relax in their cozy crate instead of tearing up the house. It’s also very important to make sure your dog has gone to the bathroom before being put in the crate to reduce the risk of accidents.
Begin Crate Training at Night
Once your dog has mastered short periods of time in the crate, say up to an hour or two, it’s time to practice crating them for longer periods of time. If you’re running a short errand, try crating your dog while you’re gone to see how they react. This will train them to be comfortable in the crate when you’re not around.
You can also crate them at night when you’re there – that way, you’ll still be around to deal with any problems that may occur. Over time, you’ll be able to leave them alone in the crate for longer periods of time while you’re away. It’s important to note that your dog should not be crated for excessive periods of time – if you’re going to be gone for an entire day or more, it’s very important to get a pet sitter to take care of them.
Lots of Praise
It’s very important to always remember to be encouraging when your dog is using the crate, even if their behavior is frustrating. Remember that your dog won’t understand at first why they need to be in the crate, and that can be scary.
Once they understand and start to associate being in the crate with positive rewards, it will become much easier to get them to spend their time there. Use a friendly, calming voice, and be sure to praise your dog heavily when they do a good job.
Your dog looks to you for praise and reinforcement of their behavior, so it’s very effective to encourage them with your voice. It’s also important to make sure they get lots of playtime and bonding time with you when they’re not in the crate.
Developing a strong bond with your puppy will help them trust you more during the crate training process.
Puppy Crying in Crate
Crate training is going to cause your puppy to cry in the crate and this is as expected. Dog Separation Anxiety is the terminology given to this sort of behavior but with proper puppy crate training, you can overcome it.
If your puppy is crying in the crate, you cannot go to them whatsoever. It seems cruel and you may get upset but if you go to the crate whilst they are crying, they will associate crying with getting your attention and they will learn this pretty quickly.
The puppies’ first night in the crate is going to be a tough one and you will probably not get that much sleep. Crate training a puppy can be difficult but you need to keep telling yourself that its only short term.
Crate Toilet Training
As you can imagine, puppies are not toilet trained until they have been taught and when left for long periods, their small bladders can only hold so much. Therefore, crate toilet training may take some time but it is achievable with consistency.
When the puppy has used the toilet in their crate, you do not want to get mad as they can’t help it. Instead, you will want to clean the blankets straightaway so that they understand their crate is not where they use the toilet.
If you are not washing the blankets straightaway, they will think this is where their toilet is and continue using the toilet in their crate. On top of washing the blankets, you should ensure they are using the toilet just before they go into the crate and letting them out straightaway in the morning. This routine will be understood by the dog in time and your crate toilet training will be a success.
Crate training can be frustrating, but over time, the crate will become a happy and comfortable part of your puppy’s routine. It’s very important to make sure your dog’s day is balanced – they shouldn’t even spend their entire day in the crate, and if they’re well-behaved enough to spend time out in the house alone, you should let them.
It may be helpful to put them in one room with the crate, since dogs like to protect their space, and having too much open space to protect can be overwhelming for the dog. It’s also important to note that young puppies can’t hold their bladder muscles for more than three or four hours, so when they’re young, you’ll need to let them out of their crate frequently to go to the bathroom. If you need further assistance with crate training, be sure to ask your veterinarian for help.
Ian is an avid outdoorsman and dog lover. He lives in Central Florida with his wife Heather, and their 2 dogs – Panda (Purebread Rough Collie X English Golden Retriever) & Kuma (Blue Merl Purebread Rough Collie)