Crate Training For Puppies
Puppies can get into trouble! Crate Training is a great way to keep your puppy safe until they are old enough to have more freedom, and teach them they always have a safe space to go.
Puppies can get into trouble. You might be worried about your puppy peeing on the floor while you’re cooking dinner. You may have thoughts about your puppy pulling down all the dish towels or chewing the rug while you’re in the shower. During a car ride to pick up groceries, your puppy might be digging around under the seats or chewing the seatbelt. Crate training is a great way to keep your puppy safe until he’s old enough to have more freedom.
What is the best type of crate for my puppy?
Wire crates are often less expensive, give great airflow for long haired dogs or families in humid/hot environments, and give you great visibility. Plastic crates can decrease visibility, which may be helpful in a distracting environment. There is also less risk of a puppy getting his foot or mouth stuck between bars, and plastic crates are easier to clean. Fabric or soft crates are lightweight for travel, but may be chewed or pawed open by an eager dog. I recommend plastic or wire crates for most puppies.
How do I introduce my puppy to the crate?
You can remove the plastic tray from a wire crate or take apart a plastic crate and use the bottom half for training. Use treats to encourage your puppy onto the tray or into the bottom half of the crate. Reward your puppy with a few treats, fed one at a time, once he is on the crate base. Repeat this process, and you should see your puppy eagerly leaping onto the tray or into the crate half.
You can use delicious chew items—such as a hollow toy stuffed with canned food—as a special object in the crate. You can later freeze these so that it keeps your puppy busy even longer. Introduce the chews outside of the crate. Once your puppy loves the object, you can give your puppy the object while he is in the crate. You can sit next to the crate in these early stages.
Another activity is to gently put your puppy in the crate and close the door. Rapidly feed your puppy treats one at a time, and gradually add in pauses between the treats. This is a great activity to do with your puppy’s meals—especially while you are watching tv or enjoying a movie.
Try to time crate/nap times for when your puppy is already likely to be tired after exercise/play and training times. This will help your puppy with the transition. Initially, it is a good idea to be nearby while your puppy is crated, so that he is not alone.
In and out
While your puppy may be small now, many puppies will grow large enough that you can’t just place them into the crate if the puppy is reluctant. There are many activities you can use to help your puppy learn to love going into the crate.
Find two types of treat. Both should be interesting to your puppy. You want one that is nice, and one treat that is very delicious. Toss in the lower-value treat and encourage your puppy to chase the treat into the crate. Once your puppy is inside, feed multiple pieces of the delicious treats, fed one at a time. Encourage your puppy to exit the crate (no treats needed here) and then repeat the game. Soon, you will see puppies running into the treat without any being tossed in.
Covering the crate with a sheet to reduce visibility can help some puppies. You want to be sure there is still some air flow. Note that some puppies will pull the fabric in, especially with a wire crate. Be sure to supervise.
If you feed your puppy in a bowl (see this page for other feeding ideas - hyperlink), you can feed meals in the crate. This will help your puppy associate the crate with these fun times of the day.
Avoid collars, harnesses, or clothing in a crate. There is a safety risk if this gets caught on the crate. Some puppies cannot have chews in the crate when unsupervised.
You can set up a camera at the crate so that you can check in on your puppy during any times you are not in the room, or if you are away from home. This can help you learn about how your puppy is spending his time, and if you need to make changes to help him be more successful. This can also help new puppy owners have peace of mind. If you see your puppy resting quietly, you may be more comfortable with your trips away from home.
Watch for signs of discomfort:
Keep an eye out for distress. Some puppies have anxiety about confinement or separation. Signs of distress may include prolonged vocalization, pacing, salivating, urinating or defecating when confined, or being frantic once you return. Puppies who are nervous about confinement or separation can learn to be confident, but will need a different and structured training program.
If you see your puppy being hesitant about entering the crate or avoiding you when it is time to crate him, do reach out for help. This tells us we need to try other activities to help your puppy be more eager and confident about his rest space.
Each puppy is different. We can use short, guided training sessions personalized to you and your puppy to help you progress.