Crate Training 101: Tips for Crate Training Your Puppy or Dog.
Crate training provides owners with peace of mind during
those times when the owner cannot monitor the activities of their puppy or new dog. While
many articles online on the topic of crate training focus on crate training as a tool
for house breaking or potty training, this article is focused on how to make
the crate a natural cozy home for your new dog or puppy.
Dogs are essentially den animals by nature. In the wild, expectant mothers dig dens in
order to whelp and raise their new puppies.
These dens are rather spacious, and protect the puppies from the
elements such as summer heat, winter snow and rain, as the den maintains a
relatively constant temperature since is usually about one foot
underground. Here the puppies will stay
until they begin to walk and venture out short distances from the den, returning
to the den to sleep and nurse. With
proper introduction to his crate, your dog will naturally seek out his crate
for nap time, or in times of stress, for a safe haven cuddle up in.
Selecting His or Her Crate:
There are 3 basic types of crates on the market: soft sided crates, wire
mesh crates and plastic crates. The soft
sided crate is not appropriate for crate training, as the dogs will quickly
learn how to escape from it. The soft crate
is only appropriate for dogs who are already crate trained and comfortable in
their private den area. However, they
are great for travel and indoor containment of the well mannered dog, as they
offer configurable degrees of privacy through their mesh windows and fabric
The plastic or sheet metal sided crate offers den-like privacy
and is the only type of crate rated for air travel. The down side of plastic crates is that they
are not easy to disassemble and reassemble.
This is not a problem for small dog crates, but becomes an issue when
moving large dog crates within the home or on a trip from car to hotel room. Additionally, they cannot be reconfigured for
The collapsible wire mesh crate with a movable divider is
the preferred training crate for growing dogs and for travel with large
dogs. You will want to begin with a
crate that will accommodate your puppy when fully grown, but to be able limit
his sleeping area with a divider to an area that allows him to easily turn around
and stretch out. The puppy’s sleeping area should not be so large that it
provides him with enough space for him stake out two areas, one for sleeping
and one for eliminating. A puppy that gets into the habit of soiling his crate
will be very difficult to house break.
Privacy can be added to the wire crate by purchasing a fabric crate
cover or simply draping the crate with a sheet or towel.
Kennel-Up! On day
one, it’s a good idea to start by teaching your dog to enter his crate on
command. You can begin by saying, “kennel-up”,
“go to your crate” or any phrase of your choosing, and then tossing a treat
into the crate. Your dog will quickly find
going into the crate is a rewarding experience.
Initially let him come and go as he pleases. Repeat the training session several times
during the first day with 4-5 “kennel-ups” per session. If you plan on using clicker training, you
will want to click the clicker when the dog enters the crate to retrieve his
reward. Once he begins to enter the
crate on command, switch to treating him after he has entered the crate on his
own. As his understanding of the command
solidifies, you can begin to reward him intermittently.
Feed Meals in the Crate.
Give the command to kennel-up, and once the dog has entered the crate,
give him his food, and shut the crate door.
For young puppies, you will want to take them out for a potty break
within 30-45 minutes after the puppy has finished his meal. If you have multiple dogs, crate feeding is a
good way to prevent rapid eaters from muscling-out the slower eaters from their
Bedtime: If possible, we recommend bringing the crate to
your bedroom for bedtime to keep an eye on him and provide some extra comfort
in his new surroundings. As the dog becomes more comfortable in his crate, you
may choose to crate him in the evenings in another area of the house. Be prepared, you may have a night or two of
your dog or puppy “crying” himself to sleep.
Be careful not to let the dog out of his crate while he is fussing. Unless he is about to have an accident, only
let him out when he is behaving himself.
You can recognize a puppy or dog that is in need of a potty break, if you
see him turning in circles and looking at the bottom of the crate. In that instance carry him out for a potty (literally
if this is a young puppy), praise him for the potty, give him a short walk as a
reward and then return him to the crate for the evening. Remember to give him a small reward for
kenneling-up at bedtime as well. In the
morning, be careful to get your dog to his potty area immediately after leaving
his kennel. With young puppies, carry
them outside to avoid accidents on the way to the door.
A Few Words of Caution: While sleeping in the evenings, the
dog’s digestive system slows down considerably, allowing him to remain crated
for an 8 hour stretch. During the
daytime, dogs should only be crated a maximum of 4 to 5 hours at a time. And during their crate time they should have
access to water; a stainless steel pail hooked to the side of the crate or
crate door works best.
Young puppies will require more frequent potty breaks than
adults. Puppy ages and their maximum crating times:
- 8-10 weeks 30-60 minutes
- 11-14 weeks 1-3 hours
- 15-16 weeks 3-4 hours
- 17+ weeks 4-5 hours
If you are working and
unable to come home to give your dog a potty break, you will need to setup a
pen indoors in an area with an easy to clean floor and some puppy potty
training pads, so that he has an appropriate area to eliminate in. Prior to penning your dog for the workday, be
sure to give your dog at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise depending on its
age and size.
During free time, leave the
door to the crate open, and you will soon find that your puppy or dog looks
forward to relaxing in his own private area.
If you are planning on a task that you expect your dog to find
unpleasant, such as a bath, close the door to the crate before he gets wind of
your intentions, so that he cannot hide in it.
You want to avoid turning his safe haven into a battle ground with you
trying to drag him out of his den. Once your dog is comfortable with his new living quarters, and has passed through the teething phase, you can introduce bedding in the form of crate beds, pet pillows or even a simple towel.