Crate is Great: 5 Easy Steps to Successful Crate Training
Not sure how exactly to teach your dog or puppy to love the crate? You're not alone - but you can find success in 5 easy steps!
1. Elevate the Crate
Leaving their mom and litter mates behind can be traumatic for a puppy. The first few nights after you bring your puppy home may be scary and lonely for them. However, it is important to establish routines right away to set your puppy up for success. Crate training should be at the top of your list. Elevating your puppy's crate next to your bed allows them to see and smell you which will be immensely comforting to your puppy.
Putting a warm water bottle in the crate with them can also be comforting, as they are most likely used to snuggling up next to the warm bodies of their brothers and sisters every night. Once your puppy has become acclimated to the crate and is becoming comfortable with their new surroundings, you can move the crate back to the ground or to wherever its permanent location will be.
2. Crate More, Not Less
When I ask the vast majority of my clients how often they crate their puppies, I always hear a resounding "only when we have to!!!" In other words, when they are gone. This presents a significant problem: it means that puppies make the association that being crated means being left alone. Alternatively, perhaps a family ONLY crates their puppy at nighttime, and the crate is next to the bed. That puppy will never be comfortable being left alone in their crate.
The solution: mix it up. Sometimes crate them when you are home, crate them when you are gone, and any other times that may be appropriate. In order to create a relaxed, happy puppy when they are in their crate, the puppy MUST be comfortable and practicing is paramount to this comfort level. Practice, Practice, and Practice some more. It is sometimes shocking for new puppy owners to learn that puppies need an average of 18-20 hours of sleep a day!
3. Nighttime Crating - Do it!
Dogs are habitual beings. They will behave and perform in the manner in which they have practiced the behavior. By crating your puppy at night, they are indeed practicing their sleep routines in their crate during their most restful time of the day. Practicing being calm and quiet in their crate no matter what the reason, helps to create that habit. And this is a habit we want to create!
4. A Regular Crating Schedule is a MUST!
As I stated earlier, puppies need a great deal of rest and sleep. Getting your puppy on a regular crating schedule will ensure that your puppy is getting plenty of rest. With a brand new 8 week old puppy, I will use a *2 hours in the crate, 2 hours out of the crate* model to set up my crating schedule. For a 4 month old puppy, I will switch to a *2 hours in, 3 hours out* model instead. By 4 months, they are getting older and are capable of staying awake for longer periods of time.
Do not expect your puppy to willingly accept their crating schedule without some push back.Your early days may consist of some puppy wailing for anywhere from a couple of days to 3 weeks. Your puppy will eventually not only accept his/her crate but it will become a favorite cozy place. Remember to only take your puppy out of their crate when they are calm and quiet. This reinforces the good behaviors we are striving for in the puppy's training regimen.
5. Crate Games!
Making your puppy's crate a fun place can help them be more accepting of the crate. Throughout the day, throw random handfuls of kibble into the crate. Once your puppy begins exploring the crate more on their own to see if there might be a treat in there, mark the behavior with a positive affirmation ("YES!") and toss in some more kibble. Feeding him/her all of his/her meals in the crate can be another way to help make positive associations with the crate as well.
Remember, the crate is not punishment, but rather, a safe haven and comfortable place for your new addition to spend time!
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