Without your eyes on them 24/7, your puppy is bound to get into trouble. Whether it’s chewing on a nice pair of shoes or peeing on your carpet, there’s plenty of reasons for you to start training early. Early training helps you to teach your puppy what not to do as they learn their place in your home. Crate training just happens to be a great launching point to help your newest family member adjust to your house rules!
Why Crate Training?
Dogs are den animals, so crate training caters to their natural instincts – seeing the crate as a place to rest, hide from danger and raise a family. The crate becomes a place where your dog can find solitude and comfort, while giving you peace of mind knowing they’re safe and secure (and can’t get into any unwanted trouble). The crate will limit your puppy’s access to the rest of the house as they learn your rules. Crating will help exponentially with house training because dogs don’t like to soil their dens. Also, crating will help tame your dog’s anxiety as a designated safe place or, in the case of a new puppy, if they’re feeling overwhelmed by their new surroundings.
Finding The Perfect Crate
Crates can be plastic, collapsible, or metal. They come in many different shapes and sizes to accommodate your dog’s needs. It’s important to choose a crate that is properly ventilated and big enough to allow your pup to stand up, lie down, and turn around. Comfort is key. Also, keep in mind that as your puppy grows, so should your crate. Choose a crate from the get-go that will complement your pooch’s adult size – too small and the crate will be uncomfortable, too big and you give your puppy enough space to have an accident without ruining their bed. Dividers can help make sure your crate gives your puppy the appropriate space for their size to avoid any accidents.
The main goal of crate conditioning is to teach your puppy to love their crate and associate it with a positive experience. The ideal location for your crate is in a spot where you and your family spends a lot of time, like the family room, so your puppy doesn’t feel isolated. Line the crate with blankets and a few of their toys to make the space cozy and inviting. If you want, you can even cover a part of the crate with a blanket to mimic a den – just make sure the crate is still ventilated and it isn’t too hot.
Introduce your puppy to the crate by creating a positive experience – make crate visits fun! Place treats around the outside, in the entrance and in the back of the crate to coax your puppy near the crate or inside it, but don’t force them to enter. They should voluntarily enter the crate to avoid negative signals. Keep the door open to avoid frightening them or making them feel trapped. Once they’ve started going in and out of the crate, practice leaving them in there for periods of time. Short increments at first, and work up from there. You should consider developing a command when your dog enters the crate to help reinforce the behavior – call the puppy over, encourage them into the crate with your command (like saying “crate” or “kennel up”), offer them a treat and praise them for good behavior.
Eventually, your puppy will graduate to prolonged stays and overnights in the crate. This process may take several days, weeks or months – it’s important to practice consistency and patience while crate training in order to reach a desired behavior and outcome.
Crate Training DON’Ts
Never leave your puppy in their crate all day. Puppies under six months of age shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than three to four hours at a time. They might not like to soil their crates, but they will if they can’t help it. Also, dogs that are crated too long can become anxious and frustrated, suffering from little exercise and human interaction. Try to rework your schedule to allow your dog more time outside their crate.
Never use the crate as a punishment. This kind of negative experience will deter them from using it. Only use the crate until you trust them to follow your house rules and not be destructive. Otherwise, they should be allowed to come and go as they please.
Crate Training Roadblocks
Remember, crate training isn’t a perfect solution. Some dogs may feel trapped or frustrated which could result in anxiety and destructive behavior. Crate training will not cure separation anxiety. It may keep them from wrecking your house in their panic, but they may hurt themselves trying to escape the crate. It’s best to consult with a trainer or animal behaviorist to properly resolve this problem.
Other issues that may come up include excessive whining, which could mean they want out or they need to relieve themselves. Give your dog the benefit of the doubt and check to see if they need to go out, unless you’re certain it’s all a ruse to be let out. Otherwise, ignore the whining. You don’t want them to begin associating whining with a get-out-of-crate free card. If the whining becomes unmanageable, you may have to consider starting the crating condition process over again to correct the behavior.
Need Help Crate Training?
Crate training on your own too difficult to manage? Sit Means Sit in Cleveland, OH will provide you with the right combination of puppy classes, private lessons, Board & Train Immersion programs, Day Training, and group distraction classes, customized to meet your particular needs. Give us a call at (440) 331-7487 or contact us using our website to join in on one of their puppy preschool classes today!