Crate Training Your Puppy
What Is Crate Training?
Crate training is a way to create a safe, personal space for your dog in your home. It draws on your dog's natural instincts to create a den, a safe refuge in which to sleep and hide. Although adult dogs may be able to be crate trained, the ideal time to start is when your dog is a puppy.
What Are The Benefits?
There are many benefits to crate training your puppy. As dogs naturally avoid soiling their dens, it is a useful way to avoid accidents during toilet training. Remember though that your puppy will not be able to 'hold on' as long as an older dog, so be sure to provide them with plenty of toilet breaks. Crate training is also a safe and practical way to limit your puppy's opportunities to chew or destroy items in the house until he or she has learnt not to do this.
Dogs that have been crate trained can be transported calmly and safely as they are comfortable in the confinement of their crate. It can also come in handy should your dog need to be confined for medical reasons, for example while recovering from surgery. Finally, by establishing the crate as a safe haven you are providing your dog with a place to seek refuge from potentially scary or stressful events like thunderstorms or fireworks.
How Does It Work?
Begin by purchasing an appropriately sized crate for your puppy, it should be large enough for them to stand up, turn around and lie down. Be sure to purchase one made of a durable material that will withstand any chewing or scratching. Now you are ready to start crate training!
Begin by placing the crate in a central area of your home, for example the living room. Leave the door open, or take it off if possible, and encourage them to enter the crate. Make sure that there is some comfy bedding inside for them to lie on if they choose. Put some treats or a favourite toy in the crate to make it attractive to your puppy. When he does enter the crate, reward him by throwing some more treats or another toy inside. Never force your puppy into the crate. To make the crate an even more appealing place for your puppy, you could also place an adaptil diffuser nearby.
Start to feed your puppy all of his meals near or just inside the crate. When he is entering the crate willingly you can start to place the bowl right inside. When he is relaxed about eating his meal standing fully inside the crate, you may start to close the door for short periods of time. In the beginning be sure to open the door again before he finishes eating. As he becomes more comfortable you can start to increase the amount of time the door is left shut after he finishes eating by just a little at a time.
Start crating your puppy at other times while you are at home. Encourage your puppy to enter the crate by luring him in with a treat. You may attach a command word to this like 'bed' or 'crate'. Reward him with the treat when he is standing inside and then close the door. Be sure to give him lots of praise. Hang around quietly near the crate for about five minutes or so before leaving the room for a moment. Come back into the room and wait quietly again for a few minutes before opening the door of the crate. Try not to let your puppy out if he is whining, wait for him to fall quiet before opening the door. If he doesn't settle, it could be that he needs a toilet break. Take him out quietly on a lead, without playing, and then bring him straight back.
Over the next few days and weeks slowly increase the amount of time that you leave him unattended in the crate. When he will stay quietly in the crate for 30 minutes while you are out of sight you can proceed to step 4.
Begin crating your puppy for short periods while you leave the house. Be sure not to linger over your departure, by prolonging your farewell or acting emotionally you may encourage separation anxiety. Put him in the crate as usual, reward him with a treat and then leave. Try to alter your routine with this as you leave the house so that he is not able to anticipate exactly when you will ask him to enter the crate. It may be also helpful to leave him a toy to play with while you are gone, just be careful to choose one that is safe for him to chew on unsupervised. Always make sure that you leave him plenty of fresh water and ensure that he will not be too hot or cold while you are away.
In the same way that you left home, do not make a big fuss when you return home and avoid rewarding him for overexcited behaviour. So that your puppy doesn't associate the crate with being left alone, be sure to continue crating him for periods of time while you are home as well.
You can now begin to start crating your puppy at night-time. Make sure that the crate is somewhere near to where you are sleeping so that you can hear him whining if he needs a toilet break. It is likely that young puppies will need a toilet break every 3 to 4 hours or so.
Crate training may require some persistence and time but the benefits are plain to see. Be sure not to leave your dog crated for too long at any one time, all dogs require plenty of activity and socialisation to stay happy and healthy. It is also important that you never use the crate as a form of punishment, it should be a safe and welcoming place that your dog will use voluntarily.
When Teagan's not busy sharing her knowledge of all things pets as Pet Circle's resident vet, she is the human companion of two intense English staffies and a three-legged cat named Steve.
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