So, you finally made the decision to add a furry, four-legged baby to your family! Everyone is overwhelmed with joy as you bring your newest family member home for the first time. It’s at that moment that reality sets in and you ask yourself; "Where will he/she sleep?", "Should I use a crate?", "How do you crate train a puppy?" Don't panic, keep reading below to learn why you should crate train your puppy and the benefits in doing so.
Let’s start off by answering the question, "What is crate training". Crate training is the process of teaching your pet to accept a dog crate or cage in a familiar safe location in your home. Dogs are den-dwelling animals so naturally they will look for a safe, protected location to sleep or relax in. If crate training is done properly, it can be a highly effective lifesaver for both the dog and owners alike. If a dog is taught through positive reinforcement (using yummy treats) to love their crate, it will become their own private getaway/hideaway. The crate is a perfect retreat for when a dog is tired, frightened or feeling overwhelmed.
The next important question to ask is “does the size of the crate matter?” Of course it does, a crate that is too small will be very uncomfortable for your dog, but a crate that is too large opens the door to your dog having an accident in the cage. Having a crate sized appropriately encourages a dog's instinct not to mess where they sleep and keep the area a "clean place." This teaches bladder and bowel controls. Choose a crate that is just large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably. You should also place the crate in an area of the house that is easily accessible by both yourself and your dog.
Steps to take when crate training:
1: First introduce your dog to the crate
2: Feed your dog meals or treats in the crate
3: Slowly introduce longer crating periods so your dog learns to control bladder and bowel movements
4: Crate your dog when you leave the house or at night when you are sleeping.
Things to consider:
- Never leave a puppy in their crate all day. Puppies need several bathroom breaks along with feeding and play time.
- Never use the crate as punishment. Your dog should see his “room” as a happy safe place.
- Never lose your patience. Learning takes time and if done right, you are your newly crate trained dog will live a happy life together.
One of the biggest potential problems people run into when crate training is whining. Your dog will whine to get your attention, so you will let them out of the crate. Don't! This only teaches your dog that if he whines long enough you will come rescue him from the cage. This will ultimately make days and nights difficult for you when trying to crate your dog in the future.
It’s very common for your best friend to get nervous and anxious when you leave the house, especially if you have a young puppy. If your dog or puppy suffers from separation anxiety you might need to take other approaches to crate training. Try making the crate extra comfortable for them. Throw in a few of their favorite toys or blankets. Get the dog used to the crate at a slower pace. Encourage small achievements when dealing with the crate. Use treats to drive home that positive reinforcement. Lastly, try to exercise with your dog. If a dog is exhausted by the time is ready to go into the crate, it will be less likely to have the energy to fight or resist crate training. Learn more about separation anxiety here: When They Love a Little Too Much: Separation Anxiety In Dogs (and Cats) .