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Crate Training a Puppy

Who doesn’t love puppies? A new puppy is like getting a new child (only cuter, and marginally less troublesome). Just like children, though, you need to have eyes in the back of your head when raising a puppy. Look away for a few minutes, and your adorable puppy has shredded some valuable, stolen food from the kitchen counter, and probably peed on the floor. You need to watch them all the time.

Of course, it’s not always possible to watch your puppy all the time. You’ll need to go out at some point, and there may be some tasks you’d rather do without a needle-toothed puppy trying to help.

This is where a crate comes in. Is it right to put a dog in a crate? How can you get them used to a crate?

Let’s find out.

Why Should You Crate Train Your Puppy?

Some dog owners don’t agree with crate training dogs. They consider it cruel and unnecessary, saying that it’s better for dogs to have the run of the house. The fact is that responsible dog owners nearly always use crates to keep their pets safe while they’re out for a few hours or to sleep in overnight.

If you have a well-behaved dog that you can trust not to destroy things, get themselves into trouble, or go to the toilet in the house, then fine. By all means, leave them to run around the house while you’re out.

However, puppies should never be given the run of the house. Aside from the damage they might do, it’s dangerous - your puppy could get stuck, hurt, chew something dangerous (like electrical cables), or swallow something dangerous.

A crate can be a comfortable place for your puppy to settle, and they’ll soon come to look at it as their den. It means that while you’re out, you can be sure that your dog is safe and happy.

Benefits of Crate Training

Crate training has a lot of benefits to consider:

  • Your puppy will have their own space. Dogs like their space, and their crate will be their own “room”.

  • Crates provide a safe space while you’re out or busy.

  • You can put your dog in a crate for a time out or for meals (although you should never use the crate to discipline your dog).

  • If your dog sleeps in a crate overnight, you won’t be woken up by a dog bouncing on your face.

Setting Up A Crate

The first step is, obviously, buying a crate. There are plastic, metal, and fabric crates available, however, metal and plastic crates are preferred as they tend to be collapsible. Fabric crates are good for travel, but there’s a chance that your pup might be able to tear the fabric and make its escape.

Here’s what to consider when setting up your puppy’s crate:

  • Get the right size

Your pup should be able to stand up, lie down, and turn around in the crate. If in doubt, go bigger - your puppy will love the extra room! If you’re planning to invest a lot of money in a crate, make sure your puppy will still fit it as it grows up.

  • Make it comfy

Your puppy should have water available in the crate during the day. Make the crate look comfortable by adding blankets, toys, and maybe a dog bed. It’s a good idea to add some used blankets so that the crate already smells like home. If your pup is struggling to adjust to the crate, add some of your own worn clothes in there, so they can have your scent too.

  • Make it appealing

Treats are a good way to get your pup interested in the crate. You might also try giving your pup their meals in the crate - it’s a good way for your dog to have peaceful mealtimes, as well as learn to associate the crate with dinner.

  • Put it in a good location

Choose your location wisely. Pick a quiet area of the house, away from direct sunlight or drafts. It’s a good idea to put blankets over the crate, so shield your pup from drafts and make it feel cozy and den-like.

Crate Training - A How-To Guide

The next step is to get your puppy used to the crate. There are lots of methods that work, but be sure to be patient and use positive reinforcement. Treats work for most dogs!

  • Set up the crate. Leave the door open, and make sure that it won’t swing back on your dog and trap them inside - they may panic! Let your puppy investigate in their own time.

  • When your pup starts going inside, don’t shut them in immediately. Let it go in an out freely, and reward it for going in with a treat, toy, or praise.

  • Give your puppy their meals in the crate. Use a command to tell them to go to their crate - “bed”, or just “crate” often works. Your puppy may be happy to eat inside with the door closed, or they may prefer it open. Opening the door before your puppy finishes, or as they finish, reassures them that they won’t get trapped.

  • Build up your puppy's time inside the crate with the door closed. You might even be able to step away for a few minutes, but be ready to return if your dog gets distressed.

  • Next, you can try leaving the house altogether, just for a few minutes at a time. You can increase the time you leave your dog up to around four or five hours, but puppies should be left alone for less time than that.

  • Now that your dog knows the command to go to their crate, you can tell them to go to bed outside of feeding times. Try rewarding your dog with a treat or toy while in their crate.

Crate training can take a while, and you need to be patient. You may need to go over some of the steps again, but remember to always keep using positive reinforcement.

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