5 Tips to Consider When Crate Training a Puppy
Crate training your puppy is great for housebreaking your dog, teaching her the house rules, giving her a safe space, plus it’s very handy for travel.
Dogs like to have a secure space of their own, but they will still need to be familiarized with their crate in order to see it as such. This process should be handled carefully, as a wrong move could lead to her becoming fearful of it.
With that in mind, here are my 5 tips to take into account when you’re crate training a puppy:
1. Take it slowly
This is probably the most important point – crate training should be done in small steps. If you go too fast, she may not yet be ready for the next phase and will begin to feel anxious.
So, try your best to keep your patience and read your dog for signs of anxiety. If she is whining, scratching at the crate, or she has her tail between her legs, you probably need to go back a step and try again.
2. Make it a place she wants to spend time
First off, you need to make the crate a place she wants to hang out in. So, what should you put in dog crate?
Start with a comfortable but chew proof bedding for her to sleep on. The reason it needs to be durable is that we can’t trust puppies not to chew yet; they could potentially chew up and swallow pieces of fabric, which could cause an intestinal blockage.
Secondly, place some tough chew toys inside the crate such as a Kong or another type of safe, indestructible toy. Having these toys will not only mean she is less likely to chew on her bedding, but she also has something to do while inside the crate. Kong-type toys have the added benefit of being hollow, so they can be filled with delicious treats to keep her super focused on getting the food out.
And what about the best place to put the crate? Well, it should be in a busy part of the home, such as the living room, and in a place that isn’t in direct sunlight or a draught.
3. Puppy meets crate
Introduce your puppy to the crate slowly and be next to her. Forcing her inside and locking the door will only make her fear it, which will lead to her feeling anxiety on entering and being inside the crate in the future.
First, allow her to explore the crate on her own – let her sniff it and look at it, and give her praise and treats as she does this. If you think she is relaxed, you can try to coax her inside with treats. At this point, always leave the door to the crate open.
4. Food is your ally!
Food goes a long way when crate training your dog. By giving your dog treats when familiarizing her with her new den, you are creating a positive association with it.
As well as treating her, I also recommend feeding your puppy her main meals inside the crate for a further positive impact. You should supervise her at all times when leaving food inside the crate with her.
5. Close the crate
Once you see that she is beginning to get used to the area and shows relaxed body language (her tail should be down but not between her legs, and her ears should be up, not back), you can start to close the crate door. Until she is used to this, you should always be somewhere she can see you.
I recommend doing this while she is distracted by eating her main meal. The first time you do it, you can open the door after she has finished eating. Then, start to extend the time she is inside with her meal, adding a minute each time.
Leave and return
Once she seems happy hanging out in her closed crate, it’s time to get her used to staying inside the crate alone. First, entice her with a toy or a treat to enter and then stay by the crate for a few minutes. Once you see she is distracted, try leaving the room for a couple of minutes and coming back. On returning, sit again with her for a few more minutes before opening the door.
Keep increasing the time you are away until your puppy stays in her closed crate for half an hour on her own. Once she’s used to this, you can start to leave her crated for short periods of time.
So, let’s sum up these crate training tips.
The first thing to do is create an enticing environment for her to spend time by providing comfortable, durable bedding and some safe toys to keep her busy. Then, slowly introduce her to the crate, using food and lots of praise.
I also recommend feeding her meals inside the crate to create even more of a positive association and use this distraction to try closing the crate door.
Once she’s relaxed inside a closed crate, you can start getting her used to staying there on her own. Each time you leave her, add a few more minutes to the time you are away from the crate until she can be alone for half an hour
Remember, take it slowly – patience is key. Once you’ve got there, you’ll see that all the hard work has paid off!