When you bring home a new puppy, you essentially bring home a furry new family member. The puppy will be plenty of fun and comfort for the whole family, but a new puppy is also hard work. There is plenty of training involved to ensure the puppy does not wreak havoc in your home and crate training is the best way to set the boundaries.
The easiest method for ensuring that a new puppy doesn’t cause too many problems is crate training. Among others, The Humane Society says it works because it taps into their natural instincts as den animals, giving them a safe and relaxing place to find shelter in.
There are other sources that question the technique altogether, stating that dogs are not actually den animals and have no need for a crate.
Most would agree however, that dogs do use dens to protect their pups and dog trainers have used crate training as an effective training tool for a long time.
What is Crate Training?
It will take some time and patience to train your puppy properly, but crate training itself is a rather simple concept. When done right, your puppy may even love its crate, and will consider it a comforting area.
Essentially, crate training involves teaching your puppy that the crate is an area to relax in when it wants to, and a place to feel comfortable being locked in when you aren’t home or no one is around to watch it.
Crate Training Tips
Make sure you purchase a crate that is the appropriate size for your dog. Select a crate that will fit your dog at its full grown height and weight. The dog should be able to sit, stand, turn around and sleep comfortably in the crate.
There are crates that you can purchase with removable dividers. As the puppy gets bigger, the dividers can be removed, giving the dog more space within the crate. Remember, too much space gives your puppy the opportunity to go potty in one corner and sleep in another.
Good housekeeping is important. Your puppy’s crate is not a good place to potty train them with pads or to leave food for extended periods of time. These things can lead to a dog that uses their crate as a bathroom, something you do not want for you or your pup.
If you’re going to be leaving the puppy in the crate for extended periods of time, such as when you’re sleeping or while at work, make sure to feed and walk them before putting them in their kennel and immediately upon taking them out.
Make Crate Training Fun
Slowly get your puppy used to being in the crate by introducing some fun opportunities. Start by offering the dog a few treats and telling them to “Go Kennel” or “Go Crate”. Again, repetition is key. The dog will soon understand the command and associate the crate with good things.
Mealtime is a wonderful opportunity to ask your dog to “Go kennel” and eat their food with the door closed. Your dog will see that good things happen inside their crate. Once they are done eating, you can release them. Make the kennel a fun experience. Use treats, toys, and praise to keep your dog happy and encourage them to enter and exit their crate without hesitation.
New puppies may not like being locked away for too long but avoid giving in to whining or barking. Don’t let your dog out of the kennel until it has settled down and then reward for good quiet behavior. Just keep in mind that your puppy has a small bladder and may actually be whining to go to the bathroom, in which case you should let them out to do their business.
Establish a schedule for crate training your puppy by offering rewards or stimulus at certain times. For example, if you want the puppy to go into the crate in the evening before you go to bed, offer the treat within the crate and give the command. Over time, the puppy will get used to your schedule and will understand that nighttime means crate time.
Other Reasons Crate Training is Important
Once your puppy is used to the crate, they will have a comfortable place to ride out long car rides and be tucked away when the repairman comes over. A dog who is used to their crate will also suffer far less anxiety at the vet and pet grooming salon. Additionally, a dog that has an established safe zone will feel more comfortable going in the crate on its own and will soon not require much training at all.
Remember, everyone in the family must be consistent with the crate training, or it could cause confusion with the puppy and delay the learning process. Lastly, do not use the crate as a punishment for the puppy, or it will lose the good association with the crate you have been working so hard to cultivate and begin to avoid it.