Crates are a good house-training aid and a comfortable, safe place to go, provided they are used correctly. If used properly, the crate encloses a puppy or dog safely and becomes a favorite place for sleeping or safety. It can also be a highly effective toilet training tool. Some puppies and dogs love their crates immediately, while others need a bit of time to acclimate.
- Make the crate comfortable with bedding and safe toys.
- Leave the door of the crate open so the puppy or dog can investigate inside. Encourage the dog to go in by throwing a favorite treat or toy inside.
- If the puppy decides to settle inside the crate, allow her to do so without closing the door so that she can make her own decision about whether to stay or leave.
- Once the dog is comfortable inside the crate, begin closing the door for a few seconds at a time, gradually building up the duration.
- Give the puppy a durable rubber chew toy with some yummy food inside to pair the pleasure of eating with the crate.
- Feed the puppy’s meals in the crate to continue the positive association.
- If the puppy begins to whine or bark, wait until she is quiet before opening the door to let her out.
- This whole process can be used to help adult dogs acclimate to a crate, too, but remember that some dogs do not adjust well to being confined in this way and do better in a pen or safe room in your home.
What Not to Do:
- Never make the crate a punishment where the puppy can be confined if he has done something wrong.
- Try to minimize the time your puppy or dog spends in the crate. If you isolate a dog in a crate for a large portion of the day, he will literally go crazy when you come home and let him out. What would you do if you were shut in a small cage for eight hours?
- A small puppy has limited bladder control. If you leave him in the crate too long, you will be forcing him to soil his bed. It’s not only unkind to the dog, but the puppy may never become housetrained.
Problem: My puppy whines constantly in the crate.
Solution: Whining and crying is a fundamental aspect of puppyhood, especially in young puppies. Make sure never to reinforce the behavior by letting your puppy out of the crate while he is crying or whining. Wait for at least 3 seconds of quiet.
Problem: My puppy pees and/or poops in his crate.
Solution: The crate might be too big for the size of your puppy. The crate should be big enough that your puppy can stand up and turn around comfortably. If it is too big, your puppy will likely find an area to soil in it. If the crate is the right size, you may not be letting him outside often enough, and he is physically unable to hold it.
Problem: My puppy cries in the crate at night.
Solution: Try putting a blanket on top of the crate; this can have a calming effect for some puppies. Keep the crate in your bedroom if possible. A puppy that is isolated from the family will often cry out of loneliness.
Courtesy of Victoria Stilwell, Positively