Are You Struggling With Crate Training?
Hello, everyone! As promised, I am writing about crate training your puppy this week. Many of you cringe at the thought of crate training. It’s not because you are against crate training, but because you just aren’t sure how to get started (based on the questions you have sent me).
At first glance, crates seem to be pretty uncomfortable for our puppies from our view. They’re so small — there’s not much space. How can our puppy even be the slightest bit comfortable in there? Most of us sure wouldn’t be comfortable sleeping in a small space.
There’s magic to the crate. That’s how it’s comfortable. And, what’s that magic? Well, dogs by instinct search out for cozy spaces to become their “den.” Their dens are their safe spot, their place to escape, their ‘quiet’ place.
Crate Training Challenges
Since your puppy clearly doesn’t automatically choose the crate to be her den, you can expect to experience some challenges. We have picked out her den for her. At first view, your dog might be a bit frightened by the crate. Don’t panic, that’s completely normal. After a little time in the crate, your puppy will view the crate as his comfy, safe sleeping area.
Of course, crate training isn’t a requirement for being a responsible doggy parent. But, it can be extremely helpful with housetraining and preventing separation anxiety. Plus, if your dog is placed in a stressful situation, the crate gives your dog her own little space to escape.
Make Crate Training Positive
Correlating the crate to something positive is extremely helpful in crate training your puppy. If your pup associates going in the crate with a reward of some kind, wouldn’t you think he would be more likely to go in there on his own? Yes, usually that’s the case. They form emotional connections, and you gain trust by forming positive correlations here.
Don’t immediately jump to locking your puppy in the crate. Be sure he is properly introduced to the crate prior to locking him in. Keep the crate door open, place the yummy treat as far back in the crate as you can, and wait for your puppy to be comfortable with entering the crate to grab that treat. After a few attempts, if your puppy appears to be comfortable walking in, you can now close the door to the crate while your dog is busy with the treat/toy. Once your puppy has finished chewing on the treat or toy, open the crate for him.
You can gradually increase the amount of time your dog is in the crate. Leave the door close for longer and longer periods … increasing only by 5 minutes each time.
What if my Dog is Still
What if the positive correlations step doesn’t work? Well, some dogs are perfectly content with the above step. Others need more reassurance. In this case, we move on to desensitizing your puppy. The desensitization process takes a few days for some pups. Others may take a few weeks.
In this case, your puppy should only be in the locked crate for 10-15 seconds at a time to begin. And, gradually increase by seconds rather than minutes. The process is the same as above… but make sure you’re only adding seconds for this step. And, don’t leave your puppy completely alone in the crate if he’s not comfortable.
How Big Should the Crate Be?
Your puppy (or dog) should be in a crate that’s not too big… and not too small! Your puppy should be able to lie down, move around a little to get comfortable, and turn around if she wishes to. The crate should not be big enough to have a significant amount of extra room.
Dogs do not like to go potty where they sleep. That’s by instinct. If the crate is large enough to have extra space, your puppy is more likely to use the potty in their crate. We don’t want that to happen. That defeats the purpose of the crate.
Just Some General Guidelines
There are some general guidelines I would like to share with you.
1. First, never leave your puppy in her crate without something to do. Give her a puzzle toy, a Kong, or a snack of some sort.
2. Don’t leave your puppy in the crate for longer than 2-3 hours (at most). Puppies can’t hold their bladder … and it’s not fair to your pup to stay in a crate all day long. If you leave your pup in the crate overnight, you’ll likely have to wake up in the middle of the night (if they’re young) to let her go potty.
3. Make sure you take him potty before he goes into his crate.
4. Exercise is important before crate time. If your dog is a little bit sleepy, she’s more likely to be comfortable in her crate.
More Questions about Crate Training
The most important take-away from this week’s article–be patient and make sure you don’t leave your pup in the crate too long. If you have more questions, please feel free to visit www.dogbehaviorblog.org. (P.S. — There’s currently a free e-book available on my blog).
Talk to you again soon!