What are some tips for crate training a puppy?

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Answered by: Lynn, An Expert in the Care for Dogs and Puppies Category
There are many benefits to crate training a puppy, and doing so early in the puppy’s life. Tiny puppies are simply too small to be left unconfined when alone, presenting great risk that they will get into trouble or injure themselves. Besides that, it may work against house training efforts if the puppy is left alone outside of a crate, and gets in the habit of doing its business wherever it feels like it.

Most importantly, early crate training will teach the puppy to accept crating, which is a highly recommended way to keep dogs when they are left alone. Not only are they unable to cause any damage in the house, they will not be able to hurt themselves. Dogs that crate are able to travel safely in their crate, and are easily reachable for quick removal in the event of a home emergency, too. Lastly, dogs - being den animals - like to have a comfortable place to rest where they feel safe; a crate can become that place of safety and comfort for them if they are taught to crate early in life.

Type of Crate - Crates come in various types including wire crates, plastic crates with ventilated, solid walls, and fabric crates. Generally, the wire or plastic crates are the best kind to crate train with, as they are durable, washable, and will more easily teach the puppy that they should not try to break out of the crate. Fabric crates can be nice once a dog is perfectly trained to the crate and will respect it, not try to chew its way out or mess in it.

Crate Size - The size of the crate depends on the size of the dog. If going by the thought that a dog will not soil where they sleep, a dog should have enough room to stand up, turn completely around, and also lay down lengthwise on its side, but no more. However, this theory does not always work, especially when crate training a puppy, or with dogs that are afraid of the crate, in which case soiling can happen anyway. It is definitely a good idea to start off with a smaller space, though, and increase it as the puppy grows. Once completely house trained and crate trained, an adult dog should have as much space as they seem comfortable in, even if it is somewhat bigger than they are.

Acclimation to the Crate - The best crate training happens when the puppy is already acclimated to the crate, and does not feel the need to react so much once the door gets closed for the first time. By positioning the crate close to where owners spend a lot of their time, then outfitting it with comfortable bedding and toys, or even feeding meals or treats inside, the puppy will quickly figure out that good things happen in the crate.

Leaving in the Crate - Closing the door is just a natural progression to the acclimation process. It can first be done while feeding a meal, leaving the puppy inside a few extra minutes, then gradually be increased to having a closed door for longer periods of time. Closing the door and then leaving the house for increasingly longer times is the next step. Then, whenever the door is opened, it should be done without any kind of fuss or major acknowledgement. Keeping things calm when letting out of the crate will help the puppy understand that there is no big fuss to be made with regard to the crate, and they should not be concerned or excited. Also, rewards should be given when going into the crate, not when coming out of it.

Crying While in the Crate - Just like with a human baby, it is not a good idea to go to the puppy when it cries or whines during crating practice, as this will only encourage more of the behavior. The best response is no response, which will eventually teach that crying and whining gets nothing. Rewarding by being let out of the crate should only occur when the puppy has been quiet for a while, and has had time to associate being quiet and restful with the reward of being let out. Soon enough, being in the crate will be less of an issue, and the pup will probably even like the crate, learning to go right in when it is time for the owner to leave the house for a few hours.

Crate training is an individual thing, just like house training. However, given the right instructions and rewards for the right behaviors, crate training a puppy can be easier than expected. The puppy will quickly pick up on correct training methods, and soon crate without issue.

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