HOW DO I CRATE TRAIN MY PUPPY
A new puppy or dog can benefit significantly from crate training. We recommend an airport-approved crate. A wire crate does not create the same environment as an airplane-approved crate, which is more enclosed. A young dog can hurt its teeth on a wire crate. A dog used to a wire crate may freak out once placed into an enclosed container. The enclosed crates create more of a cave environment. We recommend using an airplane-approved crate; if you have to fly, your dog will already feel comfortable. Crate training goes hand in hand with housebreaking. We highly recommend if you are working on housebreaking, you work on crate training as soon as you bring your new dog home.
1. Make sure the crate is not too large. A young puppy will naturally not want to go to the bathroom in its own area. They naturally want to keep their own area clean (see our housebreaking article for more information). We want to ensure their kennel stays clean, so if they relieve themselves, we want to clean it immediately. A kennel that is too large will give puppies the option of sleeping on one side and using the bathroom on the other. There are dividers available for certain kennel styles. While the puppy is young, you can use a divider and once they are older, remove it to give them more room.
2. Schedule: Make sure your puppy is on a schedule. Believe it or not, dogs begin to learn what our routine is. They will start to realize when they go out to use the bathroom. You want to schedule your puppy's feeding time around when they will go out. Plan into your schedule (if work permits) to let your puppy outside every 4-5hours. Plan to wake up twice at night to let your puppy out to use the bathroom. A puppy needs to relieve itself 30 minutes after eating.
3. Remember the three-foot rule when outside the kennel. You will also see this mentioned in our housebreaking article. When your puppy is outside the kennel for play or cuddle time, do not allow your young puppy out of your sight. Remember, after your puppy plays, they need to go out. The kennel is to help your puppy develop their private area. It can be overwhelming for a puppy to take on a whole house. The kennel is the puppy's only private place, so be attentive and persistent to avoid accidents. We want to use puppies natural instincts of keeping his sleeping area clean to prevent accidents and learn to potty outside. Always take your puppy to the same spot every time it goes to the bathroom. You are in control outside of the kennel and do not allow your puppy to have the opportunity to have an accident in the house, when outside of its kennel.
4. Prevents Bad Habits: A kennel helps a puppy, in the beginning, to not develop any bad habits. Puppies given free rein in the house and allowed to do whatever they want unsupervised are prone to develop bad habits. The first time puppy chews on a table leg or the couch and gets self-satisfaction/self-reward from it, they want to repeat that negative behavior repeatedly. When a five-month dog develops a bad habit, they are more likely to repeat it at one and two years of age. Kennel training from the beginning and supervision can prevent these bad habits from even developing. With supervision, you can teach your puppy which toys are puppy-approved toys to play with vs. items you do not want to end up in their mouths.
5. Prevents Anxiety: We have all watched the 2yr old child that controls the household. That moment when they stop and look around and aren't sure what to do with themselves ends up doing something they are not supposed to. A child that has no direction or guidance develop anxiety because they are unsure of what is expected of them and what is ok and what is not ok. A puppy, in a way, is similar to a toddler. When a puppy is not sure where it falls within your pack and is not given any direction or guidance, they are forced to figure things out for themselves. This leads a puppy to develop anxiety, and often, where separation anxiety starts. A common symptom of puppy anxiety is when you'll notice your canine walking around not knowing what to do with themselves; they'll sit down and begin to whine. A dog is always in training mode, whether it is being a formal training setting or not. In this instance, the dog's lack of training by default causes it to develop anxiety. This anxiety is not necessarily due to poor genetics but the environment in which it was brought up. The crate gives the puppy one area to worry about controlling versus an entire house.
6. What goes into the crate? We recommend you feed your puppy outside of the crate to prevent a mess. Do not shut them inside the crate with a food bowl; it will be prone to spillage. Again, we want to maintain a clean environment. Have a set area inside your house where they will be fed and have water there for them as well. When introducing your puppy to the crate, place some yummy treats inside to lure it inside. These should be treats he will want to eat immediately and will not sit; put treats inside the create each time you command the pup to go inside. Use a command such as "crate" and show him the treat; they should willingly walk right inside. It is not a good idea to force your puppy inside a kennel; we want them to have a good experience and feel secure. It is not recommended to place a blanket or dog bed into your kennel. Your puppy will likely tear up the materials and create a choking hazard for your pup. Good teething bones can be given to your puppy to fulfil its urge to chew. Your pet will enjoy a frozen kong filled with peanut butter. It is recommended never to leave your dog alone with a toy or bone or kong, as they have the potential to choke.
7. Where in the home do we place the kennel? We recommend placing a kennel in your household. You want to be fair to your dog. If you have other dogs that are already housebroken and your puppy is watching you play from inside, it can create an unfair situation. That young puppy can build resentment towards that dog. In that situation, it is better to have the puppy in a quiet room to avoid significant amounts of activity that could excite him and make him want to engage. This would also be considered unfair if you have kids running in and out of the room, as your puppy will naturally want to play with them. If you have a low-key household, the puppy's kennel can be placed in an area where he can watch you. Otherwise, you will want to seek a nice quiet place that will not overstimulate your pup.
8. Your puppy should be in his kennel at night. Depending on the breed of the dog, if you start him off in your bed and he is a dominant breed, there may come a time when he challenges you. Allowing a dominant dog to sleep in your bed can cause the dog to become possessive over it. A perfect example is you get up in the morning for a restroom break, and your dog growls at you when you return to your bed. Again, this depends on the breed of the dog and whether they are more of a dominant alpha type. By training your puppy to sleep in the crate at a young age, you are showing your puppy that you are the leader and where he falls in your pack. Keeping your puppy off your bed will prevent accidents in unwanted places, like your floor or the mattress itself. Remember, prevention is keeping you a step ahead in training.
9. Have not only a potty schedule but an exercise schedule. We do not want to over-exercise a young puppy; it can affect the development of their joints (ask your vet about age-appropriate exercise). Also, ask your vet about bloat. You do not want to exercise an hour before feeding and you want to wait at least an hour after exercise to feed your dog, or they could develop bloat. You want to keep your puppy on an exercise plan. This could consist of taking them for walks, playing with toys, or playing with their ball. Your puppies should only play with soft toys, as hard toys can affect the development of their adult teeth and cause adult teeth not to come in correctly. We want to be careful of the puppy's mouth and not cause any trauma with hard toys.
10. Lastly, keep the kennel positive. Always put motivate them with a treat and give them the command, i.e. "crate." After you close the kennel, reward them with another treat. A kennel is a tool, and we want to use it properly. Never allow your puppy to sit in a dirty kennel. It is your responsibility to keep it sanitized. We recommend Odoban as a safe cleaner. Never use bleach or other harmful chemicals on your dog. Stay consistent. If you have to kennel your puppy for short periods, start by running a quick errand and leaving the house for quick lunch. Do this until a proper routine is established. The puppy may whine initially, but if you are out and about, you will not give in and let them out. The controlled environment you create during your kennel and housebreaking routine will help build an early foundation for their future training.
- Constance Baker