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How to Successfully Crate Train a Puppy?

Puppy sitting on deck in front of baby gate

We all want a well-behaved dog and crate training is an important quality of such canines. Although it can take a considerable amount of time and effort, this training proves useful in many situations. For instance, it creates a safe environment for your puppy that teaches him/her responsibility and independence. Similarly, a crate is quite helpful for transporting your pup in the car.

What is Crate Training?

It refers to the process of teaching your dog that a crate is a safe place where he/she can retreat. In order to ensure the best possible results, make sure that your puppy relates the crate to positive experiences. Therefore, NEVER make the crate a place of punishment because it will make the training a whole lot difficult.

While many people view crates as cages, dogs are naturally inclined to like small, enclosed spaces. A properly crate-trained dog enjoys staying inside a crate because it provides a sense of security and calms anxiety.

Select the Right Crate

3 Plastic dog crates in red, green and blue

The very first thing that you need to crate train a puppy is an appropriate crate. It can be an overwhelming process for quite a few owners because there are countless options in the market. You have to consider several factors, like the size and material of the crate, before making the purchase. The following are some guidelines that can help you get the right crate for your puppy.   

Shape and Size

Dog crates come in all shapes and sizes. However, the box-shaped crates are most common because they offer an economical alternative to dog parents. Similarly, the design of these products is quite friendly for puppies.

Another critical factor for the selection of the right crate is its size. You may feel that the bigger the crate, the better it is, but that’s NOT true. If the crate is too big, your puppy will not be hesitant to eliminate inside it. Consequently, you need to select a crate that is ideal for your pup. The general rule of thumb suggests that an ideal crate is the one that allows the following movements.

  • Your puppy should be able to stand up comfortably.
  • He/she shouldn’t face any trouble in turning around.
  • There should be enough space for him/her to lie down with outstretched legs.

If you are trying to crate train a puppy, it can become a little expensive. This is because you will have to get larger crates as he/she grows up. The cost-friendly solution to this problem is to buy a crate that has removable and adjustable partitions. This will allow you to save some cash as the crate will ‘grow’ with your companion.  

Material

Metal dog crate with red pillow and dog bowls with door open.

If you are looking for an effective product to crate train a puppy, Metal Wire-type Crates or Airplane Kennels are the best options. Despite being sturdy, these crates are usually very light and easier to clean than cloth-type or wooden alternatives.  

How to Crate Train Your Dog?

Once you have selected the right crate, you are all set to start the training. It’s important to stay patient during this process because crate training a puppy can take days, weeks, or even months.

You need to ensure that your pup has a positive association with the crate to increase the chances of success. Likewise, you will have to gauge the canine’s progress and move at his/her pace to achieve the desired results. The step-by-step approach mentioned below constitutes an effective method to crate train your puppy. However, you may require slight adjustments according to the specific needs of your canine.   

Introduce Your Puppy to the Crate

Brown and white puppy sitting on red pillow in metal dog crate

If your puppy is encountering the crate for the first time, he/she won’t know anything about it. This is actually a benefit as you don’t have to counter any negative emotion. Place the crate in the living room and put the dog’s bed inside it. You can also use a few treats to encourage your pup.

It’s quite likely that your puppy may move away after sniffing the crate, on the first day. It’s completely normal and you should NEVER force the pup. This process may take a few minutes for some canines while others can take several days.

Feed Your Dog in the Crate

Corgi in puppy play pen with food bowl and toys

When the dog is comfortable in moving in and out of the crate (without treats), start feeding him/her in it. This will allow your pet to relate the crate with a positive experience. In the beginning, put the dog bowl just inside the crate so that he/she stays calm. Gradually push the food bowl further in the crate as the puppy continues to get used to it.

Once the dog is comfortable to eat the meal inside the crate, you can close the door while he/she is eating. However, you should open the door as soon as the meal is over, and increase this time slowly.

Condition Your Pup to Stay in the Crate

Rottweiler puppy sitting outside puppy crate

The next step is to confine the puppy inside the crate for a short period, other than mealtime. You should only go for this when your pet is totally comfortable with the crate. Call the canine over and give him/her a command to enter the crate. You can also use a treat to enforce the message. When the dog obeys the command, give him/her another command and close the door.

For the next 5 minutes, sit quietly near the crate. After that, leave that room for a few minutes to see how your pet reacts. If he/she stays calm, come back and sit again near the crate for a short while before letting your puppy out. Repeat this process several times in a day, increasing the length of time on each repetition.    

Leave Your Dog Alone in the Crate

Dog sleeping in large metal crate

This step is advisable ONLY when your puppy is comfortably spending 30 minutes in the crate. Use the taught command and treat to place the pup inside and close the door. It’s highly recommended to put some of his/her favorite toys inside the crate.

Now, move around in the house for 5-20 minutes before leaving. You shouldn’t go out for too long and must return shortly (increase the time gradually to 4-5 hours). It’s very much possible that your puppy will react eagerly when you come back. Ignore that behavior and don’t let him/her out until the enthusiasm fades away.

Crate Your Puppy for the Night

Boxer puppy sleeping in large metal crate

For this step, you will have to bring the crate in your bedroom. Instruct the canine to enter the crate by using the same command and treat technique. Close the door and position the crate so that the puppy can see you all the time. When the dog starts sleeping comfortably (through the night) inside the crate, you can move the crate back to its original position.

Recommended Dog Training Courses to Successfully Crate Train a Puppy

There are two online video based training courses that I recommend.

  1. Doggy Dan – The Online Dog Trainer
  2. Brain Training for Dogs

These two courses serve two very different purposes. The Doggy Dan course is the best behavioral training course that I’ve ever used. It tackles problem behaviors like barking in ways that are innovative and kind and most of all WORK.

The Brain Training for Dogs course is a course that will help give curious and bored dogs something to do so that they don’t get destructive. Bored dogs often behave badly. The games in this course are fun to play with your dog and they go from easy to very advanced. If you think your dog is barking out of boredom this video course is a good choice.

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