So you've decided that crate training is the method for you. Now where to begin? We've put together a step by step guide on how to crate train your puppy...
First of all, don't be disheartened. Crate training isn't a quick, overnight process. It can take days or even weeks depending on your puppy's age and temperament. Remember that every dog is different!
The main thing to keep in mind is that consistency is key. Stick to your guns and the hard work will pay off.
Do also bear in mind that the crate is intended to be a happy, positive environment for your puppy. It should never be used as a punishment for your dog.
Time to introduce your puppy to the crate... Let them explore the crate in their own time, leaving the door open at all times. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start exploring immediately. If not try the following:
- Coax them over to the crate using high value treats (chicken, ham, something more exciting than their kibble!) and an excited tone of voice;
- Encourage them to enter the crate by following the treat in your hand;
- Gradually lay your high value treats closer and closer to the crate until your puppy has to go all the way into the crate (by themselves!) to get to the reward;
- Praise them with a happy, positive voice every time they go into the crate and let them come out as soon as they seem ready.
Remember that training sessions should be little and often. This could be a five minute exercise two or three times a day and could take several days for your puppy to become comfortable entering the crate. Stick with it! Consistency is everything when puppy training.
2. Feeding time
After your puppy is happy entering the crate by themselves, begin feeding their regular meals inside the crate as this will help to create a positive association with the space.
When your puppy seems comfortable (many will even be excited by the prospect of food!) you can start to close the door while they are eating. Ensure you open the door as soon as they've finished eating and gradually increase the amount of time you keep the door closed.
If you increase the time too quickly, you might find they begin to bark and cry. Don't let them out until they stop otherwise they will associate crying and whining as a way out. This can lead to much bigger problems in their training down the line if they work out how to get their own way!
3. Practice, practice, practice
If your puppy is happy waiting in the crate for ten minutes after a meal, you can begin to introduce 'crate time' outside of meal times. You will need your high value treats again!
Choose a command such as "in your bed" and lead them in with their favourite treat. Stay within sight near the crate for a few minutes and then leave the room. Return after a couple of minutes and let them out once they are silent. And repeat!
You'll want to do this three or four times a day and gradually increase the length of time you leave the room, ensuring they aren't ever rewarded for crying.
Once you feel comfortable that your puppy will settle in the crate for about 30 minutes, you can begin leaving them inside the crate when you're gone for short amounts of time. At a very young age, puppies shouldn't be left for longer than two to three hours as their bladders simply aren't ready for much longer!
4. Leave the house
Put your puppy in the crate using your chosen command and high value treat. Praise them and leave quietly. It doesn't need to be more drawn out than that! The same concept applies to returning home, remain calm or risk increasing anxiety over when you will come back to them.
The practice doesn't end here! Continue crate training your puppy for short lengths of time when you're home so they don't associate crating with being left alone every single time.
Crate them during your meal times or when you go to dry your hair for example. This will also prevent your puppy from destroying objects whilst you're doing other things in the house!
5. Crate your dog overnight
Crating your pup overnight can help hugely with toilet training as your pup will be reluctant to toilet where they sleep. To begin with you may wish to have the crate in your bedroom or at least nearby so you can monitor how they are getting on in the night.
Once your dog is sleeping through the night, you can begin to gradually move it to your preferred location.
And there you are! You are now the proud owner of a crate trained puppy. To understand the benefits of a crate trained puppy, read our article on why here.
If you're away from home a lot but don't want to go down the crate training route your dog, perhaps Tailster can help? We have approved carers all over the UK who can care for your dog as and when you need. For more information on our service, click here.