If used properly, a crate can be a place for your puppy to feel safe and relaxed. A crate can also be used to provide a comfortable sleeping and traveling space for your puppy. In order for a crate to work in the right way, you will need to properly crate train your new puppy as soon as possible. Never use the crate as punishment!
Crate training may take several days and obviously you will need to use the crate immediately. Therefore, the first few nights place the crate as close to you as possible so you can comfort the puppy if he whines by talking calmly or placing your fingers in the crate. I place the crate on a bench next to my bed so its eye level.
If the whining becomes intolerable and you know he doesn't need to go potty, place the crate in a room or basement so you can't hear the whining and get some sleep. You will still need to get up every few hours to check on the puppy to be sure he doesn't need to go outside. If you have a baby monitor that could become useful.
What You’ll Need:
A crate that is large enough for your puppy to stand up in and turn around comfortably, allowing room for a blanket and at least one toy. There are many crates available but I recommend a crate with a divider so the crate can grow with your puppy rather than the expense of several crates.
Blanket and/or Bedding
- Place a blanket and some chew toys in the crate, and leave the door open. Show your dog a treat, and toss it into the crate, giving the command, “Go to bed,” in a bright, cheerful, yet firm tone. You can use any command you like, but it’s important to stick with the command you choose. When the dog goes inside, leave the door open and give enthusiastic praise while offering a second treat. Say, “Ok” to let the dog know he can come out again. Don’t reward him for leaving the crate. You want the association of the treat to occur when he enters. Repeat this step 10-12 times, then stop for an hour and then begin the process again until you feel the puppy understands your commands.
- Once your puppy gets the hang of entering and exiting the crate on command, you can move on to the next step. This time, try giving the, “Go to bed,” command in a happy tone without tossing a treat inside. Instead, point to the crate when you give the command. When he responds by entering the crate, shower your puppy with praise and reward him with a treat. Say, “ok” to let him know he can step back outside. Repeat several times.
- Once your puppy understands the, “Go to bed” command, you can move on to closing the crate door. When the dog enters the crate, give him a treat immediately, then close the door. Feed him a few treats through the door to help him remain calm. Count to five, then open the door and give the “Ok” command to let him know he can exit. If you notice your dog panicking when the door closes, you can try the intermediate step of closing the door only halfway and then allowing him to exit. Repeat this exercise several times a day, increasing the amount of time you keep the door closed with each set of repetitions.
- Once your puppy is used to the crate door closing, keep the crate closed while you sit nearby. Start with 5 minute sets, then gradually increase the time in the crate until you reach 30 minutes. Be sure your puppy can see you at all times. He may whine a little, but you should remain steadfast. Place lots of chew toys in the crate to help distract him. If your puppy begins to panic, however, go back to step three for a while to help him relax and get used to the crate at a slower pace.
- When your puppy relaxes in the crate while you are in the same room, leave him alone in the crate while you exit to another area of the home. Again, be sure the crate is full of interesting chew toys to help keep his mind off of being alone. Increase the amount of time the puppy is alone in the crate until he is comfortable there.
It is important to note that crate should never be used as a punishment or permanent housing arrangement for your puppy, but rather a short-term management tool. You don’t want to keep your puppy in a crate eight hours a day, every work day. If overused, the puppy will begin to feel confined and may act out due to lack of exercise and companionship.
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