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Let’s Talk Crate Training

Have you thought about how you're going to potty train your pup or how you're going to teach them the house rules? One way we highly recommend is crate, or kennel, training.

Some folks feel bad for putting the dog in a crate or kennel, but there is no need to feel guilty at all. When properly used, a crate is a sanctuary for your puppy. They enjoy having their personal, den-like space. It gives them a place to relax, feel safe, and rest.

Other benefits of kennel training:

  • It helps them to develop and control their bladder.

  • It saves your furniture or shoes from being chewed while you're away.

  • It's handy in emergencies, natural disasters, and evacuations.

  • It provides a refuge for your dog if they get stressed around rowdy kids or visitors.

  • It makes it much easier to get them to and from the vet's office.

Crates or kennels are made of wire or hard plastic. The hard plastic crates, also called airline crates, are an excellent choice for pups who like darkness and privacy.

A positive experience is vital when introducing your pup to the crate.

Here are 13 tips for stellar crate training:

  1. Choose the right size crate according to how big they'll be as an adult. To help decide the size think about them standing up, laying down, and turning around in the crate when they're fully grown. Some crates come with a divider. Use it to make a smaller space for your puppy and when they're big enough, remove the partition.

  2. Decide what you want in the crate for the pup to sleep on. Depending on the dog's personality and preference, a blanket, towel, or dog bed may do the trick. If the puppy routinely chews up dog beds, it is not a good idea to use one in the crate. Whatever you choose should be safe for them. Some dogs even prefer the plastic crate tray as is.

  3. Take off collars or harnesses while in the crate. A "naked" dog is the way to go. If something were to get caught on the wire, they could choke themselves and be injured.

  4. Build a positive relationship with the crate, and never use it for punishment. The more relaxed, calm, and happy the puppy is the better. Place the kennel in a quiet area of the house. Always use happy voices and tones around the kennel, and consider securing the door open so it doesn't hit them or accidentally close them in. Drop a treat or a toy near the crate, then at the opening, then just inside, then finally in the back. The pup will follow the toy or treat into the crate. This process could take 30 minutes or a week, depending on the dog.

  5. Make a game of it. Games, like hiding a treat inside, or tossing a ball in while playing fetch, enable the pup to go in and out of the kennel at will.

  6. Once the pup is comfortable going into the create, begin building the time they spend in the kennel. Meals can be given in the crate to foster a positive connection to their new space. At first, leave the door open. Then, close the door and open it as soon as they finish eating. Next, leave the door closed for a couple of minutes after they eat and so on. Caution! If your puppy starts crying to get out, it's crucial you do not let them out until they stop crying and are calm. Otherwise, they'll learn all they have to do is cry to get out. And, that's a behavior you rather not have. Calm is key.

  7. Another idea is to play with the puppy inside until they get tired and want to rest. Place them in the crate for a restful nap. Start with ten minutes at a time and work your way up. This method associates the crate with rest, and that's a good thing!

  8. As you're building up time in the crate, you can sit near the enclosure for a few minutes and leave the room for a few, totaling five to ten minutes. If the puppy is comfortable with that, slowly build the time, and once they've reached 30 minutes with you out of sight, then they can stay in there during the night as long as they're near you so you can hear if they need to go potty.

  9. Prep them for success. Once they're comfortable with the crate, leave for only a short period, like going to pick up a pizza or grabbing a coffee. Don't leave them in there for hours. You could even set up a "nanny cam" and see if the pup is calm or anxious. From there, you can adjust the time to shorter or slightly longer depending on how relaxed they were. Be sure to reward the puppy when you come home.

  10. Always be aware of how long the puppy has been in the crate. If left in there too long, they may pee or poo in the crate through no fault of their own. Dogs don't like to potty where they sleep, so let the pup out very regularly to eat, play, and use the bathroom.

  11. Give them a "busy bone" for a fun, rewarding stimulant. One option is to fill a Kong with peanut butter and place it in the freezer. Then, when they're in the crate for a more extended period, give them the frozen, filled Kong toy. Doing this provides the pup with something safe to do and builds a positive relationship with the kennel.

  12. When leaving and returning home, don't make a big deal of it. Again, calm is key for both you and your puppy. If you're super sad or excited when going and coming, it could send the wrong signal to your pup, and they could develop anxiety. Also, to help combat anxiety, crate the puppy when you are home so they don't associate the crate with always being alone.

  13. Patience is essential. Have fun and enjoy the process. It can take up to six months of training, so be patient with yourself and the puppy. Follow-through and consistency will soon produce a puppy who loves their crate.

We've also filmed a short four-part video series on crate training. Here they are:

That's it! It may seem like a lot, but it's not as bad as it might seem on paper. Treat these tips and recommendations as a helpful guide to follow when crate training your new puppy.

We are here to answer any questions you may have, and we're here for you every step of the way! Again, it's all about having fun and developing a strong bond between you, your family, and your new best friend. Do you have any kennel training stories to share? What technique worked best for you and your puppy?

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