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How to crate train a puppy

Crate training provides a safe and familiar space for your puppy. It also helps with house-training, and preventing destructive behaviours. Here’s how to crate train your puppy.
How to crate train a puppy

What is crate training?

When you get a puppy, it’s a good idea to create a safe, familiar and comfortable space for them. Crate training is when you introduce a puppy to an indoor dog crate or kennel, so they have a secure area that’s theirs.

This is useful for house-training your puppy, helping with toilet training and preventing destructive behaviours.

It’s also important to build a positive association with the crate, so it can help your dog feel calm and secure in new or potentially stressful environments - such as if you’re staying away from home.

What crate training isn’t is caging your dog. It’s important to remember your dog doesn’t think in human terms, and will ultimately view the crate as a safe space they can retire to if they’re nervous, tired or stressed.

Top tip: Many breeders will have already crate trained their puppies, as it’s a lot easier for them not to have puppies running riot around their house. This will make things so much easier for you – so it may well be something you want to ask the breeder right at the very start.

Extra top tip: Another great way to protect your pup is with peace-of-mind dog insurance.

How to choose the right crate

First of all, make sure you get a crate the right size. The puppy needs to be able to stand up comfortably, lie stretched out and be able to get up and turn round.

But you don’t want it to be too big, else your puppy might use one end as a toilet area. While dogs tend not to make mess where they sleep, starting out with one that’s not too spacious eliminates this risk.

Find out more about toilet training your pup here.

Make sure it’s one that’s safe, without any sharp edges or ‘sticky-out bits’ - even when the door is open.

Also, if you’re planning on going away, get a crate which is suitable for travel.

Make it comfortable

Make the crate really comfortable. Line it with veterinary bedding that goes up the sides to keep the pup warm and comfortable. Make sure the bedding is washable too.

You can also make it extra-inviting by adding additional blankets and toys.

Also, make sure your puppy has access to fresh water while they’re in the crate - such as a hook-on bowl or drinking fountain.

Introducing the crate

The best spot for a crate is somewhere quiet and central, but also where your family spends a lot of time. Avoid putting it in direct sunlight.

Also, don’t set it up in front of the puppy. When it’s ready, let the puppy into the room, and they can explore it on their own terms.

Leave the door open and encourage your puppy to explore the crate on their own. You can also use treats or toys to lure them inside.

It’s important that your puppy associates the crate with positive experiences. Feed your puppy near the crate, gradually moving the food bowl inside. Also be ready with treats and praise whenever your puppy voluntarily enters the crate.

Start the training with short sessions. Don’t shut the door to begin with, as this might scare them. They should become comfortable spending time in the crate before you start doing this.

Begin by closing the crate door for short periods while you're nearby. Then gradually increase the time your puppy spends inside.

Initially, it’s best to stay nearby to reassure your puppy, gradually increasing the distance over time.

Establish a routine

Consistency is important with all puppy training. Create a schedule for letting your puppy out of the crate for toilet breaks, meals, play time and naps.

Take your puppy outside before and after crate time to reinforce good toilet habits.

It's natural for puppies to protest being confined initially. But you should avoid giving in to whining or barking. Don’t let them out of the crate when they're making noise, as it can reinforce this behaviour.

Gradually increase the time spent in the crate over time. It’s best to keep them comfortable and relaxed if you can. You can also provide toys or puzzles to keep them occupied during crate time.

Over days and weeks, leave them for a little longer. Eventually, you should be able to leave the house with them remaining settled.

You also want to start using the crate for overnight sleeping. You can take this step once your pup is comfortable spending extended periods inside.

Place the crate near your bed to begin with, so your puppy feels reassured that you’re there.

Top tip: Getting your puppy a heartbeat toy can help calm its nerves, and provide a comforting sleeping buddy. In particular, they can provide security to young pups which may be struggling with separation anxiety.

Important things to remember:

     Crate training takes time and patience. Be consistent, and stick at it.

     Crucially, never use the crate as a form of punishment. As mentioned, it should always be associated with positive experience.

Phasing out crate use

As your puppy grows older, they will become more reliably house-trained. You can then gradually decrease the amount of time spent in the crate.

Ultimately, you can leave the door open for them to come and go as they please.

Finally, bear in mind that every puppy is different. As such, the timeline for crate training can vary.

Want to know more?

     How to stop your puppy from biting

     Teaching your puppy life skills

How To Crate Train Your Puppy, Behaviourist Advice Video

About the Author

Carolyn is an accredited behaviourist and trainer with over 20 years experience working with dogs and other companion animals. She has written books, over 500 published articles and trains owners and professionals alike both nationally and internationally. Carolyn is also an experienced broadcaster and presenter, has appeared in five TV series’ and countless radio shows. Her passion is for helping owners build a strong and positive relationship with their dogs and fully develop the potential of the bond between them.

More articles from Carolyn Menteith

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