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Crate Training Puppies

By: PetPlace Staff

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You have an adorable new puppy, but he's tearing the house apart when you're not looking, and trips to the vet are a battle. What can you do? You might want to consider crate training your puppy.

Crate training a puppy will help them learn that the crate is a nice and comfortable place to be. It is a way to keep tabs on your dog when you can't focus all your attention on them. It is also a comfort zone for dogs and reduces separation anxiety as well as makes it easier to transport them to places.

Is crate training right for your dog?

Before you try to crate train your puppy, you should keep in mind that crate training is not right for every dog. If you got your dog from a shelter or a pet store, or any other place where they were kept in a cage for prolonged periods of time, you might want to consider an alternate method. Dogs that are confined to a crate when they are young might associate stress with the crate, and will be more likely to go to the bathroom in it.

Dogs with separation anxiety might feel worse in a small crate than in a larger space. In extreme cases, a dog might hurt themselves trying to get out of a crate. Always be on the lookout for signs of discomfort when your dog is in the crate.

Young puppies should be at least 9 weeks old before they can be crated, as younger puppies have little control over their bladder. The younger the puppy is, the less time they should be confined to the crate. If you have a small puppy and are planning on leaving them alone for longer than an hour or two, consider a different way of keeping them safe.

Introducing the crate

In order to ensure that your dog considers the crate as a place of comfort and security, place the crate in a populated area where many people pass by. At night, you might place the crate in your bedroom. This will help your puppy not feel anxious or separated from you and other people.

Throughout the day, put a treat or a favorite toy inside the crate for your puppy to discover. You may also try to feed them inside or right outside the crate. This helps the puppy associate the crate with positive rewards. Praise your puppy for entering the crate, or, if they are clicker trained, click and give them a treat. Except for overnight or in emergency, do not force your dog into the cage. You want the dog to be comfortable around the crate, and forcing him will cause them to be fearful instead.

Once your dog is comfortable with being in the crate, begin closing the door for short periods of time while you are there. If your dog whines and begs to be let out, wait until they are not whining to open the door. Opening the door while he¡¦s whining will teach him that he can get out that way.

When your puppy ceases to be uncomfortable with being inside a closed crate, begin leaving the room for short periods of time. If at any point your dog appears to be anxious with the process, back up a step and try again. After a while of this, you should be able to leave your dog for a while to do things around the house or outside without worrying about your home or the safety of your puppy. Crate training should not be rushed, and it may take some time.

Things to keep in mind

The crate should be a temporary housing area for when you absolutely have to confine your dog - such as when you need to leave it alone at home or when you are taking it with you somewhere. Except for overnight, dogs should not be kept in the crate for longer than 5 hours! If your dog is not destructive at night, you do not need to crate them. If you must crate them overnight, let them out first thing in the morning.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

DO:

  • Make sure your dog goes to the bathroom before confining them in the crate to prevent accidents.

  • Keep some toys and a soft blanket in the crate for your dog¡¦s comfort (although some dogs actually prefer to lay on a hard surface and might push the blanket away).

  • Keep some ice water in the crate for your dog to prevent dehydration.

  • Ensure that your dog is getting enough exercise outside of the crate. This will keep him healthy and happy, and will make him more willing to go to the crate to relax.

    DO NOT:

  • NEVER use the crate as punishment! You will be teaching him to fear the crate instead of love it.

  • Do not allow children to play with the dog or crate while the dog is in the crate. The crate is the dog¡¦s personal space and should be respected.

  • Do not keep your dog in a crate for too long when the temperature is high.

  • Do not use the crate if your dog has diarrhea, is vomiting, or is sick in general.

  • If your dog has an accident inside the crate, do not punish them. Simply wash anything that was soiled with a pet odor neutralizer or a cleaner that is not ammonia-based.

    Keep in mind that the crate should be used as a last resort - always try to get someone to watch your dog, especially if you will be gone for longer than 5 hours. You can also set up an exercise pen for your dog in a dog-safe area of the house. Leaving your dog in a crate for a prolonged period of time can be hazardous to their health and can make them anxious.

    If done correctly, crate training your puppy can save you from unnecessary worry about your home getting destroyed by an over-zealous puppy. More importantly, it keeps your dog safe.

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