How to Crate Train Your Puppy

crate trainingTo begin with, many puppy owners that we run across on Long Island, NYC have a huge problem when it comes to crate training their puppy. The problem is the preconceived notion that they carry or the physical appearance of a crate resembling a prison that is used for puppies. It’s not.

It should also be noted that these puppy owners are viewing a crate from a human’s point of view; this type of thinking also creates an enormous obstacle for having a well-trained dog too. Not to mention, that on more than occasion, it is this kind of mindset that actually can create or add to a puppy or dog’s aggression or dominant behavior – all this for another post on how to become the pack leader.

Is Crate Training My Puppy Necessary?

Here at Dedicated Dog Training, we advocate the use of crate training for:

  1. potty training (to prevent your puppy or dog from eliminated in the home)
  2. housebreaking (the prevention of chewing, destroying and creating havoc in your home).
  3. To help prevent or lessen the onset & severity of dog separation anxiety.
  4. To reduce the chance of your dog accidentally hurting themselves or others when you cannot supervise them.
  5. And to help with future unknowns such as:

a) unforeseen behavior problems in the future such as dog aggression.

b) a guests that you’re hosting in your home that has a phobia to dogs

Please do not misunderstand our stance on crate training, we believe in it, but, like anything else, there is a right and wrong way on how to crate train your puppy. Crate training helps to keep your bond with your puppy, we know, many of you are shaking your heads in disbelief right now – putting my puppy in the crate (prison) is going to enhance our relationship? How?

Well, if we can get you to stop viewing the crate as a punishment or jail for a second we can attempt to make you feel better about using it. So here goes.

Crate Training Puppies & Room Training Humans

Firstly, we need to understand that a puppy needs to feel safe and secure, we may go into a room (bedroom) to do that, of course, the room is bigger, but so are we.

So, relevancy here does apply. When we are upset, confused, or just feel like collecting our thoughts, we will most likely close the door to that room (the equivalent of closing the crate door).

What we do not want to do is to give the puppy the association of a negative experience in the beginning with sending him or her to their crate.  Later, once they are comfortable in their crate, we can, against conventional wisdom, do not have to be so worried if they interpret us sending them as a punishment.  They will get over it, if you establish crate training the correct way.

however, in the early days, weeks or months of crate training when we feel overwhelmed with our puppy, it is our job to become actors and actresses while sending our puppy to his crate. What does that mean?

That means we must send them “cheerfully!” A little different than our observations on how we send children to their room when they are misbehaving.

Another reason why the crate is advantageous to maintaining and augmented the bond between you and your furry friend is it will prevent or at least decrease the amount of time that you spend physically correcting or verbally yelling and screaming at your puppy or dog for eliminating on your carpet, chewing on the furniture or running over your children.

Often bad habits are created when a puppy is allowed to freely roam the home, there are things that they can do that are undetectable at the moment, which will be realized later by you.  Therefore, as we all know, or should know, a correction for a chewed cell phone hours or even minutes after the act occurs is fruitless.

How to Introduce Your Puppy to the Crate

The following introduction to the puppy crate is under the assumption that:

  • our puppy is 8 weeks to three (3) or 4 months old &
  • you have just brought your puppy or young dog home.

Note: The BIGGEST mistake you can make is to NOT introduce your puppy to the crate immediately.  We can stress enough that delayed puppy crate introduction (even as little a day or two) can create strong protest and an unwillingness to concede for your puppy.  Never mind having them sleep in your room.

Here are the steps that we use to crate train puppies:

Step #1

a) keep the crate open and throw food inside and STEP away (5 feet or so) and just let the puppy find the food with as little coaxing as possible.

b) Because the door is open and you have a well-created distance your puppy should be able to comfortable get out of the crate without feeling your presence.

c) repeat, wait and repeat.

Step #2

a) Do exactly the same thing as outline in step #1, but add a command “crate” or “go to your crate” or something like that.

b) rinse and repeat

Note: the door is still not being shut at this time & you’re still maintaining a good distance allowing your puppy to feel FREE.

Note: at night time, you will place the puppy in the crate and close the door and only open the door if you believe it necessary to take him or her outside to relieve themselves.

This note only applies to night time.  the next morning you will go back to the food game for the day.

Step #3

a) once you see the dog (and this may take a few days or longer) willingly go into the crate, you may without shutting the door, move a bit closer to the crate (maybe 3 feet away).  From here you should be observant to any mood changes with your puppy’s entrance & exit of the crate.  If you see a drastic change after a few repetitions, immediately, revert to the 5-foot distance and work with that for a bit longer before retested.

b) Let’s assume, your dog is comfortable with you being closer to him or her; now you may gently close the door and immediately open and leave.

c) rinse and repeat, later.

d) do not rush this

Again, at night or times when you cannot supervise him or her just pick them up and place them in the crate (without saying anything) and close the door and go about your business – do NOT make it a BIG production, by saying “mommy will be right back” or “daddy is come back soon.”

Does the Size of a Puppy’s Crate Really Matter?

Size matters.

One of the biggest mistakes that our Long Island dog training school observes when we are conducting evaluations throughout Long Island and NYC is the crate size is too large. Now, crate size is not a problem, if your puppy does not have potty training issues.

If your puppy does have issues when it comes to relieving his or herself then the crate should be JUST large enough for him or her to stand up and turn around.

The reasoning behind this is to create a consequence for the puppy if he or she was to eliminate. A good example, if your puppy eliminates in a crate that is so big, there is no consequence, the puppy can easily move to the other side and relax there until you notice and clean up the elimination.

However, if the crate is fairly “too close for comfort” the consequence is built into to the size of the crate, that is, even a very small amount of time stuck next to feces or urine could act a great future deterrent.

What a Crate Should Not be used for?

A crate should definitely be used for discouraging bad behaviors so they do not become bad habits. A crate should NOT be used for or to replace professional dog training programs. Long Island has too many qualified dog trainers for you to use a crate to control bad behaviors.

If safety is an issue, by all means USE the crate. If having a hyper active dog leads you to using the crate, then we would suggest another route, hyperactivity in a puppy of course can be attributed to puppy-hood, but also it is a symptom of a larger problem; it is not the problem.

The problems that can arise from an isolated a puppy every time you have company over can span from a hyperactive dog never getting used to many people in the household and him or her leading a very limited life to a very people aggressive dog (when you think about it, it actually makes sense, people to the dog begins to equal isolation)
Crate training your puppy is an awesome way to go to help combat bad habits from developing and to give you piece of mind when you cannot be there to supervise a puppy who is still learning what is acceptable and not acceptable behaviors in and around your home. Not to mention that crate training your puppy will help you to have an adult dog that is well-potty trained.

Additionally, crate training lends itself to many puppy owners weighing in on the validity and on how to crate train your puppy – it is your job to listen, learn, and then apply what you believe to be the best methods. Knowledge is power! Dedicated Dog Training is here to help you achieve not only your crate training goals, but your puppy and dog training goals as well.