With some training, crates can be a great asset for your puppy, not a punishment.So you've made the plunge and brought home a puppy. Congratulations! Turning that exciting little ball of fur into your loyal and trusted best friend will take time and effort. And training. Lots of training. Crate training should be one of the first things you teach your puppy. A crate is not intended to "jail" your dog. You wouldn't let your puppy out to roam free in an unfenced yard unsupervised. He could get out and get lost or hurt. A crate keeps your dog safe in your house or car that same way a fence keeps him safe in your yard. Canines in the wild are den animals. They look for a cozy, secluded area with limited access to sleep, to heal when they're injured, and to care for their young. A crate can fill the instinctive need for a safe haven for your puppy.
Choosing Your CrateYou can get either a wire crate or a plastic crate for your puppy. Wire crates offer more ventilation and better visibility. Dividers can be placed in them to keep them small for puppies, but allow for growth. Usually, they can be folded or dismantled to make moving them fairly easy. Plastic crates can be easily moved from room to room. They are also required by most airlines, so if you will be traveling frequently with your dog, you might want to get him used to a plastic crate from the onset. You will need to get larger crates as your dog grows. The crate should be large enough for your puppy to stand up, stretch out, and turn around, but not much larger than that. Puppies instinctively don't want to soil the area where they sleep, so by having the crate small and letting your puppy outside to go potty at appropriate intervals, the crate can be a useful tool in housebreaking your puppy. If the crate is too large, you pup will just go to the area of the crate farthest from where he sleeps to eliminate.
Where to Put the CrateThe crate should be close enough to the activity of the house your puppy can see, hear, and smell what's going on. Keep it out of direct sunlight and away from heating and cooling vents. For at least the first few nights your puppy is at your home, you should put the crate in your bedroom so he can hear and smell you.
Introducing Your Puppy to the CrateYou want your puppy to see the crate as his very own fortress of solitude, a place that is his own where he is safe and secure. It should only be associated with pleasant things. Never force him into the crate. Instead, start slowly. Make sure the door is secured in an open position or remove it entirely. Let your puppy walk around it, sniff it, and investigate the crate at his own pace. Put some treats around it and just inside the door. As your pup grows more comfortable walking into the crate, put treats farther back in the crate. You might want to put his bowl in the crate and let him eat in there. As his comfort level increases, start closing the door while he's in the crate. At first, close it but immediately open it back up. Do this several times as he's eating. If he appears at all distressed, open the door immediately. Begin leaving the door closed for longer and longer periods of time. With time, you can leave your puppy crated for longer and longer. Always praise him for going into the crate and staying there peacefully. Reward him as he stays longer. You may want to only reward him periodically, so he doesn't expect a treat every time. Dogs are gamblers: he'll keep doing it for the chance of a reward, even if he doesn't get one every time.
6 Things to Remember About Crates
- This is worth repeating: never force your puppy into his crate. He should have no negative experiences associated with it at all.
- Never put your puppy in his crate with a leash on. Make sure there is nothing in the crate that he can catch his collar on or take his collar off when he's in the crate.
- Never use the crate for punishment.
- If your puppy cries in his crate, let him cry. When he has been quiet for five minutes or so, you can take him out. You do not want to teach him that if he cries, he can get out.
- Be sure to adjust the crate appropriately as your puppy grows.