Crate Training a Puppy
Crate Training is a great addition to your dog’s life, it gives great control and pack structure to your dog, it also represents a place where your dog can go to be left alone, rest or recuperate and is a good place, not a place of punishment.
People not familiar with crating dog think it is putting a dog in a cage, it is far from that.
Providing your puppy or dog with an indoor crate can satisfy many dogs’ need for a den-like enclosure. As well as being an effective toilet training system (it takes advantage of the dog’s natural reluctance to soil its sleeping place), it can also help to reduce separation anxiety, to prevent destructive behaviour (such as chewing), to keep a puppy away from potentially dangerous household items (i.e., poisons, electrical wires, etc.), and to serve as a mobile indoor dog house which can be moved from room to room whenever necessary.
Dogs that have been correctly crate trained when young will often prefer their crates to anywhere else. Although you can crate train a dog at any age, there is real benefit to training a puppy as soon as it gets home.
The crate is supposed to represent the dogs Den, a comfortable, relaxing and safe place to be. This is not a punishment place; do not ever punish your dog in its crate or send it to the crate when in trouble.
Always have this premise in mind when you interact with your dog.
There are essentially three types of dog crate, the soft crate, wire crate and airline crate.
We have used all three crate types and I have tried to include the features that I feel are beneficial for crate use in a dog owner’s life style.
Soft crates are a little more “pleasant” in the home, easily transported and erected, so they are quite popular. These can be used by any breed of dog but of course the dog must be crate trained and proofed under distraction.
Whilst Soft Crates are tough, they are no match for a motivated dog trying to tear out of the crate.
Wire crates are made from wire mesh and are more robust and do provide a more difficult crate to escape from, but of course wire crates are heavier and harder to move.
Airline crates can be used to fly your pup or dog on a plane. They must be approved Airline crates. These crates are also very heavy duty and are good option for many dogs that would try and escape.
I would start with a wire crate for all puppies.
If you lock your adult dog in the crate on day one your dog will likely become panicked and try and escape, if you have chosen a soft crate, the dog may rip through the screens, if you have chosen a wire crate, the dog may injure itself or damage the crate.
The size of the crate is important, too big will not be beneficial in toilet training your dog and too small will be uncomfortable. Your dog must be able to stretch out without having to curl up, if your chooses to curl up, that’s fine.
I like to measure the dog when it is stretched out and lying down and get a crate that is only approx one human adult hand longer, and wider than the dog when the dog is laying down.
I use a small crate for puppies ad just upsize the crate as the dog gets bigger, usually for my sized dogs, Malinois or German Shepherd, I choose a small crate then go to a large.
If you don’t want to go this way, get a crate that will fit your dog when it is fully grown and place a divider inside, giving your dog only the space it needs. Moving the divider as the puppy grows.
You can buy these dividers or use a piece of board, do not use MDF as this is not a great product.
Positioning & Preparation
This isn’t too important for most dogs, though some behavioural problems will take advantage of better crate positioning to suit that problem. If your dog has a particular behaviour problem such as separation anxiety, you will likely need to come and see us for a behaviour consult or seek help near you.
The general rule about crate positioning is that the crate general position should be kept in the same place as often as possible, during training i.e. make a place for the crate and leave it there. Later this won’t be so important.
Also the location should be in the most common living area of the house. The kitchen or lounge room so that the dog is not isolated.
I would not place a crate near an entry door to the home, it is very easy for the dog to learn to guard that door this way.
Most wire crates have a plastic tray in the bottom, to catch spills etc. Sometimes this tray can make noise when the dog enters and some dogs will find this frightening.
You can put a piece of cardboard between the crate floor and the tray which will quieten that right down. I also recommend securing the door in the open position with some string or a cable tie etc. save the dog banging the door and it springing closed on the dog, causing panic.
Place your dogs bed or a new crate mat inside the crate so your dog will be comfortable, if you see your dog chewing this mat, remove it.
Prepare a toy that has some soft food inside it that your dog likes, such as peanut butter, cream cheese spread etc, we most commonly use the Kong Stuff a Ball for this. This will be waiting in the fridge.
This crate will need to be comfortable, if it is not comfortable your dog will want to get out and seek comfort.
Comfort means that your dog will need to be at the right temperature, this is more important that softy matting below. which pups may chew. Temperature control may simply mean the flaps are open when it is warm or perhaps use a fan, it may also mean having a heating pad in there when the weather is very cold. Look at our crate accessories at the end of the article to see what is available.
Trim your dogs nails if you will be using a soft crate, sharp puppy nails can tear a crate in seconds.
Starting the training
Ok now you have your crate in place, with adult dogs we would allow your dog to get used to the new piece of furniture, have the door/s always open and don’t encourage your dog to go in just yet, give it a day or two, rushing training will only add stress and anxiety to all., but with puppies we don’t have a day or two or your floor may look like a toilet.
So to speed this process up we use an exercise pen in conjunction with a crate, so that the area of confinement is quite large at first then small. My puppy raising program tells you how to approach the first night.
Get some tasty style soft treats and place them in an easily accessible container, our soft crates have a pouch on top to store this container in. This needs to be kept well stocked for the first few weeks.
If you notice your dog going in voluntarily, reward with a treat and praise.
I like to suggest that if you treat your dog in the house as normal practice; stop this when you first place the crate in the house, so that your dog hasn’t been given a treat in at least a day or two by now.
On the first night you will see in my puppy program that we do lock the puppy in the crate, keep in mind that we have toileted and played with the pup in the way I have described, but you should still run these steps every day to raise the value of the crate.
Head over to crate and get your dogs attention. Get out a couple of small treats and call your dog over to you standing next to the crate.
Close your treat hand into a fist and let your dog try and get the treats out without success.
Now add your cue such as “in your crate” and hesitate for one full second, then toss the treats into the back of the crate.
When your dog goes in after them verbal reward with “gooood boy/girl in your crate”.
Sound excited like your dog has done something great.
When your dog eats them and comes out, get some more treats and repeat, two or three times is enough per session. Now leave it for a little while, no treats, in fact your dog must learn that treats are only given in the crate.
Give it a few hours and then repeat the steps again. You will see at some point your dog anticipating you throwing the treats in and going in there on command.
Sneak over to your dogs crate without being seen and place a nice treat in there, such as a nice piece of steak or chicken. Now go get your dog and have him or her come inside with you, hand around near the crate and play a game with your dog, perhaps say what’s in your crate?
Indicate in the crate direction and so that your dog will see the treat. Let him or her run in and have it, praise like your dog just had a win.
Let your dog come out again and end this session there, the find the crate “growing” treats is a strong learning incentive.
Next as in step one, call your dog over again, but now without having the treats out yet, command “in your crate.” Your dog should go in without much of a problem. When your dog is in there now get the treats and throw them in. This is teaching the dog to go in, without having to see the treats.
Step 3, Recap
Ok so to recap, your dog will come to crate when you call it. It will go in on command and wait for treat.
It will easily wait 30 seconds between treats without coming out. If all this is in place, we move on.
As per normal call your dog and command in your crate, your dog goes in. Now give one treat and walk away and re command stay in your crate, get your Kong Stuff a Ball loaded and put it in the crate and close the door, now walk away and allow the dog to enjoy the treat.
When the dog is finished leave it in the crate for another 10 minutes. Then let the dog out.
Advancing this is extending the time the door is closed after the treat is finished from 10 minutes to two hours.
It is advised to walk by the crate and if your dog is quiet verbally praise or by all means drop a treat in from the top.
When your dog is not looking, place a nice pigs ear or similar in the crate, call your dog inside and give him or her the “in your crate” cue. When he or she runs in there, they find a special treat waiting for them, this is great reinforcement for going to the crate without you. Don’t be afraid to do this often.
Each time you are going to feed your dog from a bowl, place the food bowl in the crate and use the Triangle of Temptation Feeding Program.
This will also help with crate training. When the dog is released to the food bowl, close the door so that the dog is inside his or her crate eating.
If your dog wants to come out, open the door and take away the food bowl and let your dog out, put the uneaten food away now. You can eat your meal in the crate, if you choose not to, you also chose to skip this meal.
Any time you bring your dog into your house, make the crate the first port of call, walk your dog in and cue into your crate. Reward for going in. If you want your dog out bring him or her straight out then, but set the habit of come in, go to your crate.
Until you have a well behaved dog in the crate lasting two hours plus, it is advisable not to have the dog in the crate under times of high distraction, such as your other dog/s running around, visitors coming etc.
When you take your dog out of the crate, throw in a pigs ears, brisket bones etc and let your dog see you do it. Then take your dog for a walk, when the dog comes home give the “in your crate cue” and when the dog enters it gets the pigs ear.
Make the crate a “landing place”, by default any time you dogs comes into the house always first crate your dog, make it the automatic place your dog goes too.
This can affect the positive feelings we have created for the crate.
Collars: Always remove your puppy or dog’s collar before confining in the crate. Even flat buckle collars can occasionally get struck on the bars or wire mesh of a crate.
Temperature: Crates are wonderful in Winter because the dog can stay warmer as the crate reflects and contains the dogs body heat.
So in turn this may not be great in summer. In summer if you have to close the side flaps, always leave the top open (not the mesh) so the heat can escape.
Consider a cooling aid in the crate.
*NOTE: Except for overnight, avoid crating puppies or older dogs for more than 5 hours at a time.
You can transport your dog inside your car when travelling but the same rules above apply, be aware that your cars Air Conditioning will keep the passengers in the front cool, but it may not reach the cargo area.
Dogs that get car sick often are too warm.
We have a host of accessories that you can add to your crate to make your dogs crate a more comfortable, pleasurable place to be.
HyperKewl Dog Mats
These mats are used in summer, you soak them with water and lightly ring them out, they will cool your dog really well on hot days or in hot cars.
Fans and Cooling Systems
We have two types of crate fan available, these can be attached to the sire crates by using the hangers or set on top of the Soft crates and sucking air out of the crate. For a little money these are awesome. No dog should be in a car inside a crate without a fan.
Metro Fan: A two speed battery operated fan that you can also plug into AC.
Pet Edge Fan with Cooling System!
This crate fan has an attachment that has a ice brick that provides cool air inside your dogs crate! http://www.k9pro.com.au/products/Pro-Select-Deluxe-Crate-Cooling-Fan.html
Warmers and Comforters
When the weather is cold these heat mats rock, with variable settings you can make sure your dog is very comfortable all night!
Snuggle Puppies are a must for pups !
Buy a good quality crate, train your dog or puppy with patience and add some cool accessories and you will never get crate refusal!