Crate Training is teaching your puppy to accept time in a crate and relax or entertain himself while he is inside. It is easiest to Crate Train your dog while he is a young puppy, but it can be taught at any age.
Think of all the times that you might need to confine your puppy in a crate throughout his life. These times might be daily during the early months of Potty Training, or they might be infrequent, after a surgery or during a trip. If your puppy is already accustomed to being confined in the crate, then these times will be restful and not stressful for him. If your puppy has never been accustomed to being left in a crate before, then suddenly being locked in a crate can be very stressful for him during what might already be a stressful time.
Benefits of Crate Training
Crate Training has many benefits for both dog and owner. The following are just a few of the important uses of a crate, which crate training makes possible.
- Prevents puppies from developing destructive chewing habits.
- They are useful for Potty Training.
- They provide a familiar place for your puppy to go while traveling.
- They can be used to teach your pup independence thus prevent Separation Anxiety.
- They keep your puppy safe and out of the way during when needed.
- They provide a retreat for your puppy from kids, other dogs, and commotion.
- They can be used as a safe feeding location.
Because of its many benefits Crate Training is a worthwhile endeavor that pays off in both the short and the long run.
How to choose a crate
You will need to consider what your puppy’s adult size will be while picking out a crate. You will also need to consider how many crates you are willing to purchase throughout your dog’s life, and what his breed and personality are. Is he strong? Is he an escape artist? Does he crave social interaction, or does he prefer to be left alone in the dark while resting? There are several different types of crates that you can purchase, and each crate type has its pros and cons.
Description: Wire crates are crates with walls that are made from a series of interconnected thin metal bars. They typically contain a removable plastic tray that slides into the bottom of the crate, and many come with a metal divider to block off part of the crate for training purposes.
- They fold down for travel
- They often come with a metal divider, allowing you to buy one larger crate and adjust the length of your crate as your puppy grows.
- They contain a removable plastic tray, making it easier to clean up any accidents that your puppy has.
- They allow your puppy to see out.
- They come in a variety of price points and dimensions. They
- can be purchased with one, two, or three doors, giving you more flexibility in crate placement.
- They tend to be easier for an escape artist to bust out of, especially if your crate has multiple doors.
- They cannot be used for airplane travel
- The larger ones are heavy and thus hard to move around.
Brands: Midwest brand makes a variety of wire crates with a wide range of options. There are single, double, and even trips door options, several different size options, a variety of dimension options, and even crates with unusual dimensions, such as tall and thin crates. Midwest brand makes crates at several price points, ranging from low end to high end in price, and they are relatively easy to find online and in stores.
Another popular crate brand is Kong. Kong crates tend to be easy to find at stores. They also come in single or double door options, are built to be slightly more durable, and are typically mid-range in price.
Soft Sided Crates
Description: Soft-sided crates are crates that are made from durable, water repellent, weave type fabrics stretched over metal or plastic frames.
- They are the most portable of all the crates.
- They are very lightweight.
- They come in single, double, and occasionally triple door options.
- They can be more comfortable than harder crates.
- Many provide lots of visibility and light
- Many come with cool features such as window darkening shades and pockets.
- They are easy to escape from.
- They are not very durable.
- They are harder to clean.
- They cannot be used for airplane travel.
Brands: Elite-Field brand makes a variety of soft-sided crates. Many of those crates contain cool features like multiple doors, pockets, and window darkening shades. Their crates tend to be more affordable, well ventilated, and have good visibility. *
Description: Plastic crates are crates made from molded hard plastic with a wire metal door in the front. Most have two halves that are fitted together with bolts.
- They are more durable than wire or soft-sided
- They can be used for airplane travel.
- They typically come apart for easier cleaning.
- They let in less light.
- They allow less visibility out.
- They take up more room while traveling.
- They have fewer dimension options.
- They typically only have one door.
Brands: Petmate brand makes several different types of plastic crates. They tend to be easy to find at stores and are usually moderately priced.
Heavy Duty crates
Description: Heavy duty crates are crates that are built to be escape proof and durable. They are usually built out of aluminum, steel, or very thick plastic. They come in a variety of shapes are variations.
- They are very durable.
- They are almost impossible to escape from.
- They typically last a long time.
- Some of them can be used for airplane travel.
- Some of them are enclosed with metal walls.
- Some of them are made from metal bars and offer lots of visibility.
- They tend to be expensive.
- They are heavy and thus hard to move.
- Some offer very little visibility.
- Most do not break down or fold up.
- Some cannot be used for airplane travel.
Brands: Impact Dog brand makes a very durable aluminum dog crate. Unlike most durable dog crates, their crate does fold down by collapsing in the sides of the crate. The crate has a lot of ventilation holes, an easy to lock door, and is generally well-liked by reviewers.
Proselect Empire makes a steel crate that offers great visibility, something that not all durable crates offer. It is very durable due to it’s welded steel bar construction, and it rests on top of wheels that lock, making it easier to move since most durable crates are quite heavy.**
How to Crate Train a Pyppy
- To teach your puppy to accept confinement in his crate, start by leaving the door open to the crate so that he can go in and out of the crate at will.
- Next, scatter treats or your puppy’s dry dog food around, inside of the crate and in front of it, for your puppy to find. When you first start this, bring your puppy over to the crate and show him the treats. Once he knows that treats can often be found in the crate, then let him go over to the crate on his own. Sporadically replace any treats that he eats with more treats so that the crate will be an exciting location.
- When your puppy is visiting his crate often to check for treats, then place his dry dog food into a bowl, cover the food with water, and let it sit out until the food turns into mush. When the food is mushy, then mix a bit of peanut butter or soft cheese into it, loosely stuff a classic Kong chew toy with the mixture, and place the Kong into a bag and then into your freezer, to freeze overnight.
- When your Kong is ready, then encourage your puppy over to his crate by scattering more treats inside of it while he is watching you. When he is inside, then place the Kong inside with him and gently close the door behind him while he is chewing on the Kong. Leave the door closed for five minutes while he is eating the treats. If he cries, wait until he becomes quiet for at least two seconds before you open the door to let him out.
- As your puppy becomes comfortable being in his crate for five minutes, then gradually increase how long you leave the door closed Do this until you can leave the door closed for one hour or longer and your puppy will rest, chew on his Kong, or calmly watch things outside of the crate, without protesting for more than five minutes.
- While you are doing this, every ten minutes that your puppy remains quiet in the crate, go over to him and drop more treats inside for him, then walk away again.
Ideally, longer periods of time in the crate should be worked up to gradually, but there are times when you cannot introduce the crate gradually. When that happens, then follow all the steps to make the crate fun and comfortable for him but know that your puppy will probably protest the crate more and the training might take longer. Be consistent and be patient with him.
Never let your puppy out of the crate while he is crying, or he will learn that whining and barking will get him out, and he will cry for even longer the next time. At first, look for small opportunities to reward him. For example, if he is barking a lot in the crate, then reward him when he becomes quiet for even two seconds, even if he only quieted down because he was distracted by something. The more that you can reward his quiet, calm, and self-entertaining behavior right when he does it, the quicker he will learn to offer that behavior on his own.
How to Potty Train using a crate
- To use a crate for Potty Training, you must first Crate Train your puppy so that he can spend large amounts of time inside the crate during the Potty-Training process.
- Once Your pup is Crate Trained, then you can place him into the crate for one to one and a half hours between potty breaks. When that time is up, then take him outside on a six-foot leash to go potty, and tell him to “Go Potty”.
- If your puppy goes, then give him three treats, one treat at a time. When you take him back inside, give him forty-five minutes to one hour of supervised free time. At the end of that time, place him back into the crate until it has been one to one and a half hours since he last peed outside. When it has been that long, then take him outside again and repeat the entire process over again.
- If your puppy does not go potty when you take him outside, then bring him back inside and place him back into the crate for thirty minutes. After thirty minutes are up, then take him outside on a leash to try again. Repeat this until he goes potty outside.
- When your puppy has been accident-free for one month, then you can gradually increase the amount of time between his potty breaks. If your puppy has an accident though, reduce the time between breaks by thirty minutes again.
- Practice all of this until your puppy is no longer having accidents in your home, is alerting you when he needs to go outside, and is going potty when you tell him to “Go Potty”. Also, keep in mind that during the day most puppies can only hold their bladders for the number of hours that they are in months of age plus one. Meaning that, if your puppy is three months of age, under ideal circumstances the longest that he can physically hold his bladder for is four hours. Most puppies will need to go even sooner than that though, especially if they have recently been playing, exercising, eating, or drinking.
When to increase freedom outside of the crate
Many people choose not to use a crate because they feel bad confining their puppy in a crate, but what many people don’t realize is that a puppy can learn how to entertain himself appropriately, calm himself down, handle alone time and independence, and settle down during the day by spending time in a crate. A puppy can be ultimately much happier and be given more freedom later in his life if he learns such important lessons in a crate while he is young.
Your puppy will go through several mental and physical developmental periods during the first two years of his life. That time is when most dogs tend to develop destructive chewing habits, barking habits, house soiling habits, territorial behaviors, separation anxiety issues, marking issues, and escaping problems. Some of those habits are extremely hard to break, but almost all of them are easy to prevent.
In general, most puppies need to be confined for the first year of life, many need to be confined for two years, and a few require three years. Once your puppy is over a year old, if it has been at least three months since he last chewed anything inappropriate, had an accident inside, or generally showed a need for supervision in your home, then you can test whether he is ready by leaving him free and unsupervised for five minutes. Leave the house for five minutes, and when you return be sure to inspect the area to see how he did. Test him for two weeks by leaving him for five minutes each day. If he does well with that, then every week that he continues to do well you can add five more minutes to the current amount of time. You can do this until you reach one hour, and after one hour, you can increase the amount of time by thirty-minute increments.
If your buddy shows that he can responsibly handle being left outside of the crate, then congratulations, your pup can officially enjoy free time! If he has an accident or destroys something on two separate days, then go back to crating him for three more months, then try again after those three months are up.
Maintain Crate Training
Even after your puppy no longer requires the crate during the day, you can continue to crate him from time to time, or you can leave it set up with the door open so that he can go in and out as he pleases. Maintaining your puppy’s acceptance of the crate is important because you may need to confine him occasionally throughout his life during times of sickness, injury, travel, or special occasions.