Puppy Crate Training – what’s it all about?

What is crate training, and should I do it?

You may be aware of crate training, and wondering if it’s right for you and your new puppy. We’ve put together a little info to help give you the facts and make your decision.

It’s not a cage

A puppy’s crate may feel and look a little like a cage to you. I’m sure you feel that dog’s should be free, and you see your puppy as part of your family. This is absolutely right, and to some this makes crate training seem unkind. To a puppy however, a crate is like the walls of a baby’s cot, or like a child’s comfort blanket. If handled correctly, it becomes home; a source of comfort, a reassuring place of calm and rest, and can greatly simplify your life as a dog owner. Personally, I am a huge advocate of crate training.

A huge advantage of crates is that the crate can be transferred. Once your puppy is crate trained then you have given it an environment in which it feels secure, which it is accustomed to, and you can transport that environment anywhere you want. When you take your dog away on holiday, camping, to friend’s houses – anywhere you want – your puppy will settle more readily and easily in their crate.

Will my puppy be happy in the crate?

This is dependent on you introducing the crate in the correct manner, but yes, if done right, crates can be very positive, for any dog. If you plan to crate train, it is ideal to have the crate in place  and set up when you bring the puppy home and use it as its bed from day one. Feed the puppy in the crate and use it as its bed from the very first night. If the puppy cries then ignore it (as long as it has had its last meal, been toileted and had exercise) this will soon settle. Pandering to night time whimpering or crying is only rewarding the behaviour, and will only encourage your puppy to repeat it.

If you already have your puppy before getting the crate then put it up immediately and feed in the crate. Start by feeding your puppy with the door open then next feed shut the door while it eats. Then on the following feed leave the door shut for 5-10 minutes once finished eating. You should still ignore crying at night.

The crate needs to be kept as the puppy’s own private space, so don’t allow other dogs, or children to go in there.

NEVER use the crate as a place of punishment and always give the puppy a small treat when you put them into the crate, either whenever you leave the house or when you go to bed.

Where to put a crate

You should set your crate up in the place you want the puppy to be when it is left alone and at night. If you think of it as an enclosed bed then it is where you would put their bed. You might want to avoid putting it in strong drafts, or too close to radiators. I would have water in the crate which can be in a bowl on the floor or easier in a hanging holder on the crate wall.

What size crate does my puppy need?

The size of crate will depend on the breed and age of the puppy. The bigger the breed the bigger the crate. The puppy must be able to stand fully upright, turn 360 degrees and lay out flat. Some breeds that will grow a lot like a Labrador can start with a smaller crate and increase as they grow, or you can start with a large crate – your puppy won’t mind a crate that is too big at all!

Crate training can help house training

It is worth reading our article on house training , if you’ve not already done so.

Crate training can aid house training as dogs are generally clean animals and won’t toilet on their beds. You can greatly reduce the need to get up in the night with your puppy by making the crate half-bed, half-paper. This will give the puppy somewhere off their bed to toilet should they need to in the night. As soon as you get up, take the puppy outside and reward them if they toilet, and clean the crate out. As the puppy gets older it will come to understand that toileting outside gets rewards and the night time toileting will reduce. You then increase the size of the bed section and reduce the size of the toileting section.

Crate training can also help with chewing problems. The puppy is only loose in the house when you are there to supervise and the only things in their crate are items that they are allowed to chew, such as nylon chews and teething toys.

Phasing the crate out

As the puppy gets older you may wish to remove the crate. Simply remove the bed from the crate, and put it in the same place. Once settled here then you can move the bed too, if you wish to. Or alternately you can continue to use a crate after your puppy has become an adult, either in the same way that you have done or now leaving the door open, giving the dog the freedom to use the crate as and when it chooses.

Puppy Perfect’s group puppy courses can help you through the process of crate training, house training and all your puppy’s developmental needs.