GUEST POST by Dr. Shruti Bhattacharya from The Happy Puppers.
You have just welcomed home a new member. This is one of the happiest moments of your life. However, you must start with housetraining and crate training your pup as well. In this blog post, I will teach you how to crate train your puppy in 5 simple steps. So, keep reading all the way to the end.
Why Is Crate Training Important?
Contrary to popular human beliefs, a crate is not a prison for a dog. The crate is a safe space that mimics the den in the dog’s natural habitat. The crate is a place where the pup can go whenever he or she feels low, is alone, wants a break from siblings, or just wants to relax without disturbance.
Crate training must be done slowly and involve a lot of time, patience, and treats. If you don’t crate train your pup in the correct manner, crate training can make your puppy frustrated, worried, or even cause separation anxiety.
What Is Crate Training?
Crate training is the gradual method of getting your puppy used to staying in a crate and learn to use the space as a place of relaxation. The correct method of training will modify your dog’s brain to adapt to the crate easily.
Photo by: @french.rolls
How to Crate Train Your Puppy?
The first thing to bear in mind when you crate train your kid is to GO SLOW. If you go too fast with the process of crate training it may lead to:
- Refusing to go in
These are the signs that you have been going at a super-fast level in crate training your pup. If you notice these signs, take a break for a few days and restart training but at a much slower pace than before.
How Long Will It Take to Crate Train Your Pup?
Crate training your pup can take anywhere from a period of one day to one month or longer. You must be patient. Some dogs might be calm and get trained in one day while others may need more time and help.
Most puppies require a period of two weeks to get completely trained. However, do not put a time frame to the training process. Give as much time as is needed. This will keep your pup from hating the crate.
Step by Step Process to Crate Train Your Puppy
Follow the following steps to properly crate train your puppy and make sure that your puppy is happy in the crate and not miserable.
Step 1: Introducing the Pup to the Crate
First, set up the crate.
Remember to set up the crate correctly. When setting up the crate, make sure that your puppy is not in the room. There is a high chance that during the setting up of the crate, there may be loud noises that will scare your puppy.
Place the crate in the region of the house where you spend most of your time. Fasten the door of the crate so the crate always remains open. Fastening will also make sure that the door does not suddenly close shut and scare your pup.
Remember to keep the crate out of noisy rooms or places where there might be a lot of walk-throughs. The corner is an ideal place to keep the crate.
Put in a snuggly blanket and few toys which your pup really loves, in the crate. Cover the crate up with a blanket so it resembles a den.
Associate your pup’s first-time experience with the crate as something positive.
Photo by: @that.frenchie.belle
Pups are naturally very curious. They try to get in any and everything they see. If you have one of those curious puppies, he or she may enter the crate on their own to inspect. If your puppy does not belong to a curious bunch and is being cautious of the crate, do the following:
Allow your pup will to enter the room and explore the crate giving him or her as much time as he or she needs.
Get your pup’s favorite treat and sprinkle it leading from outside to the inside of the crate. When your pup enters the crate and consumes the treats, give a lot of verbal praise. Give your pup some more treats while he or she is inside the crate so that the crate is associated with something positive.
At different times throughout the day, sprinkle some treats into the crate. Try to put the treats in when your pup is not looking.
Eventually, your pup will start to think of the crate as a magical treat dispenser. He or she would start to enter the create more times in the day to look for treats. This will make your pup more confident around the crate.
Once you notice your pup regularly searching the crate for treats, you know it is time to proceed to the next step.
Step one may take you one day to the period of a week. Remember to be patient and do not force your pup to do anything he or she does not want to.
Step 2: Extending the Crate Time
Once you notice that your pup is confident around the crate and is looking for the secret treats more and more during the day, it is time to start your dog spending more time inside the crate.
Remember to proceed to the step only if your pup is happy going in and out of the crate. The best manner to extend the time your dog spends in the crate is by feeding your dog inside the crate. You can start the feeding process by giving your dog a stuffed Kong or a lickimat smeared with peanut butter or any of the treats which your dog loves inside the crate.
Eventually, start feeding your dog his or her regular meals also inside the crate. When it is time for your dog’s meal, say ‘go crate’ or ‘crate up’. Eventually, your dog will learn that these words mean he has to go into the kennel to have his meals.
During the initial days, keep the meal just on the inner side of the crate, so that your dog does not feel trapped. Eventually, move the food towards the inside of the crate. Always make sure that the door is open.
Photo by: @akoya_poodle
You can use a slow feeder during mealtime. This will make sure that your dog spends a longer time in the crate. The slow feeder will also provide mental stimulation to your dog which will wear him or her out.
Once you are absolutely sure that your puppy is happy eating his or her food from inside the crate, it is time when you can start to close the doors.
Make sure that your pup has finished his pee and poo business.
Put the meal in the crate, allow your dog to go in, and start eating. Once your dog is completely into eating the food, close the door very slowly behind him. Monitor your dog very closely for any signs of distress. Hopefully, your dog will be too busy to eat the food to notice that the door has been closed.
Stay close and make sure your dog does not panic at any moment. If he/she panics, let him out. Once your dog is close to finishing his meal, opened the door so that he or she barely notices that the door was ever closed.
Gradually extend the time after each meal when the door remains closed.
- Meal 1: door opens before the meal is over
- Meal 2: door opens immediately after the meal is over
- Meal 3: door opens five seconds later
- meal 4: door opens 10 seconds later
- Meal 5: door opens 15 seconds later.
- Meal 6: door opens 20 seconds later
- Meal 7: door opens 25 seconds later
- Meal 8: door opens 30 seconds later
- Meal 9: door opens 45 seconds later
- Meal 10: door opens 90 seconds later
- Meal 11: door opens 2 minutes later
- Meal 12: door opens 2 ½ minutes later.
You may have to go slower or faster depending on how fast your puppy picks up the training process. If at any time, your pup seems hesitant or uncomfortable in the crate, let him out and go back to the previous step and start again.
The key is to keep an eye on your puppy’s behavior.
You want your pup to be happy, calm as well as relaxed instead of pawing at the door or whining while in the crate.
If your puppy seems otherwise comfortable but is just whining to get out, let him whine for a few minutes Once your puppy quiets down, let him out. This will teach your pup that whining is not the solution to the problem.
Next time, proceed from the previous stage. You can also repeat the same stage multiple numbers of times unless your puppy gets completely comfortable. Once your pup is able to stay inside the crate without any problems for 10 minutes, you can proceed to step three.
Step 3: Get the Pup to Enjoy Being in the Crate
Once the first week of crate training is over, your puppy should be able to enjoy eating his meals inside the crate. Some puppies right now would start to understand the command ‘go crate’ as well
Now, it is time that you start crating your puppy even when he or she is not having meals. To start with step three, incorporate naptime into the routine. Ask your puppy to go into the crate. When your puppy enters the crate, give a few treats and praises for the good behavior.
Close the door slowly behind your puppy. Sit next to the crate for a few minutes until your puppy settles down. Once it seems that your pup is comfortable and settled in the crate, move away. Stay within the eyesight of your puppy.
If your puppy does not fall asleep, opened the door after a period of five minutes. Repeat the above-mentioned process again after a period of 10 to 15 minutes. Once your puppy has fallen asleep, keep a close eye on him or her. Be next to the crate when your puppy wakes up.
You can build up on this time spent in the crate slowly.
Once you realize that your pup is comfortable spending his naptime in the crate and is not really bothered with your presence, proceed to leave him alone. During this stage, when your puppy goes into the crate, close the door and go into the next room. Spend five minutes in the next room and come back and let your puppy out.
Repeat this process several times a day. Gradually build up on the time when your pup is left alone. Try to leave through various doors. This will teach your puppy that getting out of the door does not mean you are leaving the house.
Step 4: Leaving Your Pup Home Alone
It is not possible to stay with your puppy all the time. Leaving the puppy home alone is a natural part and parcel of daily life.
Once your puppy has successfully completed step three, you can progress to step four. Progress to step four only when your puppy is comfortable staying in the crate for a period of 30 minutes or longer.
Remember to keep your departure within a period of 30 to 40 minutes during the initial stages. Make a quick trip outside and then get back to your pup.
Remember to avoid saying byes. Just leave quietly and quickly. When you come back home, greet your pup in a very calm manner, let him or her out of the crate and take him or her for a toilet break.
Step 5: Crate Training for the Night
It is important to extend the crate period to night times. This will prevent accidents or unwanted chewing when your pup is left unsupervised.
Start with placing the crate in your bedroom. The ideal place for the crate would be next to your bed. Provide physical and verbal touch until your puppy falls asleep.
Be alert during the nights for whining. This might be an indication of a toilet break. Expect midnight toilet breaks during the period of 4 to 8 weeks. During the period of first few weeks, focus on the training which has been outlined to be followed during the day.
As your pup becomes more confident with staying in the crate during the day, you can slowly progress to have your pup stay in the crate during the evening and finally during night times.
Crate training your puppy can have many benefits. It not only provides your pup with a safe space; it also prevents any undesirable behavior like peeing or pooping inside the house. Remember to have a lot of patience when training your puppy.
Mistakes are bound to happen during the initial weeks. In case of a mistake, do not scold your puppy. Just go back and repeat the previous step. Now that you know how to crate train your puppy, it is time to put whatever you learned here into action. Your patience and love will help you raise a calm and well-behaved pup.