How to crate train a puppy

You should begin crate training puppy shortly after you bring him home. Introducing your puppy to a crate from the beginning makes house training easier, provides a safe place to keep him when he can’t be supervised, and serves as an ideal way to travel with him. The sooner the crate training process gets underway, the sooner your puppy will have a den to call his own.

Four easy steps

Place the crate in a high traffic area

If you have a wire-style crate, first cover it on three sides with a sheet or blanket to create a more den-like, protective atmosphere. Put your puppy’s crate in a room you’re often in such as the kitchen or family room. He should be able to see what’s going on around him while he’s crated so he feels like he’s part of the pack.

Let puppy investigate at his own pace

Put your puppy next to the crate with the door open. Set a treat or some kibble in the crate to encourage him to go inside and then praise him. Repeat this process of luring and praising for several minutes. Never force your puppy to go in the crate, which can be scary for him. The best results come by crate training puppy to enter the crate voluntarily.

Feed puppy in his crate

To begin feeding your puppy inside the crate, draw him inside with his food bowl and gently close the door behind him. Open the crate door just before he finishes eating. If your puppy wants out shortly after you close the door, let him come out but keep his food bowl inside the crate and close the door. Wait for him to “ask” to be let in again. Repeat this until mealtime is over. Then take him outside to use the bathroom.

Close the door when he’s ready

Once your puppy seems comfortable going in and out of the crate, place a food-stuffed chew toy inside. If he goes into the crate to play with the toy, gently shut the door for a minute or so then open it and call your puppy. Give him lots of praise when he comes to you. Make sure the chew toy remains inside the crate when your puppy comes out. Repeat the process several times leaving the door shut for longer periods.

If your puppy whines or barks in his crate, do NOT open it right away! He’ll quickly learn that whining and barking opens the door, which can hamper the crate training process. Wait until puppy settles down and is quiet for 10 seconds, then open the door and let him out. Be sure the stuffed chew toy stays in the crate and close the door. Note how long your puppy was in the crate before he started to whine and next time keep the door closed for a shorter period.

Tips for crate training puppy

Keep experiences with the crate positive

Feed your puppy in his crate, gently place him inside when he falls
asleep elsewhere, and give him super-yummy, food-stuffed toys each time he’s in the crate. Also, keep comfortable bedding in the crate and make it the only soft surface in the room or playpen. All of these will encourage your pup to play,
eat, and sleep in the crate.

Only use a crate for time-outs when your puppy is comfortable in it

It is fine to use the crate as a time-out location when your puppy gets out of control as long as he’s trained to relax in the crate FIRST. Never crate-confine an untrained puppy as a punishment. When your puppy is misbehaving, first give him a warning like “uh oh”. Then if he persists in the naughty behavior, say “time out” to let him know he has made a mistake and crate him for twenty to thirty seconds, just long enough for him to calm down. Then let him out and try to interact with him. If he persists in the behavior, crate him again for twenty to thirty seconds. Repeat the process until your puppy stays calm when you let him out.

Use the crate both when you leave AND when you’re home

Your puppy will associate the crate with your absence if you put him in it only when you leave, which can cause problems. Be sure to crate your puppy for short periods while you’re home with him as well as when you’re away.

You can crate your pup in your bedroom overnight as long as you stay alert to any fussing. If it occurs, silently take your pup to his potty area. Remember, nighttime is not playtime so keep activity to a minimum.

Use the crate, but don’t abuse it

Only crate puppy for one hour during the day, and be sure to alternate crate time with playtime. If you need to leave your puppy alone for longer than one hour, use a long-term confinement area instead. Prepare a puppy-safe room or playpen that contains his crate along with bedding, chew toys, water, and a potty area. (Place wee-wee pads diagonally across the room from the crate.) Be sure your pup gets plenty of exercise before he goes in.

If you have to leave your puppy in long-term confinement for more than a few hours during the day, you should consider doggy day care or hire a pet sitter.

Learning how to crate train a puppy can be a simple process if you’re patient. And, in the end, your puppy will have a new den to call home.

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