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How To Crate Train Your Puppy
Method 1 of 5: Preparing the Crate
- 1Figure out what kind of crate you want. Vari-Kennel type crates have a hard plastic outer shell with a wire door. They’re most practical for dogs who can relax best when they can’t see what’s going on all around them, dogs who love to chew, and owners who like to travel with their pets. Wire mesh crates, on the other hand, are made of a strong metal meshing all around. They’re best for dogs who like to see all around them, and dogs in hot, humid climates because they offer more ventilation. 
- Choose the proper size crate. The crate should allow enough room for standing, sitting, and stretching out, but you don’t want the crate to be so big that your dog has enough room to make one section of the crate the bathroom and the other the sleeping area. If you only want to buy one crate, get one that will be large enough for your dog as an adult and block off an end of it while your dog is still small. 
- To get a Vari-Kennel style crate ready for your dog, remove the screws connecting the top and bottom halves of the crate. For most dogs/puppies, you’ll want to allow them to get used to the crate without the top half first.
- To prepare a Wire Mesh crate, tie the door back so that the crate is always open. Be sure to place something along the bottom of the crate to keep any floorboards from rattling.
- 2Make the crate comfortable. Find an old blanket or towel to fold up and place on the floor of the crate. If your dog already has a bed that they’re accustomed to, you can use that too. The idea here is not only to create a comfortable place for your dog to lie, but also to remind your dog that the crate is for sleeping and comfort, not for going to the bathroom.
- If your dog soils the bedding, be sure to remove it as quickly as possible to avoid it happening again. Not only will a pee-soaked towel sink up your house and the area around it, but it will encourage your dog to use the area as a bathroom again and again.
- 3Provide water. This is especially important if you’re planning on leaving your dog confined for more than two hours. If you’re worried about your dog making a mess, invest in a small hamster-type water bottle and fill it with ice water.
- 4Make the crate appealing. Place your dogs favorite toys inside at the far end of the crate, provided they are sturdy and large enough that your dog will not choke. Later on in the training process, you can also place juicy treats such as marrow bones in the crate when your dog goes in.
Method 2 of 5: Introducing your Dog to the Crate
- 1Keep the crate in a high-traffic area. By keeping the crate in an area with a lot of people, such as a living room or kitchen, your dog will associate the crate with being surrounded by people rather than completely lonely and isolated. Allow the crate to sit there for a little while before you ask your dog to go into it. This way, the crate will become a normal piece of furniture in your house rather than a strange object.
- Note that at night the crate should be kept in your bedroom. Once again, being around humans and human activity will comfort the puppy. In addition to that, your sleeping patterns will influence those of your puppy to ensure a full night of sleep for you and the dog. Ideally, you won’t crate your dog at night until later in the process, but if doing so will mitigate damage and accidents in your house, it may be necessary. 
- 2Use positive reinforcement. Though it may be tempting, you should never use the crate as a form of punishment. Always talk to your dog in a happy tone of voice when referring to the crate.
- Begin positive reinforcement by dropping little treats or pieces of dog food in and around the entrance of the crate. While exploring the room and new object, your puppy will begin to associate it with delicious treats.
- Praise your puppy every time you see him enter the crate. Drop what you’re doing when you see him enter and give your dog full-blown praise. Hug him, pet him, say good dog, and maybe even give him a treat out of your hand.
- Play “games” with your puppy. Drop a treat in the crate without showing your dog. Then, call your puppy by name and say something along the lines of “Where is your treat?! Go get it from your crate!” Use an extremely happy, friendly voice and gentle gestures to playfully guide your dog to the crate. As soon as the dog finds the treat, praise him enthusiastically. If your dog is more motivated by toys, you can also do this with his favorite ball or squeaker. 
- Never try to push, pull, or force your puppy into the crate. With the exception of nighttime, you should allow the puppy to enter at its own will during this stage.
- 3Feed your dog in the crate. Once your dog is comfortable entering the crate on its own, begin feeding it its regular meals in the crate. Place the food dish at the back of the crate. If your dog is still hesitant going all the way in, place the food dish only as far back as your dog will willingly go. Each time you feed him, move the food dish slightly further back.
- When your dog is comfortable standing all the way in his crate while eating, begin closing the door as he eats. Play close attention and open the door as soon as he’s finished. After doing this a few times, you can slowly increase the amount of time you leave the door closed after the meal until you can leave him in there for about 10 minutes.
- If your dog starts to whine, you’ve increased the time too quickly. Leave the door closed for a shorter amount of time next time. Remember not to let your dog out while he is whining, or he will cry and whine every time he wants to be let out. 
Method 3 of 5: Getting your Dog Accustomed to Being Alone
- 1Be home. It is important that the dog does not immediately associate his crate with being alone or abandoned. Therefore, you should not use the crate when you’re away from the house until you have completed the following steps.
- 2Slowly build up time in crate. When your dog will sit calmly and happily in his crate for the 10 minutes after he eats, you can move on to longer periods of time. At a random point in the day (not directly after the meals) call your dog over and show him you have a treat. Have him go into the crate (you may want to use a command word such as “kennel”) and praise him/give him the treat.
- Once your dog is inside the crate, close it and quietly sit right in front of the door for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, get up and go into another room for 5 minutes. When you return to the room, sit in front of the door for another few minutes before letting the dog out of the crate.
- 3Repeat the previous step several times a day. Slowly increase the amount of time you are away over the course of several days or weeks. Remember: if your dog starts whining, you’re increasing time away too fast. Don’t let your dog out of the crate until there is a break in the whining, but next time lower the amount of time you’re away. Continue until you can leave the room for 30 minutes without a problem.
Method 4 of 5: Leaving your Dog Alone
- 1Start leaving the house. When your dog feels comfortable being alone in the crate for 30 minutes, you can start leaving him there while you leave the house for short periods of time. As time goes on, you can leave your dog for longer and longer. While there is no set of rules about how long to leave a dog in a crate, here is a general set of guidelines:
- 9 to 10 weeks - 30 to 60 minutes
- 11 to 14 weeks - 1 to 3 hours
- 15 to 16 weeks - 3 to 4 hours
- 17+ weeks - 4 to 6 hours
- Note that with the exception of nighttime, you should never crate your dog for longer than 6 hours at a time (ideally 5).
- 2Vary when you put your dog in the crate. Crate him anytime between 20 and 5 minutes before you leave. Simply put him in the crate using your usual method and give him a treat. Then, leave quietly when your’e ready.
- 3Don’t make a big deal about coming home or back into the room. Though your dog may be happy to see you, don’t reward this behavior with happy, high pitched responses. Instead, calmly release your dog a few minutes after you get home.
- 4Immediately take the dog outside. This will allow your dog to relieve himself. Once he has gone to the bathroom, feel free to praise him excessively. Not only does this help mitigate accidents in your house in the moment, but it will also reinforce the idea to your puppy that going to the bathroom outside results in praise.
Method 5 of 5: Using Crates for Housebreaking
- 1Start as soon as possible. Using a crate is very effective for teaching bowel and bladder control. However, if you’re planning on crate training to housebreak, you should start this process as soon as you bring your new puppy home. This will mitigate the amount of accidents your puppy has before he is completely comfortable in his crate.
- 2Follow the steps from “Preparing the Crate” and “Introducing your Dog to the Crate” (above). Although you are not training your dog to be comfortable alone necessarily, you do want them to feel as though the crate is their home. This is the feeling that will prevent your puppy from going to the bathroom inside the crate.
- 3Confine the puppy to the crate when you are home. Once your puppy is extremely comfortable with the crate, you can confine him there while you are in the room. Every hour on the hour, take your puppy outside. Give him 3 to 6 minutes to go to the bathroom.
- If he doesn’t go in the allotted time, just return him to the crate. If he does, immediately reward the puppy with extreme praise, treats, love, play, and extended walk, and perhaps the ability to run free about your house for a little while (if you choose to let your puppy run around the house, take him back outside in 30 to 45 minutes to prevent accidents).
- 4Keep a puppy journal. While it sounds silly, keeping a journal of the time that your puppy actually goes to the bathroom will help you out. Assuming you have a regular feeding schedule for your puppy, he’ll also have a regular bathroom schedule. Once you know the times at which he actually goes to the bathroom, you can begin taking her out at those times rather than every hour. When the timing is completely consistant, you can let your puppy run supervised around your house for most of the day.
- 5Put the puppy in his crate an hour before he will need to go to the bathroom.Once you have your puppy’s bathroom schedule worked out, you’ll know an hour before your puppy needs to go to the bathroom. By putting him in the crate at this time, you’ll prevent the puppy from going earlier than you planned. 
- 6Continue praise. Don’t slack—continue extended praise every time your puppy goes to the bathroom outside. Eventually, your puppy will begin waiting for you to take him outside.
- 7Slowly reduce the amount of time your puppy stays in the crate. Eventually, you can eliminate the crate all together and just take your puppy out at the allotted time.
- 8Clean up mistakes. Unless you catch the puppy directly in the act, don’t punish your puppy for having accident in the house. Clean it up using a non-ammonia based spray and try again. Supervise your puppy at all times, and if you don’t trust him, keep him in the crate. Remember that if you change your puppy’s food schedule, his bathroom schedule will change too.Ad
- If your dog whines in the crate, ignore it (unless something is physically wrong). Release him only when he is calm. Otherwise, your dog will associate whining with being let out of the crate.
- In case of accidents: Be sure to use a stain and odor remover so that your dog does not eliminate waste in the same place. Remember – just because you cannot smell anything it does not mean that your dog can’t!
- Never use ammonia-based products. To dogs, ammonia smells like urine, and thus these products can encourage increased use of a specific spot as a bathroom.
- Be sure to use a crate that is the right size. If the crate is too big, the dog can use a corner to go to the bathroom and will not learn to leave the crate to relieve himself. The crate should be big enough for the dog to stand, lay down, and turn around. If you are starting with a puppy you may need a smaller crate and get a larger one as the puppy grows.
- Remember to take your dog out to potty a short time after eating. Most dogs will need to eliminate a short time after meals.
- Leave soothing music or a TV on for your dog while he is in the crate during the day.
- Dont forcefully make him enter the crate.
- Make sure there are no sharp edges or wire ends that can hurt the dog. Some dogs with protuberant eyes, such as Pekingese, have been known to hurt their eyes on sharp crate edges.
- Don’t leave your dog in the crate for more than a few hours at a time (unless overnight). You can gradually build the number of hours your dog can stay in the crate to 6 hours maximum (on the rare occasion when absolutely unavoidable), but this process occurs at a rate of one hour per month – a 2 month old puppy must have a break after 2 hours. A 6 month old should be able to go 6 hours, but this is not hard and fast. You know your dog – watch for signs of distress and do your best to relieve his problem before he makes a mistake. Remember – sometimes you have those days, too, when you have to go much more often than usual. He’s an animal, and things may change for a living thing every day. Be willing to accept some variations.
- If you must leave your dog in the crate for more than 5 hours, it is highly recommended that you hire somebody to come walk them, and don’t do this on a regular basis.
Sources and Citations
- ↑ http://dogtime.com/dog-crates.html
- ↑ http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/cratetraining.htm
- ↑ http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/cratetraining.htm
- ↑ http://www.inch.com/~dogs/cratetraining.html
- ↑ http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/crate_training.html
- ↑ http://www.inch.com/~dogs/cratetraining.html
- ↑ http://www.perfectpaws.com/crt.html
Gavin has lived in Boise for over 20 years. In 2003 he got his start in real estate as an investor and since then he has personally bought and sold over 100 houses. He got licensed in 2009 and is now....
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