BloomingPaws Training Team shares some facts on the work involved for crate training and house training below.
Crating is based on the idea that dogs are denning animals. Using a crate as a house-training aid has two purposes:
- Prevents the puppy from having complete and unsupervised access to the house.
- House training since puppies have a natural tendency not to soil their sleeping area.
Crating, while a useful tool in many situations, can be over-used and improperly used. Young puppies can only be expected to control their bladder and bowels for several hours, NOT for an entire work day. Leaving a puppy in a crate for 8 to 10 hours is not an appropriate way to use a crate in house-training. A puppy who is forced to soil their crate as a result of being crated too long will be much more difficult to house-train.
A puppy should never be crated as punishment for misbehavior: avoid crating your puppy angrily or forcefully, as this could teach her to fear it. It is, however, thoroughly appropriate to use the crate as a “time out” area when play gets too rough or the puppy gets too mouthy!
Introducing Your Puppy to the Crate
- Put the crate in an area of your house where you and your family spend a lot of time
- Bring your puppy over to the crate and talk to them in an excited, happy tone of voice
- Drop some small tidbits of food inside the crate
- Do not close the door on your puppy
- Do not force your puppy if they does not go all the way in at first to get the food
Feeding Your Puppy in the Crate
- Place the food dish right in front of the open door or as far inside as the puppy will go
- Each time you feed your puppy, place the dish a little more toward the back of the crate
- Once your puppy is comfortably eating you can now close the door while they are eating
- Open the door as soon as your puppy finishes eating, praise calmly as they comes out
- Do not release your puppy from the crate when they are whining or barking or the behavior will be reinforced
Conditioning Your Puppy to the Crate for Longer Periods
After your puppy is eating regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can begin to confine for short periods while you are home. Begin by calling them over to the crate in return for a food reward. Give a command to enter, such as “kennel up”. You may encourage to do so by pointing to the inside of the crate with a bit of a favorite food in your hand. Sit quietly near the crate for 5 or 10 minutes and then go out of sight into another room for a few minutes. When you return, sit quietly again for a short time, and then release your puppy. It may take several days or several weeks to get to this point.
Crating When Left Alone
After your puppy is spending about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid while you are there, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods while you are gone. Although your puppy should not be crated for a long period before you leave, you may crate anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Do not make departures emotional and prolonged, but matter-of-fact instead. Keep arrivals very low key and reserve playful, excited greeting behavior for after they have been let outside and has calmed down somewhat.
Crating at Night
Follow the same procedure you have been using to encourage your puppy to enter their crate willingly. Initially, it may be a good idea (especially if you have a young puppy) to locate the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night, and you’ll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine to be let outside.
If your puppy whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether it is whining to be let out of the crate, or if they need to be let outside to eliminate. If you follow the training procedure outlined above, your puppy should not have been reinforced by being let out of the crate when whining. Initially you can ignore the whining. Your puppy may stop if he is just testing to see if he’ll be let out. If the whining continues, you can repeat the phrase your puppy has associated with going outside to eliminate. If he responds and becomes excited, take him outside. This should be a trip with a purpose – not play time. During the process of ignoring whining, expect it to get worse before it gets better.