Is Crate Training a Puppy Necessary?
Yes, crate training a puppy is necessary.
It is practical as it keeps the puppy confined and calm. Additionally, crate training a puppy is an important aspect of housebreaking and cultivating positive behaviors.
Bringing a puppy home can be an exciting and happy experience, but it also comes with some challenges. Crate training can be one of them – but the good news is that it is worth it in the long run.
What are the Benefits of Crate Training a Puppy?
Crate training of puppies has several benefits – from offering a safe space for the puppy to being practical for the dog owner. Here is an in-depth overview of the key benefits of crate training.
- House Training: Crate training is a popular method for house training. Puppies instinctively do not relieve themselves in the area where they eat and sleep.
If you want to train your pup to pee and poop at the designated area, start crate training at an early age (a two months old puppy can learn quickly).
However, young puppies do not have complete control over bowel and bladder movements, so accidents are possible, especially during the first night in the crate.
- Safety Place: Dogs have strong denning instant and like having their own private spaces. If properly introduced, the puppy crate can be the perfect safe place for the dog.
To achieve this, you must ensure that the dog crate is always accessible for your puppy to use voluntarily when it wishes.
This is especially important in a house with small children as it provides the puppy with its little safe space to go for peace, where it will not be disturbed.
- No Troubles: Puppies can often get into trouble if not constantly supervised, just like toddlers. While crating them for long is not advised, short crating can keep them safe when supervision is not an option.
When we say trouble, we mean lots of things – from eating inedible items or potentially toxic foods & plants to wreaking havoc on the furniture or destructive chewing of electrical wires.
- Easy Travels: Crates are an easy-to-use, safe and comfortable way to transport puppies in the car during road trips as well as for visits to the vet. An unrestrained puppy can be a road safety hazard by distracting the driver or by obstructing the driver’s use of controls.
Dog crates also make it easier to travel with your puppy by providing short-term confinement options at a hotel or anywhere else you might visit.
While traveling by air, crate-trained puppies may be allowed to travel onboard in the cabin or the cargo hold, depending on their size. A crate provides a sense of familiarity and comfort to the puppy when going through such new experiences.
- Hospitalization and Convalescence: As your puppy grows, it might need short or longer-term hospitalization. Allowing a dog to move around right after surgery and certain other procedures can lead to complications.
During this period, it may need to be kept in confinement to allow for recovery and healing. Being used to a crate will make this an easier and less stressful process.
How Long Should You Crate Train a Puppy?
Depending on age, temperament, and past experiences, crate training a puppy can take weeks or months. Until a puppy can be left alone in the house without accidents or destructive behavior, one should continue crate training.
It is wise to prepare yourself for a few months of training. Setbacks are expected since dogs, just like humans, aren’t linear learners, but as long as you crate train in a series of small steps and stay consistent in your methodology, success will come.
In dog training, success depends on how much effort you, as the puppy’s dog trainer, can put into the process. A home-based person who can put in lots of time every day will find success much sooner than a full-time office-based worker who can only crate train when home.
How Often Should a Puppy Be in a Crate for Crate Training?
A puppy should be crated multiple times during the day for crate training. The maximum amount of time you can safely leave your puppy in the crate depends on age.
Namely, young puppies should spend less than an hour per session. Puppies that are six months of age can spend up to 3-4 hours, and adult dogs up to 6-8 hours.
Also, keep in mind that consistent puppy crate training should be merged with the puppy’s regular daily routine, i.e., for play, meals, naps, toilet breaks, and training.
How Do I Crate Train My Puppy?
In order to crate-train your puppy, you will require a structured plan.
Luckily, puppies are quick learners, and crate training a puppy if followed patiently, diligently, and with compassion, will be a success.
Choose the Right Crate for Your Puppy
The first and most important step in crate training is finding the right puppy crate. To do this, you need to consider several factors, such as:
- Crate Size: If the crate is too small, it will make your dog feel trapped, and if too big, it can make it feel lost. Ideally, the crate should be big enough to allow the puppy to stand, turn around and lie down. You can get a bigger dog crate with a divider – and then move it as the puppy grows.
- Material: Another important factor is the crate material. Dog crates can be made of plastic, wood, and metal. Plastic crates and metal crates with removable plastic trays are easy to clean and most practical for puppies that haven’t mastered potty training skills.
- Other Features: There are additional features you may need to consider, such as collapsible design (for space-friendly storage), wheels (for easy mobility), or multifunctional designs (if you want the crate to double as a nightstand or end table)
Introduce Your Puppy to the Crate
Introducing the puppy to the crate should be done through a series of small and gradual steps. Going slow and steady is advisable.
As the first step, place the crate in the family room, where you spend most of the time, and leave the crate door open and secured.
Bring your puppy over to the crate and talk to it in a calm and encouraging tone of voice. Let the puppy enter and sniff around the crate at their will and exit when they please.
To avoid making your puppy resistant to the crate, it is important to never force its entrance. Give your puppy time and let it work at its own pace. It can be helpful to leave the puppy’s favorite toy near the crate to encourage interaction.
Add Puppy Toys and Treats to the Crate
Lining the crate with soft blankets or a dog bed and adding puppy toys and treats will encourage your puppy to spend more time in the crate. Ensuring that your puppy associates the crate with a positive experience is the most important part of crate training.
You can drop a few treats near the crate and motivate your puppy to enter the crate using a trail of treats leading inside the crate.
You may also add a simple voice cue, such as “crate,” to build the command association for your puppy. If the puppy is hesitant or refuses to go inside the crate at first, let it be, don’t force them to enter.
Practice Closing the Crate Door
Once your puppy is comfortable entering the crate and has a positive association with the whole experience, it’s time to practice closing the door.
Use a stuffed food puzzle or toy as the reward for getting into and staying in the crate. Place the toy in the crate with the puppy and close the door. Keep the door closed for just 10-15 seconds, then place a few treats inside the crate, and remove the toy.
Sit by the crate calmly for about 10 seconds, and then allow your puppy to come out. This allows the puppy to get used to confinement. Over time, your puppy will be able to spend longer periods of time in the crate with the door closed.
Start with Short Crating Periods
Start with short periods of time and gradually increase your distance from the cage instead of the in-crate duration.
Invite your puppy inside the crate and close the crate door with your puppy inside. Then, walk a few steps away from the crate, wait for a while and then return, open the crate and drop a treat in the crate. Repeat this exercise until your dog is comfortable with your exiting.
Next, practice going out of the room for a few seconds, to begin with, and then return to open the door to the crate. This should be repeated several times.
Gradually increase the crate time, as well as the time you are away from the room, for up to a few minutes. This exercise must be repeated several times as well.
Increase Time in the Crate Slowly
Once the puppy is comfortable with the earlier step and spending short periods of time inside the crate, increase the length of time in the crate – usually, in increments of 10 minutes and work up to more extended periods.
If you find your puppy whines during this period despite having had a potty break, do not respond immediately with a positive or negative response. You may bring it out once it has calmed down.
Once your puppy can comfortably spend close to 30 minutes in the crate, you may begin leaving it crated for short periods when you leave the house. When leaving, praise your dog briefly, reward it with a chew toy or a treat and then leave quietly.
Try not to make a big fuss over departures and returning, as this may promote separation anxiety.
Use Positive Reinforcement With Your Puppy
The best way to crate–train a puppy is to use positive reinforcement. Different pups are motivated by different things – some prefer food, and others are praise-motivated.
As vocal encouragement, you can use single, quick, sharp words, such as “good,” and for dog food, you can use dog treats. Besides offering treats to your puppy, you can feed it its regular meals near the crate. You can also give it its favorite dog toy as soon as it enters the crate on its own.
The idea of positive reinforcement is to help the puppy associate the crate with a good experience (mealtime, playtime). Over time, this will make the puppy perceive the kennel as a safe place.
What Age Should a Puppy be Crate Trained?
Ideally, the crate training period should start when the puppy is around eight weeks old.
Younger puppies need toilet breaks very often and unpredictably due to poor bowel and bladder control. Crating them at such a young age would mean you need to keep a sharp eye at all times and clean constantly.
Older dogs find crate training more difficult. So, pet parents that got their new dogs after the 8-week milestone or as adult dogs should start the crate training process as soon as possible.
Should I Put My Puppy in a Crate at Night?
Yes, until fully house-trained, it is advisable to put your new puppy in the crate at night, keeping certain fundamentals in mind.
Puppies do not have full control over their bladders. Therefore, you need to make a potty break schedule and get up to take your puppy out. Also, it is advisable to put the crate in the bedroom so you can hear your puppy if it starts crying in the middle of the night.