Crates Are Vital for Safety & Sanity
Dogs are denning (nesting) animals, and when a crate is introduced successfully, it is a safe and comfortable place for your pup. When you can't be with your puppy or have a constant eye on her, then the crate is the safest place for her. A crate is a safe and helpful way of transporting your puppy in a car. Or a familiar place for her if you're visiting somewhere she can't run freely. Your puppy should always be in a crate if you're not watching her (cooking, taking a nap, on the phone, helping your kids), you're gone from the house or during sleeping hours.
If you properly train your puppy to use the crate, she will think of it as "her" place and will be happy to spend time in it. Be aware, though, that usually within the first several days of living with you, the puppy will whine or resist going into the crate. And you'll look at that sweet puppy face and allow her to sleep in your bed, or loose in your room or in another room of the house. RESIST your urge to not use the crate. Your puppy may become fearful on your bed and urinate while you're sleeping. Or jump off the bed and get into all kinds of things while you're sleeping, like chewing on the carpet, the walls, and the electrical cords. Follow the steps below and keep using the crate. There is likely to be some whining and fear issues within the first 10 days because your puppy has just left behind the people and other pups she was familiar with. She's now in a strange environment with you and needs to acclimate to you. You need to keep her safe by using the crate.
Always provide water for your puppy anytime she is in the crate. Attach a water bottle to the outside of the crate and keep it full with fresh water or ice cubes whenever your puppy is in her crate, including during the house training stage. Puppies become dehydrated more quickly than you think, and dehydration can cause internal organ damage. If you're following our house-training rules, there should never be a reason for withholding water from your puppy.
What Make of Crate
Crates may be plastic (often called "flight kennels") or foldable metal pens. The collapsible fabric kennels are designed for use only when the owner is present and should not be used for long periods while unsupervised. These fabric kennels can easily flip over or the fabric can be chewed through. The metal kennel is best because it allows for maximum airflow and is easily cleaned. Look for a metal kennel that comes with a divider so you can adjust the crate size as she grows.
Crates come in different sizes and can be purchased from your pet professional. Your puppy's crate should be large enough for her to stand up and turn around in. The rule is two inches of clearance between the top of her head (while she is standing) and the top of the crate, two inches of clearance between the tip of her nose and the front of the crate, two inches of clearance between her back end and the crate wall, and she should be able to easily turn around in it. It is NOT acceptable for the crate divider piece to be used to make the crate smaller than these dimensions in order to prevent potty accidents. Some people make the crate so small that their puppy has to stand on her hind legs and jump in a circle to change positions. Or it's so small that she's only able to lie on her side and not stretch out. That's wrong to use the crate divider like that! Again, if you are following correct house-training steps, you should have little fear of the puppy eliminating in the crate, and keeping the crate too small will result in your puppy hating the crate or becoming fearful of it. Then you're in a real pickle!
The Training Process:
Crate training is a process and your commitment to the process will ensure success in the least amount of time that works for your puppy. Keep two things in mind during the crate training process:
- 1) the crate should always be associated with something pleasurable for your puppy;
2) training should take place in a series of small steps.
Step 1. Introducing Your Dog to the Crate
Put the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room or kitchen. Don't put the crate in a scary place like the basement, furnace or laundry room. Put a washable kennel pad in the crate for your puppy's comfort.
With the crate door open, carry your puppy to the crate, put her on the floor and let her smell some yummy treats, then toss the treats into the crate (Don't put her in the crate, just carry her to the crate and set her on the outside of it). Keeping the crate door open, let her go eat the treats and come out when she's done. Repeat three times.
On the fourth time she goes into the crate to retrieve the treats, close the crate door and drop a couple of treats through the top of the crate while she's in there. When she's done and comes to the crate door, open it and let her out. She should spend no more time in the crate than it takes her to eat the treats. Repeat several times and end the session.
The next time you toss in treats, tell her 'kennel up' as she goes in the crate, lock the door, and toss in a treat through the top, wait 10 - 15 seconds before you toss in a second treat, and another 15 seconds before tossing in the third treat and opening the door to allow her to come out when she's ready. At the next session, toss in some treats, have your puppy 'kennel up' and reward her every several minutes, sometimes walk out of the room for only 1 - 2 seconds between rewards so she starts to get used to you leaving the room while she's in her crate.
Step 2. Good Times in the Crate
Feed your puppy her meals inside the crate so she further associates the crate with good things. If you've been doing the above exercises daily, she should have started associating the crate with pleasant activities and already be calm with entering the crate. Reinforce that calm by feeding her meals or a stuffed Kong toy in her crate. Feeding her meal or giving her a stuffed Kong while you and your family eat your meals will give her something to occupy herself while you eat. Be sure, though, not to make her wait too long after she's finished her meal before she goes outdoors to potty.
Give her a stuffed Kong in her crate while you are doing other things such as getting ready to leave the house, taking a nap, doing the laundry, gardening, helping the kids. Keeps her busy and she learns to associate your activities with happy times in the crate.
NOTE: Rawhide can be dangerous to your puppy if she is left unsupervised. Pieces can be chewed off that can get stuck in your puppy's throat and she can choke. If you are planning on using rawhide, always supervise your puppy while she's chewing it. Same thing with any edible bone or chew stick.
Step 3. Nitey Night
Have the crate in a place where you can hear your pup if she has to go outdoors to potty. You may want a second crate in your bedroom or the hallway, not only so you can hear her, but also to not socially isolate your puppy. Good exercise before bedtime will help your puppy to sleep through the night. Healthy puppies usually won.t drink water during the night, so there is no need to remove the water bottle. If your puppy is drinking a lot of water during the night, she should be checked by your vet for any health issues. Also, check her puppy food to ensure there is not too much sodium in it contributing to her desire for water.
Step 4. Home Alone
Have your pup "kennel up" and toss in several treats. Remember to give her fresh water and leave her with a few safe toys in the crate. No toys that she can chew apart, consume or swallow pieces. To prevent separation anxiety, vary the times you put her in the crate anywhere from 2 - 10 minutes before you are leaving. Keep your departures matter-of-fact; don't pet her, tell her you're sorry you have to leave, or otherwise fret over her. YOU will cause her anxiety when you act and speak like this. When you return, don't reward or acknowledge your puppy for excited behavior. Keep your arrivals low-key; come in, put down your keys, remove your coat, and then take her outdoors for a potty break. After that you can come in the house and calmly greet and play with her.
Step 5. Too Much of a Good Thing
A crate isn't a babysitter, nor will it potty train your puppy. The crate is merely a place to house your puppy while she's learning the rules of her new environment. If you use it as an extended babysitter, your puppy will feel trapped, frustrated and stressed. And that stress can lead to all kinds of behavior issues. If you leave your home at 7:00 am for work, then attend school or dinner after work, and don't get home until 9:00 pm, that's too long for any age dog! Your puppy needs to get out of the crate, socialize, and exercise. If you're not around to do that for your puppy, then you need to hire someone to help you and your puppy.
Step 6. Lemme Outta Here!
If your dog whines in the crate at night, it's challenging to determine if she's whining to go outdoors to eliminate or she's just calling you to let her out to play. If you've been following proper house training steps, then she's not likely to have to eliminate so try to ignore the whining. If your puppy is just testing to see if you'll let her out to play, she'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at her to be quiet or pounding on the crate will only make things worse. Dogs do what works, and if her goal was to get you to acknowledge her and you've just told her to be quiet, what she did worked! So she'll try it again to see if the next time you will come all the way to the crate to tell her to be quiet. And after that, she'll try it to see if you'll come to the crate to remove her so she'll be quiet.
If the whining continues after you've ignored her for several minutes, ask her if she needs to go outside (or whatever phrase you use). If she responds by becoming more excited then take her outside. Remember this, though, this is not a play time visit, it's a potty training break and you need to follow those rules and not play with her. She'll either potty or if she doesn't do so then you will return her to the crate. No fan fare.