Crate training is the process of getting your puppy to accept a crate as a safe location. You can crate train a puppy in 7 easy steps but you can’t rush the process!
Puppies quickly learn to love their crate as their own special place/den and will be comfortable in a crate whether at home, travelling, visiting friends or staying in a hotel.
Effective crate training consists of a suitable location of the crate and gradually introducing the pup to confinement in a positive manner. We want to create positive associations with the crate and be a fun, safe and comfortable place for our puppy.
Before you crate train a puppy
Before you start, you’ll need a metal crate with a tray floor – rather than a soft crate to prevent chewing. The crate will need to be well ventilated and large enough for your puppy to stand up, stretch out and turn around when he is full grown. Soft and comfortable bedding should always be provided.
Some pups prefer a den with solid walls, as this can provide additional security, so try covering the crate with a sheet. Some dogs like to see what’s going on around them, so if this is the case, don’t cover the crate. Once your pup is crate trained in the metal crate, you could also consider a soft crate for car travel.
Think about location when you crate train a puppy
Next is to work out where to put the crate. As we all know dogs are social animals, so an ideal location for the crate is a room where the family spends a lot of time such as the kitchen, living room or bedroom, rather than an isolated laundry or garage.
If the dog has a favourite corner or room in which to nap, then this may be the best location for the crate. If you wish the dog to sleep in a particular location at night, this can easily be introduced later – beginning in the bedroom is a good idea as the owner can easily hear when the pup becomes restless at night and needs to go out to the toilet. Some dogs may adapt more quickly to crate training if they sleep in the crate at night.
Think about getting either – two crates, one in the bedroom and one in the lounge (easier than moving one crate around!) or one crate in your bedroom and a playpen in the lounge area.
7 easy steps to crate train a puppy in a positive and humane way
Step 1: Set up the crate and leave the door open for several days so the dog becomes accustomed to its presence.
Step 2: Place food treats or chew items in the crate to encourage your puppy to enter inside. Leave the door open at all times, so the pup can come and go as he pleases. When motivating your pup to enter the crate use a voice request such as ‘in your crate’ with a chirpy, up-beat tone and a hand signal such as a pointing hand. Associations with the crate can be made enjoyable and be relaxing by playing games associated with the crate. For example, send the puppy into the crate, then reward with food treats with the door left open.
Step 3: Once your puppy is freely entering the crate, leave a bone or chew item stuffed with food attached to the back of the crate, in order to encourage him to stay in the crate for longer periods of time. This helps in developing positive associations with the crate. It is often helpful to start crate training a puppy after a period of play, exercise or elimination when the pup will tend to be more settled. If the puppy brings the chew toy out of the crate you need to stay at step 3 until the dog feels comfortable to eat or play with the chew toy in the crate. However, if the puppy continues to take the toy out of the crate a week later, then you’ll need to try a different location for the crate.
Step 4: Once your puppy is happy to remain in the crate for short periods of time, start closing the door whilst your he is busy with the chew item or toy. You need to be around the whole time to monitor how your puppy is going in the crate. Open the door before the puppy has finished.
Step 5: The next step is to leave the door closed for progressively longer periods of time, even after your pup has finished with his toy or chew item. Once your dog is happy in the crate for about 10 – 15 minutes after finishing its meal, you can start to confine him in the crate for longer periods. Continue to supervise the whole time – quietly sit nearby and reward the puppy for remaining calm and happy.
Step 6: Try short departures first, and gradually make them longer (simply leaving the room can be a departure). Return regularly to reward your puppy, either verbally or with a food treat, for his calm behaviour inside the crate. Start with short sessions and gradually increase the length of time that you leave the dog in the crate. This may take several days or weeks.
Step 7: Finally, you can introduce your puppy to crating at night. Make sure your dog has toys or treat-dispensing toys with him to initially settle him into the routine. With young puppies, you may need to take them out for toilet breaks during the night. By making the crate a ‘fun’ and enjoyable place to be, night time crating should be an easy transition.
At any time when the crate is not in active use, leave the door open so as the dog can use it if she pleases.
- Leave your puppy in his crate all day – instead, use a playpen for your pup if you have to work all day. Crates are only suitable for short-term confinement
- Send your pup to the crate as punishment – it must be a happy place for your puppy so she will love it for years to come
- Leave a puppy or inexperienced dog in a crate alone – it is important in the early stages of crate training puppies that you are nearby to take the dog out before they become anxious when they need to toilet
- Use the crate as a substitute – for attention, exercise or environment
- Let your puppy become distressed at any stage
- Lose your patience – learning takes time!