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Puppy Crate Training

Puppy training requires time and patience no matter what technique is used.  You are teaching your puppy how to behave in a human world and that takes time.  Crate training often works the quickest of any technique because it relies on the puppy’s strong natural instinct not to want to soil his bed or den.  This technique relies mainly on positive reinforcement and catching your puppy being “good”.

Making the Crate a Home:

  • The crate will become more of a home or a bed than confinement for your pet therefore; you need to pick a reasonably sized crate or kennel.  The crate should be big enough for him to turn around easily and not hit his head.  He should be able to stretch out comfortably.  If the crate is too big he may still urinate at one end and sleep at the other.
  • Put a blanket in the cage to keep him warm and comfortable.  Water should be left in the cage.  If he keeps knocking the water over and you have to remove the bowl, offer him water each time you bring him back inside.
  • Keep the crate in a quiet corner of a busy room like the family room or kitchen.  Your puppy will not feel isolated or that he is being punished if he is around other people.
  • At night time you may find he is more comfortable (and barks less) if you keep him in the kennel in your bedroom.
  • Make sure your puppy is happy while he’s inside the crate (this may take time). If he is frightened, sit by the crate and be as reassuring as possible.  If he looks tired, place a sheet over the crate to signal naptime.
  • Do not leave him in the crate all the time!  Puppies need a lot of play and interaction time to grow and develop normally!

Getting Started:

  • Introduce your puppy to the crate slowly.  At first, put him in the crate for small increments of time.  Leave him in the crate for 10, 20 and 30 minutes at a time.  Do NOT take him out when he barks.  This will only encourage his barking.  If the barking continues non-stop, the puppy should be verbally reprimanded and then praised when he stops.
  • Crate training is most effective if started after 7 weeks of age when most puppies can physically begin to control themselves for a few hours.

Frequent Positive Encouragement is the Key to Success:

  • After your puppy has been in the cage for any period of time, take him outdoors to relieve himself.  When he urinates or has a bowel movement outdoors, give him PLENTY OF PRAISE and possibly a little puppy treat.
  • He needs to be taken out many times during the day and occasionally at night during the initial intensive training phase ( 2-3 weeks ).  You need to ‘catch him being a good dog frequently”. This also encourages bonding with your pet.
  • Try to give him enough time to go so you can reinforce his good behavior.  If he does not go put him in the crate when you come in and try again in a short time.
  • When you come into the house after he has gone let him have free run of the house for a while but watch him closely.  Some pups will come in and initially attempt to urinate inside 5 minutes later.
  • Alternate crate time with play periods and opportunities for the puppy to relieve himself.
  • If he urinates or has a BM in the house and YOU SEE HIM GO, firmly say “Bad Dog” immediately, clean up the mess and go onwith your normal activities.  Do not physically punish him.  Physical punishment will not be effective and could cause future behavioral problems.
  • If you find an accident you did NOT witness, do NOT scold him.  It will not help and will only cause confusion.

Consistency and Perseverance will lead to success.

  • Accidents will happen but should become less frequent by the time your puppy is 12 weeks or after 2-3 weeks of intensive training.
  • Relapses often occur at 15-16 weeks and sometimes older. You should re-institute the crate training if this occurs.

Crate Training IS Very Successful and Humane:

  • Most puppies do not urinate in their crate because of their strong primordial instinct not to soil their den.  For some reason, a small percentage (<10%) of dogs will often mess in their cage routinely.  These dogs will need to be trained differently.  First check to be sure you cage is not too big.
  • Puppies should never be left in the cage for longer than 4-5 hours at a time.
  • After a few weeks of proper training, most puppies will use the crate as a bed and often curl up in the crate on their own.
  • Never use the crate as a punishment tool or it will be useless as a training tool
  • Other training techniques often cause more confusion for puppies, and therefore, take longer to be successful.
  • At night the puppy can sleep in the crate.  You may need to take him out once in the middle of the night until he is 9-10 weeks old.
  • Remove collars before leaving him in a crate if you are not home because some collars can get caught on the cage door.
  • Always take your puppy out after meals.  Often the puppy will have a BM after a meal and the puppy can learn a routine.  (Puppies often have 3-6 bowel movements a day unlike adult dogs.)
  • Do not overdo time spent in the crate!  Puppies need a lot of human interaction to develop properly and to become socialized.  Crate training is not recommended for puppies that are left alone for long periods of time.  A modified crate/bathroom technique would be better in this situation. (Puppies denied companionship for long periods of time may become depressed and destructive.)

Crate / Bathroom Alternative

  • For some owners that work all day this may be a better alternative.
  • On weekends the more effective crate method can be used.
  • Leave your puppy in an enclosed area such as the bathroom.  Place the crate at one end of the bathroom, leaving the crate’s door open.  Place newspaper at the end of the bathroom to allow for accidents if you are gone for a long time.  This way he may instinctively go as far away as possible from his bed.

In Conclusion

  • Puppies can be weaned from their crates at 5-6 months of age. However, often they will prefer to continue using it as a bed.  Leave the door open.
  • Be sure to purchase a larger crate as needed for you growing puppy.
  • Adult dogs that have “lost their housetraining” can be retrained with crate training in most cases.

Please call or come by for an appointment if you are having problems with this very important part of your puppies training.  More puppies are euthanized in the U.S. in the first year of life for behavioral problems than for all medical problems combined.


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