I have had so many owners call the clinic either trying to give away their pet or looking for training tips because their best friend is tearing their home apart in their absence. I always suggest crate training because it’s the easiest way, not only to housetrain your friend, but also to keep them safe when you are not home. A kennel also serves as a travel lounge for your dog when travelling by car or by a plane. It is important to realize that this is not imprisoning your pet; it is creating a safe place for them to be when you are not there.
Your dog’s crate should be big enough so that they can stand up and turn around easily. If you have a bed or blanket, that can be put in there as well for added comfort. This way you know that when you’re at work, your baby is safe in his little den, not running around chewing on the walls or peeing on the floor. Making a safe place for your dog also prevents them from getting into something that will harm them and cost you a lot of money either in home repairs or emergency surgery.
Furnishing Your Puppy’s Crate
Toys and Treats: Place your puppy’s favorite toys and dog treats at the far end opposite the door opening. These toys may include the “Tuffy”, “Billy”, “Kong”, “Nylabone” or a ball. Toys and bails should always be inedible and large enough to prevent their being swallowed. Any fragmented toys should be removed to prevent choking and internal obstruction. You may also place a sterilized marrow bone filled with cheese or dog treats in the crate.
Water: A small hamster-type water dispenser with ice water should be attached to the crate if your puppy is to be confined for more than two hours in the crate.
Bedding: Place a towel or blanket inside the crate to create a soft, comfortable bed for the puppy. If the puppy chews the towel, remove it to prevent the pup from swallowing or choking on the pieces. Although most puppies prefer lying on soft bedding, some may prefer to rest on a hard, flat surface, and may push the towel to one end of the crate to avoid it. If the puppy urinates on the towel, remove bedding until the pup no longer eliminates in the crate.
Location of Crate
Whenever possible, place the crate near or next to you when you are home. This will encourage your puppy to go inside it without his feeling lonely or isolated when you go out. A living room or kitchen in the apartment or a large hallway near the entrance is a good place to crate your puppy.
Introducing the Crate to Your Puppy
In order that your puppy associate his/her kennel crate with comfort, security and enjoyment, please follow these tips: 1. Occasionally throughout the day, drop small pieces of kibble or dog biscuits in the crate. While investigating his new crate, the pup will discover edible treasures, thereby reinforcing his positive associations with the crate. You may also feed him in the crate to create the same effect. If the dog hesitates, it often works to feed him in front of the crate, then right inside the doorway and then, finally, in the back of the crate.
2. In the beginning, praise and pet your pup when he enters. Do not try to push, pull or force the puppy into the crate. At this early stage of introduction only inducive methods are suggested. Overnight exception: You may need to place your pup in his crate and shut the door upon retiring. (In most cases, the crate should be placed next to your bed overnight. If this is not possible, the crate can be placed in the kitchen, bathroom or living room.)
3. You may also play this enjoyable and educational game with your pup or dog: without alerting your puppy, drop a small dog biscuit into the crate. Then call your puppy and say to him, “Where’s the biscuit? It’s in your room.” Using only a friendly, encouraging voice, direct your pup toward his crate. When the puppy discovers the treat, give enthusiastic praise. The biscuit will automatically serve as a primary reward. Your pup should be free to leave its crate at all times during this game. Later on, your puppy’s toy or ball can be substituted for the treat.
4. It is advisable first to crate your pup for short periods of time while you are home with him. In fact, crate training is best accomplished while you are in the room with your dog. Getting him used to your absence from the room in which he is crated is a good first step. This prevents an association being made with the crate and your leaving him/her alone.
5. Accidents In The Crate
If your puppy messes in his crate while you are out, do not punish him upon your return. Simply wash out the crate using a pet odor neutralizer (such as Nature’s Miracle, Nilodor, or Outright). Do not use ammonia-based products, as their odor resembles urine and may draw your dog back to urinate in the same spot again.
Crating Duration Guidelines
9-10 Weeks Approx. 30-60 minutes
11-14 Weeks Approx. 1-3 hours
15-16 Weeks Approx. 3-4 hours
17 + Weeks Approx. 4+ (6 hours maximum)
The Crate As Punishment
Never use the crate as a form of punishment or reprimand for your puppy or dog. This simply causes the dog to fear and resent the crate. If correctly introduced to his crate, your puppy should be happy to go into his crate at any time. You may however use the crate as a brief time-out for your puppy as a way of discouraging nipping or excessive rowdiness.