Crate training is one of the most effective methods of puppy training. This is because, unless a puppy is desperate, he will not mess where he sleeps. It is important to follow certain steps and procedures to be successful. The goal is to avoid confusion and frustration for both you and your pup.
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Step One: Choosing the proper crate
When choosing a crate, it is imperative that you select the appropriate size specific to your pup’s size. The guideline is to make sure he can stand, sit and turn around comfortably in the crate. Anything larger will set you up for failure as he would be able to poop on one side of the crate and go over to lay down on the other side. This defeats the purpose. You want to create a place where your dog won’t be comfortable sitting in his own his mess. This will encourage him to hold his bladder or bowels as long as possible until you let him out. Take him outside as soon as you let him out of the crate and return him as soon as he has done his business. This will help to associate potty breaks with going outside. Make sure these intervals are brief at first. Increase the time between potty breaks until your dog is able to hold it for a reasonable amount of time.
Step Two: Make the crate your pup’s Special Place
The idea when crate training is to make your pup’s crate her home. You want her to enjoy going in there and to seek it out as a place of calm and comfort. You can provide appropriately sized, safe chew toys to keep her entertained while spending time in the crate. Make sure there is a nice cushion for comfort. Place the crate in a location where your pup can see people and be involved with the family. Feeling isolated is scary and lonely. These are feelings we definitely do not want our pups to experience. This should become a safe haven for your pup. It will be where she runs to if she is feeling overwhelmed; a place to go when you have company or if she’s afraid during a thunderstorm.
Step Three: Leave the crate door open at first.
When introducing the crate and the concept of it being his place, leaving the crate door open indicates that this is not a place where he will always be confined, but a place where he should be free to enjoy whenever he wants to go inside. Once your puppy shows signs of being comfortable inside the crate, close the door for short periods of time so he gets used to the door being closed while resting or playing in there.
Step Four: Reward your pup for entering the crate on her own.
If your pup goes into her crate on her own, offer a reward in the form of a small treat . Use praise to enforce that you are happy with her behavior. This encourages her to go in easily, knowing that it is a positive experience. This will help if you need her to enter before you leave the house. It is not fun for either of you if you are chasing her around the house and having to gently force her into the crate. This causes anxiety and associates the crate with an unpleasant experience; the very thing you are trying to avoid.
Step Five: Never use the crate as a punishment.
If your pup has an accident on the floor, it is common to react by sending him to a place out of the way so that you can clean up. Your dog will pick up on anger and tone and know that he has done something to upset you. If you send him to his crate when you are reacting to the incident, you are telling him that this is a place to go to when he has been “bad”. This places a negative tone on the crate and he will not want to go to the crate in the future.
Step Six: While you sleep, keep your puppy crated in your room.
If you keep her in your room, she will not have the sensation that she is isolated or that she has been left alone. This will also cause feelings of anxiety where the crate is concerned. The training will then take longer and will be more confusing for her. If she wakes in the night and cries or tries to get out, take her outside to do her business and return her to the crate as soon as she is done. This tells her that she sleeps in the crate at night and only comes out for potty purposes. This is not play time or a time to visit with everyone. It creates a clear schedule for her.
Step Seven: Never leave a puppy for more than 3 or 4 hours
When you must leave the house, make sure that there will be someone to let the pup out at regular intervals. Puppies are only physically capable of holding their bladders and bowels for a few hours. If you leave them for too long, they will not be able to control themselves and will wind up messing the crate and themselves. Once again, this makes the crate an unhappy place that your pup will want to avoid. Returning home or having someone come by to let your pup out will give him a chance to relieve himself. He will be able to stretch his legs and have a few minutes of stimulation in the form of smells and a change of and scenery. He will be happy to return to his crate after a brief visit.
Once your pup has mastered bladder and bowel control, you may want to keep using a crate and increase the size as needed, or upgrade to a pen enclosure . Another option is to keep her gated in a smaller room until it is safe to leave your pup to roam while alone in the house.