How to Crate Train a Chihuahua

How to Crate Train a Chihuahua
Easy difficulty iconEasy
Time icon3-6 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

Adding a Chihuahua to your family is going to bring everyone a lot of fun. These dogs are smart, fun, and full of life. With this in mind, you might think it cruel to train your pup to stay in a crate. But, in reality, providing your dog with a place he can call his own can turn out to be a very good idea. Thing is, you can't look at the crate as a jail cell, your pup won't see it that way. What he will see is a private space that is all his, one that can become his den, if you are willing to put in the training time.

When you look at this way, you are using the crate to provide your pup a safe spot, not a place of punishment. You should never use his crate to punish him. This will only result in your pup thinking of his crate as a jail cell, making it even harder to crate train him. 

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Defining Tasks

Crate training your dog should be considered as a part of your Chi's general training. While you can use the crate as part of his potty training, you can also turn his crate into a den where he can go to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, to hang out when you are at work, or to sleep in at night. Keep in mind that you must keep the training sessions short at first as your pup will not be able to hold himself for very long at a young age.

Rather than teaching your Chi that a crate is a bad place he is sent to when he has done something wrong, you will be teaching him that his crate is his den, his private place to go to, his hotel room at night. With this in mind, you should do all you can to make his crate feel more "den-like."  Carpet it so he has a soft surface to walk on or lay on, put a nice comfy doggy bed in there for him, and toss in a few of his favorite toys--anything to make him comfortable and feel like he is at home. 

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Getting Started

One of the most important steps in crate training your Chihuahua is to make sure you buy the right size crate. Too big and he may see one end as his den and the other as his personal toilet. Too small and he may not be able to stretch out or turn around. You will also need a few things to help make the training go further.

  • Potty pads – For accidents
  • Tasty Treats – A lures and rewards
  • Doggy bed – Something comfortable for your pup to sleep on
  • Toys – For your pup to play with

Much like any other type of training, you will need plenty of patience and time to work with your pup. Go slow and give him plenty of time to get used to the crate before you try to leave him in it for longer periods of time. 

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The Comfortable Den Method

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It's all about location

Your pup would build his den in a quiet place in a cave if he could find one. So, with this in mind, find a nice quiet spot for the crate, be sure he can see you and you can see him, then create a comfortable den for him by padding the floor with carpet, adding a doggy bed, putting a pee pad down and giving him some toys to play with.

2

Bring on the pup

Bring your pup over to the crate and place him gently inside of using your choice of cue words. Gently close the door so as not to startle your pup and give him plenty of time to get used to it.

3

I don't like this

Your pup is likely to be quite vocal in his demands to be let out at first. Let him tell you all about until he has said his piece. Then, once he settles down, praise him and give him a treat.

4

Time to go outside

Time to let your pup out. Take him outside immediately so he can go potty and stretch his legs.

5

Add to the time

Continue the training, adding more time to his stay in the crate until he spends time there on his own and will happily stay there when you need him to. It will take a little time so be patient.

The Explore Method

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Locate the crate

Start by locating your pup's crate somewhere where you can keep an eye on it, preferably a nice quiet spot. Take the time to cover the floor with carpet, a blanket, even potty pads. Add a bed and toss in a few toys.

2

Create a meal station

Relocate his food and water dishes to just outside the front of his crate and fill them. Leave the door to his new "den" open and let your pup wander in and out at will. Let him do this for several days in a row. This should give him plenty of time to get used to it.

3

Locked in

The next time your pup goes into his crate, close the door behind him. Let him fuss and whine until he tires of it. Don't worry, it won't take that long. Eventually, he will stop whining. and when he does, praise him and give him a treat.

4

Release the hound

When he has finished his treat, open the door and take him outside so he can pee immediately. This will go a long way towards helping with his potty training too.

5

It goes on and on

The rest is all about repeat training and slowly extending the amount of time your pup spends in his crate. Eventually, you should be able to leave your pup alone while you go to work or sleep at night.

The Slow but Steady Method

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Create a home for your pup

Place your pup's new "den" in a safe spot in the house, one out of the flow of traffic, but where you can still see it. Create a comfy home for your pup, add wall-to-wall carpeting, a nice plush bed, some toys, even a blanket over the top to mute the lighting.

2

Lure him in

Using some of your pup's favorite treats, lure your pup into the crate by tossing them in the middle. Keep doing this until your pup becomes comfortable with going in and out of his den.

3

Add the cue word

Each time you toss the treat into the crate, use your choice of cue word. This will get him used to hearing the cue and matching it to the action.

4

Work with the cue word

Keep practicing this until your pup will obey the command every time you give it.

5

Finish the training

The rest of this training involves repeating it and working with your pup until he has no problem spending time in his crate. You may even find him going in there on his own when he needs a nap or simply wants to get away from it all.

By PB Getz

Published: 01/24/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Chyna

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teacup chihuaha

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Two Months

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Question

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Hiya my gorgeous Chyna has been homed, sent back to the breeder and then come to her forever home with me. She has been spoiled and will only settle in my bed. Although I work at home and am mostly available to be home with her I have 3 daughters and need to be able to leave her home sometimes alone - for example swimming lessons on a Thursday are 2 hours. I want to be able to put her to bed in her crate aswell as my partner and I are obviously struggling with her sleeping in the bed with us 💔 please help. I’ve bought a crate today and will try all recommendations. Please advise

Sept. 18, 2022

Chyna's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello, Check out the Surprise method from the article linked below and practice crate training with that method often for 30 minute -1 hour periods during the day throughout the day when you can to help pup adjust to being alone more quickly. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate At night, ignore any crying unless it has been at least 2 hours since pup last went potty. When it has been at least 2 hours and pup wakes up crying, take pup potty on a leash and keep the trip super boring - no treats, talking, or play, and return them immediately to the crate after they go, ignoring any crying that happens when you return them. Keeping trips boring helps pup learn to only wake at night for potty needs and not play or food, to begin sleeping longer sooner. Pup will need to go potty 1-2 times at night right now at this age, even when fully crate trained, but being consistent, practicing crating during the day, and keeping trips outside boring, can help pup wake less at night, cry less when first crated, and start sleeping through the night sooner as their bladder capacity increases with age. Know that its normal for pup to cry in the first two weeks. The first three nights tend to be the worse, with pup gradually getting better and better after that. It's really important to stay firm and consistent. The easiest time to teach this is 2-3 months old. After that a puppy is less sleepy and the crying can be even more persistent. Some puppies are quite dramatic, that's also normal. Pay attention to timing of potty trips so you will know if it's a potty need that needs addressing or simply pup getting used to something new and still learning how to calm back down. Crate Training when done in the right way can actually prevent future adult separation anxiety - which is more more severe and much harder to address than what's usually seen with puppies adjusting to the crate and being alone. Crate training can also help potty training - many puppies who sleep in the bed before they are fully potty trained will start having accidents in the bed around 3 months when they are less sleepy at night and wake to go exploring more. Crate training is important for preventing adult destructive chewing habits that require more long term confinement when not supervised to prevent - opposed to puppy chewing that most dogs will grow out of if you can work on things like Leave It when you are home and confine pup somewhere safe with their own toys to chew on when you can't supervise, so they aren't practicing destructive chewing without interruption for it to become ingrained....I say all of that to encourage you in your resolve to crate train. In the end crate training also means more freedom and adaptability for puppy too...Not to mention that your relationship with your partner and freedom to go places is more than enough reason alone to do it, so if there is some crying involved, stay strong. It's normal for puppies to cry during practice. They eventually discover that you always come back though, nothing horrible happened to them while in there, and they can relax. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Sept. 19, 2022

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ava

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Pomchi

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9 Months

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Question

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i just got Ava the pomchi 2 days ago and i have many questions For example is it normal for her to be hyper active and are there easy ways to calm her, is biting normal(not and aggressive bite just a slight nip), and she doesn't want to eat her food from her dish, she will eat from my hand or from the floor, but not her dish. Is this normal and can i fix it. Thank you and have a nice day.

July 1, 2022

ava's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Quandale, A lot of puppies will do what's called zoomies, where they race around the room like crazy. If that's what pup is doing, it's very normal. Puppies can also get super wound up when they don't nap. Sometimes a hyper puppy actually needs some quiet down time in a crate or exercise pen with a dog food stuffed chew toy to concentrate on. Puppies this age tend to need a nap every couple of hours. The biting is completely normal. The main goal with the biting training wise, is for pup to learn how to control the pressure of their mouth and for the biting to stop completely by five months - when pup's jaws get stronger at that age. Check out the article I have linked below. I would work on teaching the Leave It method and the Bite Inhibition method. Leave It will take pup a while to learn but be most helpful in the long run, but the Bite Inhibition method can be used right away. So use the Bite Inhibition method for now but start practicing Leave It, so pup will be great at Leave It before five months of age. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Some puppies are scared of certain bowls. The light reflections in metal or sound of pup's tag hitting the edge can be scary (plastic tag protectors can help with the tag part). If the bowl edge is high, that can be tricky for a really small breed and pup might need a shallower dish until they grow. If you are using an automatic feeder or water dispenser, the sudden movement of the food coming down or water bubbling can scare puppies. If one of those things seems to be the case, I would switch to a different bowl, like a shallow food safe ceramic or heavy plastic bowl. If she isn't afraid of the bowl and is still being picky, I suggest mixing her food with something she likes the night before feeding her. Start with a higher quantity of food she likes and a bit of dog food, then gradually increase the dog food and decrease the food she likes overtime. Test out freeze dried meat dog food toppers, like stella and chewy or nature's variety first. If she likes those, crush them into a powder in a ziplock bag, then place that and some of her dog food in the bag overnight to flavor and scent the food. Feed that regularly if she will eat it, then gradually decrease how much powder you use and increase the dog food slowly in place of it - go slow so that eating the new food has become habit and he doesn't think about it changing gradually so keeps eating it. If she likes the kibble topper, you can also feed something like Ziwi peak or nature's variety raw boost long term - which is composed of freeze dried food or has it mixed in, if that's in your budget. If pup doesn't like the freeze dried stuff, then do the same thing but use things like minced chicken, liver paste, or goats milk mixed with the dog food and refrigerated overnight (you may want to do the goats milk last minute because it will get soggy though). Another option, is to have pup work for all of their kibble. Have pup perform commands and tricks and use the dog food that has been mixed with freeze dried powder from a ziplock bag, as rewards for pup obeying commands. Many dogs are actually more enthusiastic about their food if they have to earn it and consider it a treat. Feed pup entire meal amounts this way so that he is hungry during training in place of the bowl for a while. When you are home, you can drop the reward into pup's bowl for them instead of feeding directly, to get them eating out of the bowl gradually. When you do so, act like the food is treats - you should act like you have a great prize not like you have to temp pup to eat. It may seem opposite but what a dog can't have without working for it, often makes it even more appealing. Once pup is doing well with that I like to use things like Kong wobbles, to put the food into for pup to work for. When pup is working for the food in the wobble well instead of having to take it from you, you can transition back to the bowl by unscrewing the top of the wobble, which leaves the bottom that's shaped like a bowl, and pup now associates with fun and enjoyment. I would also involve your vet in this conversation. There are a lot of common puppy illnesses whose symptom is a lack of appetite. I suspect pup is just adjusting to their new home and the way you do things opposed how things used to be, but pup might need deworming or be coming down with something, and I am not a vet, so involve your vet in the conversation to make sure there isn't anything more concerning going on. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 1, 2022


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