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Training your puppy to like a crate is worth the effort. Not only is crate training the easiest way to house train your new family member, it will make travel a breeze for the life of your pet. Once your puppy learns to like their crate, you can leave the house with confidence knowing that they are safe from getting into trouble.
Puppies almost always adapt quickly to crate training as long as you follow some basic guidelines, especially when first introducing them to the crate. This guide will give you three training methods that you can use together to ensure the best experience for your young dog.
In addition, we will provide you with some tips and tricks to make crate training your new puppy easy and painless for you and your young fur-ball.
Tips for successful crate training:
- Be sure there is fresh water in her crate at all times.
- Keep bedding clean, dry and soft.
- Place his favorite dog-proof toys in the crate with him.
- Try to practice crate training exercises when your puppy is
- Wait for a silent moment before letting your pup out of the
crate – even if all you can get is a few seconds between whines.
Things NOT to do with crate training:
- Leave your puppy unattended in the crate with a choking
hazard like rawhide or toys with small breakable parts.
- Punish your puppy while he is in the crate by yelling at
him, using a firm tone, tapping or shaking the crate.
- Abandon your puppy for more than a few minutes in the early
stages of crate training. Give her some time to learn that you will come back
for her before you expect her to feel safe in the crate for a few hours in your
- Alternate having your puppy spend time in the crate with you
nearby, along with leaving her alone. This will keep her from associating the
crate with always being left alone.
- Leave your puppy in the crate for more than a few hours
(maximum) at a time.
If your puppy is going potty in the crate, you are failing her by leaving her in there too long. Always take your puppy out to potty before and after you put her in the crate.
Learn to listen for signs that your puppy may be whining to go out to potty while in the crate. If you think there is a chance that she needs to go out, take her out to potty, then put her back in the crate. If she routinely spends time in pain in the kennel holding her bladder, she will come to associate the crate with torture and refuse to go in.
Likewise, be sure you are using the crate as it is intended: A safe place for your puppy to rest in between more vigorous play and social time. It can also be used to help you find some time to run to the store while you leave your puppy alone for a short period of time.
However, the crate is not a substitute for spending time training and playing with your dog. Make sure that your young dog is getting plenty of mental and physical stimulation throughout the day in order to get the most out of her puppy days to grow into a wonderful family pet.
The First Time In Method
Get the crate all set up with some nice towels or fleece blankets so that your puppy will find it to be a soft and welcoming place. Leave the door open and let your puppy watch you toss a treat inside. Use a soft tone and encourage your puppy to go check it out.
Once your puppy is inside the crate, let them sniff around. Toss another treat or two inside and use gentle praise to let them know the kennel is a nice place.
If your puppy chooses to lie right down and take a nap in their crate, just let that happen. You can leave the door open but keep an eye on them so that when they get up, you can immediately take them outside for a potty.
In and out
After your puppy has been in and out of the crate a few times with plenty of reward and praise, lure him back in with a treat, and very slowly start to close the door. Only close it half way, then open it again. Invite him out for a treat, then lure him back in with another one.
Close the door
Now try shutting the door with your puppy inside. Continue to feed some treats through the side of the crate. If you she tolerates the door shut for a few seconds, then open it again. Continue to repeat in and out, trying to extend the time she is in the crate before opening the door to about 30 seconds.
Feed in the crate
In addition, start to feed your dog her meals in the crate, closing the door during her dinner time, letting her out afterwards to go potty.
The Walk Away Method
Once you have given your puppy a general introduction to the crate using the 'First Time In' method, then you are ready to start extending the time that he will spend in the crate. Ideally, if you are using the crate to potty train your puppy, you want him to be able to be in the crate for up to a few hours. Every time you take him out of the crate, you will take him immediately outside to potty, avoiding the most common time for an accident: after a nap.
Wait for a time when your puppy is already getting tired after some playtime. Encourage him to go into the crate and give him a few treats or pieces of his kibble as a reward. Shut the door but stay by the crate. Hopefully, he will lay down and start to nap.
He may start whining or crying at this point. Just be patient and try not to react to the crying. Stay next to the crate, but do not let him out while he is crying. This is a pretty critical stage – if your puppy learns that crying gets him out of the crate, it will be very difficult to fix this moving forward.
Give your puppy 3-5 minutes in the crate. If he is still awake after that time, but quiet, you can let him out for a little more play before trying again. If he is still crying, you will have to wait for him to stop before you can open the crate, even if you only get a few second window. Repeat several times the first day of crate training.
The second full day of crate training, start to walk away from the crate for short periods of time. Again, it is normal for your puppy to get lonely and react. However, they will also usually quiet down on their own and just go to sleep. It is a very natural instinct for your puppy to learn to nap quietly when left to nap in his “den.” The main thing you need to do is just be firm and patient and wait out the fussing.
Continue to extend the time you practice leaving your puppy in the crate. Try to make sure they are tuckered out when you have them go into the crate. This will start to associate the crate with rest. Over time, he will adjust to being alone in his crate, and even choose to go lie down in it when he is ready for a nap.
The Bed Time Method
Bed time ritual
An alternative way to crate train your puppy to the crate is to leave the crate door open during the day so that she can “choose” to go in and out as she likes, only closing the door at bed time at night. This can go even smoother if you get in the habit of having a “wind down” period in the evening that acts as a routine to trigger your puppy to sleep
Peanut butter treat
In the evening, fill a hollow dog toy with some peanut butter and place it in the crate. When your puppy goes in, close the door and let them enjoy their toy. If they fall asleep, then that is great. If not, take them out for one more potty before bedtime.
If your puppy whines in the night, chances are they need to go potty. Have a “no nonsense” potty trip that does not include much play or petting--other than some praise when they go potty outside. Then put them right back in the crate.
Ignore any other whining once you are sure that they have food, water, and potty needs met. Eventually your puppy will just adjust to going in the crate at night for bed time.
After a few weeks of sleeping in their crate at night, you will find that you can put him in the crate and leave him for short periods during the day as well. Just remember to start with very short periods of alone time, extending only as they are ready. Never let your dog out of the crate when they are crying and carrying on unless you suspect they need to go potty or something else is wrong.
By Sharon Elber
Published: 03/09/2018, edited: 01/08/2021