One of the first decisions you have is whether or not to use a crate. The crate has three main functions:
- It keeps your dog and your possessions safe while you are away.
- It encourages your dog to inhibit the urge to eliminate. Dogs don't like to spoil their dens.
- It provides your pup with comfort and solitude from the hustle and bustle of your household.
Tips for Crate Training
The crate is a great tool to use in housetraining or for when you need a break. It will also be a helpful when your dog needs to be crated at a groomer, boarding facility or veterinarian. Always remember to remove collars and harnesses when a dog is in a crate so they do not become entangled, stuck or twisted while they are in the crate alone.
- Crate size matters. Choose a crate size and type that is appropriate for your dog. Your dog should be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. But be sure the crate is not too big. If your dog can eliminate on one side and lay down on the other, it is too big.
Create positive crate associations. To ensure the crate is a comfortable place for your dog, place a soft blanket inside (this may not be appropriate for a puppy who is teething or soiling the crate) and a favorite, indestructible toy. Stuffed Kongs are usually best. Start by leaving the crate door open and tossing small treats into the crate to encourage your dog to go inside. Praise him when he goes in to get the treat. This will create a positive association with the crate.
Never try to push, pull or force your dog into the crate. At this early stage, use only positive reinforcement to get your dog inside. Once he is comfortable going in and out, put a stuffed Kong or his food bowl in the crate. While your dog is busy eating his food or playing with the Kong, close the door until he finishes and then let him out. Gradually increase the time your dog stays inside the crate with the door closed.
- Ease into crate time. In the beginning, crate your dog for short periods of time while you are home, preferably in the same room. This prevents an association with the crate and you leaving. Gradually work on leaving the room and finally the home for short periods of time. Always leave something in the crate for your dog to chew, preferably a high-value item such as a Kong stuffed with peanut butter or other treats.
- Be aware of your pup’s time limits. Puppies six to eight weeks old should not be crated more than three or four hours at a time. The general rule is the number of hours a puppy can be crated for is the number of months old they are, plus one hour. For example, a five-month-old puppy can be crated for up to six hours.
Plan to crate your dog while you are away until you feel comfortable leaving him with the run of the house, or confined to one room using a baby gate. For many puppies, this will occur around one year of age. Large breed dogs don’t mature until they are almost two years old.