CRATE TRAINING GUIDE
WHY CRATE TRAIN YOUR PUPPY
Crate training provides a haven for your puppy to relax and feel comfortable. Dogs like small, enclosed spaces, especially when they are feeling anxious or a bit unsure. The crate represents a “den” like environment that is safe and protected.
Crate training has many benefits for your puppy and also offers many advantages for your own convenience.
It provides somewhere safe and secure for your puppy to go when it is not possible to supervise him/her. For example, while having a shower, or leaving a room for a period of time. Using a crate during these times may protect your furniture, floors and prevent your puppy from chewing household plants, cords or other items that may cause harm.
Crate training is helpful when toilet training (a puppy’s natural instinct is not to soil their own den).
Crates can become a refuge during stressful events like parties, thunderstorms, exuberant children, other dogs or at times when puppy is feeling unwell or tired.
A crate provides a comfortable night time space.
Crates are a familiar “home away from home” when visiting friends, camping or boarding.
It is an easy form of transport.
It is a useful housing option during vet visits, groomers or post-surgery convalescence.
WHAT SIZE CRATE?
I call this “The Goldilocks Principle”. The answer is the crate size should be “just right!”
A crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up; turn around and lie down with his feet outstretched. If you opt for a crate size that is too big, too soon then your puppy might get the idea that to pee or poo inside the crate is a reasonable option.
Up-sizing the crate each time your puppy experiences a growth spurt is an expensive option. I recommend purchasing a high quality wire crate that will be ample big enough for your puppy even in adulthood but comes with an adjustable partition. This way you can expand the available space as your puppy grows. We stock the Contour MidWest Crates through Burrinjuck Boutique (includes the partition). Another idea is to place a high sided bed such as the DGS Lounger Bed, inside the crate. Puppies love to snuggle inside the bed and feel more protected and contained within this smaller space.
WHERE SHOULD I POSITION THE CRATE?
During the day, I suggest you place the crate in the area of the house that the family spends the most time. Your puppy will be most comfortable being a part of the hustle and bustle of the household. Don’t place the crate in direct sunlight, next to a radiator, over floor heating or cooling vents. Ensure that your puppy can’t reach cords or plants through the wire.
At night, you may wish to consider placing the crate beside your bed, at least initially. In this way, you can just place a finger through the wire to re-settle an unsettled pup. It is always an option to gradually move the crate to the location you prefer after the initial settling-in phase.
HOW LONG CAN I LEAVE MY PUPPY IN A CRATE?
The crate is not a puppy babysitter. It is cruel to leave your dog in the crate for long periods during the day. Muscle wasting, developmental problems, anxiety and depression are amongst the numerous problems that could result. Just NO! DON’T DO IT!
A young puppy of 8 weeks will not have the bladder size to “hold on” for longer than a couple of hours. Young puppies should not spend more than 3 hours in the crate without a toilet break. If you do need to give your puppy a toilet break during the night, do not provide any further stimulus. We want to consolidate a night time/day time routine. No voice or noise should be added to the toileting routine. Quietly allow your puppy to relieve himself then put him straight back in the crate. Any interaction, whether positive or negative will be received by your puppy as a reward and delay puppy from sleeping through the night. Within a few short weeks, it may be possible to put your puppy out to toilet late at night at around 11.00pm and then again early in the morning at about 6.30am without a toileting incident.
A solution to the predicament of your puppy needing to toilet during the night is to set up a Puppy Zone. It is possible to purchase a MidWest Exercise Pen that clips to the side of the crate. This option provides more freedom for your puppy. You can leave the crate door open and have some puppy pads, false grass or a port-a-loo positioned outside the crate so puppy can move in and out of the crate as needed. You may also wish to place a water bowl in the exercise yard too.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO CRATE TRAIN?
The crate training process takes patience. Each puppy will learn at a different rate and brings a unique personality to the training. As with any type of training, all dogs will learn and progress through crate training at a different pace. Expect the process to take at least 3 to 4 weeks to properly master.
Burrinjuck Labradoodles offer an option to begin the crate training process for your puppy for an additional fee of $50. We introduce the puppies to the crate experience from six weeks of age. Crate Packages can be purchased through our Burrinjuck Boutique store for your convenience. Crate Packages include the Crate, a crate mat, a blanket, a plush toy, a chew toy, a rope toy, a kong treat dispenser and a heat bag.
WHAT DOES THIS TRAINING INVOLVE?
We progress crate training in very small steps. Each puppy is unique so will progress through the levels at its own pace. Also the learning stages are not linear. If a puppy becomes anxious or unsettled then it will be necessary to consolidate the skills at a previous level. This may require decreasing the time demands, increasing the proximity of human contact or increasing the rewards, treats and praise. It may also require some supplemental supports such as introducing a snuggle puppy, covering the crate with a crate cover or introducing a calming aid such as an Adaptil Diffuser [releases calming pheromones] or soft, rhythmic music.
The Goal of crate training is for your puppy to view the crate as a wonderful place full of treats, toys, pleasant experiences, comfort and fun
WHAT ARE THE STAGES?
STEP 1. At first the crate is placed within a larger exercise pen and we bring a couple of puppies inside and put them in the Puppy Set-Up Area. We place treats and toys inside the crate with bedding and blankets and we allow the puppies to come and go as they please.
STEP 2. The puppy is separated from his/her mother and siblings and placed in the puppy Set-Up Area where he/she can become accustomed to spending time by himself/herself. Once the puppy is settled in this environment and is comfortable being alone, this achievement is a big step forward towards setting up crate training for future success.
STEP 3. Puppy is rewarded for spending time in the crate on a voluntary basis. We heap praise, treats and pats when the puppy chooses to rest inside the crate. We love the Ziwi Peak Treats as they are small, tasty bite size squares that can be fed quickly and frequently to reward behaviour. The crate door remains open during this stage.
STEP 4. The crate door is closed while puppy is either relaxed and sleeping or being entertained by the treats and toys.
STEP 5. The period of time that the crate door is closed is increased from seconds to minutes, building up to a 30 minute block of time. We stay close to the crate during this teaching period. We still dish out lots of praise and positive reinforcements periodically to reward the dog for remaining calm and happy.
STEP 6. After a few minutes of quietly sitting nearby, we get up and leave the room and then return after a minute or so. Over time, we extend the length of time that we are able to leave the room or continue with daily activities. We aim for a 30 minute period.
STEP 7. Once puppy is happily spending time in its crate for longer periods of time, it is time to introduce crating at night.
STEP 8. ADVANCED. Puppy can be trained to go into the crate with a verbal command and gesture using a key word such as “Crate Time”. We encourage your puppy to move inside the crate with treats in hand and pointing toward the crate.
WHAT ITEMS DO WE PUT INSIDE THE CRATE
We provide fun toys and comfortable bedding inside the crate. We do not provide alternative bedding for your puppy outside of the crate so that your puppy will seek out the crate as the place to lie down, sleep, chew a toy or a treat and feel relaxed. Common Items that we use inside the crate include; An old smelly t-shirt, a bed, a blanket, a snuggle puppy, a Kong treat dispenser, a LickiMat, and chew toys.
HOW DO I CONTINUE WITH CRATE TRAINING?
By the time your puppy comes to stay with you, he/she will have a great foundation and has been taught the basics. In order to maintain and develop crate training skills, there are a couple of key Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind.
Leave the space open:
keep the crate door open when not in use. This means that your puppy can enter and exit the crate at all times, even though you do not necessarily need them in the crate. Your puppy’s safe place should always be available to him/her.
Give an abundance of praise and rewards:
Keep toys and treats in the crate to create a nice vibe. The goal is to make the crate a fun and relaxing space. When your puppy is fully relaxed give him/her praise to let your puppy
know that it is doing the right thing.
Schedule the timing of crate training practice:
Make sure that your puppy has plenty of opportunities to toilet and get in some play and exercise prior to placing him/her in the crate. It is a good idea to practice crate training during the mid morning or early afternoon when the puppies would naturally be resting anyway.
Rush to let your puppy out as soon as he whines.
Your puppy may whine. The best thing to do in this situation is ignore it. We need to avoid your puppy associating whining with being let out or forming an association that whining results in attention. When puppy stops whining and starts to relax, give them praise and love to show them that being relaxed is the best outcome for them.
Don’t use crate training as a punishment or a reprimand.
Crate Training requires lots of treats, praise, consistency and patience.
DO YOU NEED EXTRA ASSISTANCE?
Crate training your puppy can be really difficult but it is important for many reasons! Our certified dog trainer, Bree Ramsay is available to assist at any time. She offers both zoom sessions and face to face consultations. You’ll learn ways to help your puppy love their crate; how to build-up the time they spend in their crate; and how to help them sleep through the night in their crate. These consultations will give you practical tips you can use right away and are also an opportunity to have any individual problems answered.
Bree can be contacted on 0459333939, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website, https://blueribbondogtrainingaustralia.com.