The Do’s and Don'ts Guide to Puppy Crate Training
Whether you’re a seasoned hound handler or a new puppy parent, there’s nothing more exciting than getting a new best friend! Canine companions are among the most popular domesticated animals around the world, and it’s estimated that in 2019, Americans spent about 52 billion dollars on dogs and dog-related products.
From dog toy subscriptions to premium quality dog treats, it's easy to see pet parents really do love their fur children! However, owning a dog is not always just fur shine and rainbows. Nurturing a well-behaved dog begins with disciplined puppy crate training early in their lives, and new owners might have some questions about how to start crate training a new adopted dog or puppy. Here is our crate training do’s and don'ts guide on how to get started on puppy crate training for a perfectly behaved pupper.
Puppy Crate Training: Picking A Crate
Do: Choose the right crate.
Choosing the right crate is the first and arguably the most important step when crate training a new adopted dog or puppy. When choosing a crate, you will want a crate for the appropriate size and breed while allowing your puppy to grow. If the puppy is standing and his or her head is touching the top of the crate, then it is likely that the crate is too small. Depending on the breed of your furbaby, you may need to upgrade a couple of times for the first two years. Ultimately, you want your puppy to be able to comfortably and naturally move around within the crate, such as standing, turning, laying down, etc.
It’s also important to choose a crate that is made with the right material. Not all crates are made equal, plastic crates can be great for smaller breeds and for traveling but not good for long-term use or larger dogs. Be sure to choose a crate that can be used for your special puppy. If you don’t know what breed your puppy will be or how big he or she will grow, choose a crate that closely aligns with what breed you think they are. Crate training a new adopted dog or puppy will be infinitely easier if you start with the right crate!
Don't: Go too big.
Many new pet parents will buy an extra large crate with the “bigger is better” mentality. However, this could backfire if your puppy ends up soiling the crate because he or she thought there was enough room inside the crate to potty in it. In this crate training do’s and don'ts guide, this is an easy ‘don’t’ to avoid!
Puppy Crate Training: Make It Comfortable
Do: Make the crate a comfortable place for your puppy.
Does your bedroom come with a bed? Why wouldn’t you get a bed for your fur child? Be sure to have a cushion, comfortable bed, or some other pad to make the crate a comfortable place for your puppy. When crate training a newly adopted dog or puppy, your curious canine will be spending a fair amount of time inside of the crate, so making it comfortable will be important to drive home a positive association with the crate.
Don’t: Cheap out on the crate pad.
Dogs and puppies share a surprising number of similarities. Both like treats, both typically like to play and be active, and both like to relax and enjoy creature comforts. Keeping that in mind, number two in our crate training do’s and don'ts guide is making sure that you don’t get a cheap pad or bed. Be sure to get something durable yet comfortable; the average dog bed or puppy pad ranges from $50 to over $100. Expensive does not always mean better; focus on the features that will suit you and your playful pup.
Puppy Crate Training: Using The Crate For Intentional Purpose
Do: Use the crate like a crib or a room.
There’s a reason why pets are often referred to as furbabies and fur children, they’re loved unconditionally, and they bring joy to their parents. Like with normal human babies and children, your puppy should have a place to relax and call their own… call it a “room”, if you will. Except, in this case, the room is a crate. You want your growing puppy to think of the crate as a safe space for sleeping and relaxing. It is important to train your puppy early on so that if they are sent to a crate, it is because it is time to relax, not because of a punishment.
Don’t: Use the crate as a jail cell.
When scouring online resources for crate training do’s and don'ts, there is plenty of information available that is subject to change. One common consensus is that when crate training a newly adopted dog or puppy, it is important to never use the crate as punishment or as a malicious puppy prison. If your puppy is becoming too rambunctious and you want them to calm down, then send them to the crate. The idea is that you want them to associate the crate with calming behavior, not with a prison cell.
Puppy Crate Training: Playtime Versus Cratetime
Do: Incorporate puppy playtime with the crate
This coincides with the previous tip and amplifies the idea that the crate is not a punishment. Using the crate to incorporate into playtime is a great way to familiarize your puppy with the crate. Try putting toys inside the crate and hiding treats in the crate to keep your puppy excited and interested in the crate and to keep the good boy or good girl from associating the crate as a bad thing.
Don’t: Send the puppy to the crate in the middle of playtime
You don’t want to confuse your puppy by sending them to the crate when they are in a playful mood. This may send mixed messages and will confuse them. Give your puppy some time to “unwind” and settle down before putting them in their crate. You putting the brakes on in the middle of playtime and putting them in the crate is a sure way to associate crate time with a bad time.
Puppy Crate Training: Using The Crate
Do: Use the crate for an appropriate amount of time.
Like newborn babies, newborn puppies don’t have good control over their bowel movements. When crate training a newly adopted dog or puppy, it is important to let them out regularly to avoid messes inside your home and to keep them mentally stimulated. Remember how we said that crates aren’t punishment areas? This is an especially important concept to teach your puppy because it will be easier to keep them well-behaved later in their lives as they grow.
Don’t: Leave your puppy in a crate all day.
According to the Humane Society, new puppies six months or younger should not be left in a crate for longer than four to six hours a day. Keeping your growing puppy confined in a crate is bad practice and can really impact your puppy's behavior later in life. That’s why it's important in our crate training do’s and don'ts guide to definitely don’t confine your puppy all day.
Puppy Crate Training: Treat Your Puppy With Treats
Do: Present your precious pooch with plenty of palatable presents.
When crate training a newly adopted dog or puppy, be sure to give your puppy premium quality and long-lasting dog treats like bully sticks, yak chews, or tripe chews when you put them inside of their crate. Toys or treat puzzles are a great option to keep your puppy stimulated while in the crate. Be sure to couple treat-giving with plenty of words of encouragement, especially when your puppy goes into the crate without resistance. You want to be sure to set up commands when you want your puppy to enter the crate. Most puppy parents use “go to your crate,” “it's crate time,” “go to bed,” or some other variation. The key is to associate crate time with food and good treats.
Don’t: Give too many treats after your puppy is crate trained.
While this may seem out of topic for a crate training do’s and don'ts guide, it’s important to remember that giving high-value treats like bully sticks or yak chews is great for crate training early on puppies or for newly adopted dogs. Once the behavior is learned, wean off treat rewards for entering the crate as desired.
Puppy Crate Training: Patience Is Key For Puppy Parents
Do: Practice puppy patience.
When crate training a newly adopted dog or puppy, patience is a virtue that new parents must learn. Puppy crate training takes practice, patience, and time. Even with intelligent humans, habits aren’t formed overnight, so why would you expect a developing puppy to master crate training in a week? Being consistent and calm will go a long way when you train your new puppy.
Don’t: Let patience equal pushover.
There’s a fine line between patience and pushover with new puppy parents. A crate training do’s and don'ts guide wouldn't be complete unless we warn new parents that they should not be too forgiving to their puppy. What do we mean by that? Once your puppy begins forming the good habits that are desirable for crate training, it's important to stay consistent and don’t let your puppy begin breaking habits later in their life.
Puppy Crate Training: Not All Dogs Are Meant For Crate Training
Do: Practice best habits and try to be consistent.
When crate training a newly adopted dog or puppy, not all best practices will work 100 percent of the time. If all else fails, it’s okay to regroup your thoughts and take a look at your training habits. Are your training sessions too long? Are the commands too confusing? Are there other variables at play? Does your puppy have everything he or she needs to be successfully crate trained? If you’ve done everything else right then, it’s okay to try a different training method. Not all dogs can be crate trained; the key here is to find a solution that works for you.
Don’t: Give into frustration.
While this may not seem necessary for a crate training do’s and don'ts guide, it must be said: definitely do not give in to frustration and force your puppy to do something he or she does not want to. Sometimes puppies can be stubborn and will make it hard to be patient. Remember that you are your puppy’s whole life, and you chose them to love and care for!
Puppy Crate Training For A Lifetime
Crate training a puppy is definitely an important part of owning a dog in the early stages of their lives, but you will be practicing this skill for the rest of your good boys (or good girls) life. Think of crate training as a foundational building block for other training and commands that your puppy will learn. There are a lot of things you will go through as a puppy parent. Enjoy them when they’re young, and their paws are the size of their heads.
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