Crate training your pup can go one of two ways; it can be a pleasurable experience full of warmth and love. Or, it can be you pulling your hair out because your puppy simply won’t go in their dog crate.
I’ve had my fair share of moments with the latter, and I can tell you, it’s frustrating. The most important thing is that you never get upset when crate-training a puppy. Do your best to maintain your composure and understand that, as pet parents, it’s our duty to train our dogs, and it’s part of the process.
That said, having a puppy crate training strategy never hurts. If you need to crate train a puppy, read along and follow each step carefully because it’ll help make the process faster and simpler.
How to Crate Train a Puppy
My Lhasa Apso Cleo was not keen on her crate, and I can remember trying everything you could think of to get her in. Here’s what I’ve learned are the most important things you can do to help the crate training process.
Selecting The Right Crate Size
Here’s a table to help you calculate the dog crate size correctly to ensure your puppy has a safe space to relax.
Selecting the right size crate is one of the most important steps when you crate train a puppy. If the crate is too small, they won’t feel comfortable, and it will make it harder to get them through the crate door.
You might assume bigger is better then!
Nope, I had this issue as well. I assumed getting a larger dog crate would mean my pup would be happy and even have some space to play inside. The problem is, they also think they can use the bathroom there since there’s enough room. You don’t want that happening either.
Keep in mind that you do want to leave a little room for the pup to grow, so you don’t have to keep purchasing new crates, but you can always create a divider to keep them in a small area while they’re growing into their crate.
Providing the right-sized crate ensures your puppy feels secure and aids in their successful crate training journey.
Creating Positive Association For Puppies
It’s so essential that training is always a positive association for your puppy and never something that you’re trying to “force” them into.
Of course, trying to train your dog may sometimes seem like you’re forcing them, but the main thing is that you never scold or yell at your puppy for not wanting to go into the crate. If you yell at them or get upset, then your pup will start to associate the crate with anger and frustration, which will only make it harder in the long run.
Follow a Routine
Following a routine and getting young puppies on a regular schedule is important for crate training. Puppies thrive on expectations and predictability, so the more you can reinforce a step-by-step process, the better off you’ll be.
Try to do everything at the same time each day. If you’re trying to get your puppy to spend one hour per day in the crate, make sure you do it at the same time and follow the same small steps leading up to that.
For example, feed your puppy dinner, take them outside for a potty break, and then bring them inside to go into the crate for an hour so they get comfortable with it.
Reward Your Pup
Positive reinforcement with small food treats or their favorite toy in the crate can help encourage your pup to go in there even if they’re not too interested in it. This will help your puppy associate their crate with something they love. Sit quietly near the crate and observe them.
Don’t think you have to continue tossing treats in their direction though. You can offer a nice belly rub and praise your dog briefly, with vocal reinforcement and a pleasant tone.
Avoid forcing your puppy into the crate or scolding them when they’re hesitant, as this can create negative associations. Instead, be patient and consistent with rewards, gradually increasing crate time as your pup becomes more comfortable.
Avoid Collars in the Crate
I don’t recommend having your dog wear a collar when they’re in their crate because it can be uncomfortable. While there are a number of really comfortable puppy collars, this can be another great way to create a habit around going inside the crate.
You can add an extra step, and after you bring your pup back in from outside, you can take their collar off, and they’ll immediately associate that with going inside the crate.
Create a Game Around the Crate
Creating a game around their crate can help associate it with playtime. You can do this with their favorite toy and by using a playful and happy tone to make it more fun.
Even something as simple as commanding them to go to their crate in a fun way can make a difference. You can do it using a song or provide them with a series of instructions leading them into the crate.
Gradually increase the complexity of the game, adding duration and distance challenges. Incorporate the crate game into your play time routine to strengthen the pleasant association.
Gradually Increase Crate Time
Nothing happens overnight, so you want to start slow and gradually increase the time as your puppy becomes more comfortable. They should associate crating with a comfortable experience.
Over the years, I’ve used a 5-step process to help increase the amount of time your pup spends in the crate:
Step 1: Put the crate in the middle of the house with the door open – Doing this allows your puppy to explore their crate on their own time, sniff it out, and see what they think. Don’t give them any reason to go inside, but just let them familiarize themselves with it.
Step 2: Leave the crate there but feed them inside of it – The next step for crate training is to provide your puppy with a reason to go in there for the food dish. Even if they only go inside for a few minutes and then decide they want out, it’s better than not at all.
Step 3: Beginfeeding your dog inside the crate and then close the door – Once you can get your puppy to follow their bowl into the crate, close the door when they’re standing comfortably and see how they react.
The first time I tried this, my doggo immediately forgot about eating and turned around to scratch at the crate door. You might have the same experience, but you can open it up and gradually increase the time.
Step 4: Have your dog take naps inside the crate – Keep the crate in the middle of the room where you are visible and place their favorite soft blanket inside so they can start to associate the crate with a place of rest and relaxation. You should try this with older dogs too!
Step 5: Have your dog take naps inside the crate with the door closed – The final step is to have them sleep inside the crate with the door closed without having any sort of negative reaction. This may take a while, but it’s the ultimate goal for crate training your puppy.
Monitor Your Puppies Behavior
Stubbornness never works when it comes to dog training, so you need to see how your strategy is working. If it’s not working, you’ll know it.
Your pup will be whining, crying, and barking, and that’s no way to train a puppy. I’ve seen many situations where pet parents simply allow this, but I don’t see that as a solution.
If something is bothering your puppy, it’s because you didn’t motivate them properly and acclimate them to their crate.
Work Up to Nighttime Crating
If you’re not sleeping comfortably at night because your pup is roaming around, nighttime crating can be a great solution. Of course, this can also be the most difficult to do.
Getting your pup crate-train at night will require everything we’ve talked about so far, with the additional step of working this into a nighttime routine.
Instead of leaving the crate in the family room or kitchen, place the crate in your bedroom and gradually increase the amount of time they spend in the crate at night.
How to Select the Best Crate for Your Puppy
I talked a little about the importance of selecting the right size dog’s crate, but let’s not forget that the type of crate you choose will help you crate train your dog as well.
A plastic crate is lightweight and easy to transport but generally more flimsy than metal ones. If you have a hard time carrying your puppy around due to their size or mobility issues, this is the best type of crate for you.
Collapsible Metal Crate
Metal kennel or wire crates are great options for keeping your pup inside for short time periods. They also hold up well against abuse if your new dog has a tendency to get a little rough. These are common at most pet supply stores.
A playpen or indoor dog kennel is another option for a small puppy. This is something I did early on by putting a gate in the laundry room. As a matter of fact, this was helpful for potty training as well because I could allow my pup to go on a mat when I was away for periods of time.
Problems Associated with Crate Training
While crate training isn’t typically a huge issue for most dogs, depending on your dog’s age, you may struggle more than you originally thought due to these potential problems:
Too Much Crate Time – The amount of time your furry family spends in their crate will definitely impact your success. Make sure to spend time with your pup and offer them regular meals near or outside the crate so when your dog enters it, they’re ready to relax, and you can leave quietly without much of an issue.
Separation Anxiety – Separation anxiety problems are very common with crate training because most puppies will think that you’re trying to keep them away. Another issue is if they have a previous negative association with the crate because they went to a vet or to a place they didn’t like.
You Waited Too Long – Believe it or not, adult dogs are much harder to crate train than puppies because they become used to certain habits. Crate train your dog as young as a few months old and use the training procedures outlined in this guide.
Benefits of Crate Training a Puppy
The main benefit of crate training is that your dog gets to have their own space, and you can control where they are so you know they’re safe. Most dogs eventually come to think of their crate as a place of happiness and comfort as long as you follow all the necessary steps.
Here are some frequently asked questions about crate training
What Is the Right Time to Crate a Puppy?
Depending on your puppy’s age, you might want to begin leaving them in a crate as soon as you bring them home. The general timeline for crating is around 2-3 months old.
How to Stop a Puppy From Whining in the Dog Crate?
If yourdog whines in the crate, it’s likely an excited behavior that tells you they want to get out. Consider letting them go for a while and rewarding them by letting them out only when they stop whining.
Crate training can take days or weeks. Now you know how to crate train a puppy, so you begin the process and guarantee success as long as you are patient and consistent with the process. Good luck!