If you’re bringing home a new puppy, you should think about crate training. By crate training your puppy, you’ll be giving him or her a cozy place to nap and take breaks—which a growing pup needs to do! It can also help you house train your puppy and teach your new friend how to behave appropriately.
However, it’s important to note that crate training should never be misused. It should never be used as punishment or for very long periods of time. Your puppy should come to see his or her crate as a safe and happy little home.
What are the benefits of crate training?
Crate training can be a big help while housebreaking a puppy. That’s because dogs typically don’t like to relieve themselves where they sleep. Your puppy should naturally want to wait to pee until you let him or her out of the crate. This helps teach your puppy to know when they need to go and start controlling it better.
Crate training can also be useful while you’re working on stopping unwanted behaviors. For instance, if your puppy is chewing on the furniture, you place him or her in the crate for short times when he or she can’t be unsupervised. This way, your puppy can’t engage in the unwanted behavior without being directed not to do it.
In addition, if you use a portable dog crate, puppy crate training can come in handy when you need to take your puppy somewhere, like the veterinarian’s office. Your puppy will be used to the crate and should jump right in. You can also bring the crate along if you stay at a hotel or friend’s house. It gives your puppy a private “room” to sleep in where he or she will be comfy and can’t cause trouble.
How long can I keep my puppy in the crate?
The amount of time you can safely leave your puppy in the crate depends on age. You should ask your veterinarian for specific guidelines, but these timeframes can be used as a rule of thumb:
|Age||Approximate Allowable Crate Time Limit|
|9 to 10 weeks old||30 to 60 minutes|
|11 to 14 weeks old||1 to 3 hours|
|15 to 16 weeks old||3 to 4 hours|
|17 or more weeks old||4 to 6 hours|
Another common recommendation is one hour for each month of age.
In any case, you should avoid crating your puppy for long periods of time. This goes for dogs too. If you need to use a dog crate for your pooch during the 8 or so hours you’re at work, go home for visits or consider hiring a dog walker.
10 Puppy Crate Training Tips
Ready to crate train your new best friend? You should talk to your veterinarian for help getting started and keep these puppy crate training tips in mind.
1. Choose a sturdy crate
You can buy a safe wire, plastic, or mesh crate for your puppy at a pet supply store. They each have different pros and cons, so pick one that meets your needs.
These typically collapse and can be easy to store or bring along with you. They are very open, but can be covered with a blanket or towel for added privacy. There is also a variety of dog crate covers available for a nice and secure fit around the dog crate.
Mesh crates can offer a lot of privacy, but may not be as durable or reliable as wire versions. Puppies and dogs have been known to chew through the mesh sides.
Crates made of plastic can feel very den-like and provide a secure feeling space for your puppy. They can offer more privacy than a wire crate depending on the design, but are not recommended if you plan to leave your pet crated when you are not home.
2. Place it in a central room
Set the crate up in an area where you and your family tend to spend time, like the kitchen or a family room, so the dog crate doesn’t feel like an isolating experience for your puppy.
3. Make it cozy
Put in a warm blanket, small pillow, and maybe a favorite dog toy or two inside the crate. You can also add a shirt you’ve worn so your puppy can curl up with something that has your scent.
4. Lure your puppy in
Scatter bits of food or small treats around the front of the crate leading to the inside. Encourage your puppy to go in and get the goodies. It’s OK if your puppy won’t go inside at first. Be patient and keep at it.
5. Use a cue word
There are many dog commands, choose a command to let your puppy know it’s time to go into the crate, such as “Kennel up” or “Go to bed.” Whatever word or phrase you pick, be consistent to help avoid confusion.
6. Stay with your puppy
When you first start crate training, stay in the room so your puppy won’t associate the crate with you going away. Once your puppy is comfortable with the crate, you can begin leaving him or her alone for short periods of time.
7. Extend crate time gradually
Only leave your puppy in the crate for a few minutes at first, and then slowly lengthen the time. If your puppy whines, you may have lengthened the time too quickly. Be sure to wait until your puppy stops whining before opening the door, so he or she won’t associate whining with being let out.
8. Avoid scolding
If your puppy whines or barks in the crate, avoid scolding. You want your puppy to feel happy and stress-free when crated. Whining at night might mean your puppy needs to pee. You can take him or her out to go to the bathroom, but don’t play or engage with your puppy so you can both go back to bed more easily.
9. Use the crate for mealtimes
If your puppy is having trouble getting used to the crate, you can try serving meals in it. Place the food bowl just outside the crate and gradually move it in. You can also hide a few treats in the crate as a surprise and help your puppy find them.
10. Get plenty of exercise
The more energy your puppy has stored up, the more frustrating the crate training process can be. If you tucker your pal out by taking him or her for a walk or playing a game of fetch, your puppy may not mind being left alone in the crate for few hours to sleep.
In most cases, puppies adjust to crate training fairly easily. If you can’t seem to get your puppy comfortable with the crate, talk with your veterinarian. Your puppy may be too young or have some other issue that needs to be addressed.
Looking for more puppy care tips? Learn about how to house train your puppy.
Reminder: Treats should not make up more than 10% of a pet’s caloric intake. Also, stomach upset may occur in pets who do not tolerate dietary changes well.