Crate training your puppy can be extremely beneficial for both you and your new companion, although it is often difficult to know when and how to start. Puppies that are recently adopted from a shelter or bought from a pet store/breeder are usually accustomed to spending time in a pen or crate of some kind. It is best to start crate training your puppy the first night you bring her home.
Your puppy’s crate should be big enough for her to stand up and turn around in, but not so big that she has enough room to eliminate on one side and sleep on the other. This will make house training much more difficult. Metal/wire crates with a removable tray tend to work well and be easy to clean. The crate should be placed in a social area of the home such as the kitchen or living room and not the basement or garage. Isolating the puppy away from the rest of the family can create anxiety and separation issues in some cases.
It is best to leave the crate door open and place comfortable bedding, treats and water inside the crate for your puppy. Training you new puppy to accept the crate is best done in several short training sessions each day. Make sure that your puppy has been exercised and has had the chance to urinate and defecate. Place them in the crate with their favorite toys (bones or Kong toys stuffed with frozen peanut butter or squeeze cheese are great distractions) and bedding so they can either play or nap. Begin by leaving them in the crate for 5-10 minutes or until they wake up from their nap and then slowly increase the length of time they are crated for.
It is normal for your puppy to vocalize or attempt to escape from their crate over the first several training periods. It is important to never remove your new puppy from their crate while they are crying or whining. This reinforces the crying behavior and teaches them that all they need to do is bark and whine to be let out of their crate. Remove your puppy from the crate only after they have been quiet for several minutes. If your puppy does not quiet down for long enough to remove them from the crate negative reinforcement techniques such as a spray bottle or shaking a can of pennies can be an effective deterrent. This teaches the puppy to associate these negative experiences with barking and vocalizing in their crate. If you need to use negative reinforcement to quiet your puppy remember to stay out of their line of sight so they do not associate the negative experiences with you. Never leave your dog in a crate for longer than she can control her eliminations. A general rule of thumb for how many hours to leave your dog in a crate for is her age in months plus one.
When you confine your dog to a crate for the night make sure that she has been exercised and has eliminated. Puppies over the age of 12 weeks can generally hold their eliminations overnight. It is especially important to not let your puppy out of her crate if she is barking at night. Allowing her to leave her crate and sleep in bed will make it very difficult to crate train her all the way through the night in the future.
If you are crate training your new puppy it is important that you let her out of the crate as much as possible when you are home and able to supervise her. If she is not allowed to spend sufficient time with you she will not learn which behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not. Additionally, a crate should never be used as punishment, it should always feel like a safe, comfortable space. Feeding your puppy in his/her crate can help to facilitate this feeling. Giving her treats each time she enters her crate can also help in this area.
If you have any questions about how to start crate training your puppy please do not hesitate to call us at River Road Veterinary Clinic.