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Crate Training A Puppy

..... your guide to success!

Did you know that crate training a puppy is the quickest and easiest way to keep your home a 'puddle-free' zone?

Housebreaking is one of the very first, and most important, tasks all new puppy owners face, but it can often one of the most frustrating ones too!

But, potty training doesn't need to be stressful or frustrating, for you or your pup.

Years of experience have taught me that there's a very straightforward way to teach a pup to eliminate where you want him to, while at the same time minimizing the number of accidents he has during the learning process...... it's called puppy crate training.

You may be wondering exactly why puppy crate training is so great, and may even feel that you don't want to put your precious baby in a 'cage'.

But a dog crate is truly an amazingly versatile piece of equipment and it's not just an effective puppy housebreaking tool.

It's going to help both you and your puppy in more ways than you might think, and as dogs are naturally 'den' animals, your little guy (or gal) will feel safe and secure in his crate.

As he gets older he'll actually enjoy being in his own cozy, safe little hideaway.

Crate training a puppy....

  • Helps your puppy learn where you expect him to pee/poop (and where you don't!)
  • Keeps him safe, and protects your furniture and possessions when you're not around to supervise him
  • Keeps him safe when traveling in the car or by air
  • Helps prevent separation anxiety issues

Introducing your puppy to his crate

Your puppy will most likely not have spent much time in a crate before he comes to live with you (except perhaps during travel, or if his breeder started him on housebreaking) so crate training will be new to him. 

The main reason why crate training a puppy is so effective is that it taps into your pup's natural desire to keep his 'den' clean.

In the wild, puppies would toddle out of their den to eliminate - even if it's only two tiny puppy-sized steps outside! This is instinctive behavior and is hard-wired into their little brains.

Now, your little guy has never seen a real 'den', but being in his crate will trigger that deep-seated instinct and he'll naturally do his very best not to pee or poop until you let him out.

Although crate training a puppy will help make housebreaking much easier for you both, your puppy is a baby and has other natural instincts to deal with too. One of them is that he instinctively wants to be right next to his pack - and that pack is now YOU.

He feels anxious and worried if he's away from you (because in the wild a puppy who gets separated is vulnerable and in great danger). This is why he will cry and complain and fuss and whine at first.... not because he hates his crate!

Of course, he's perfectly safe... he just doesn't know it yet. And as he's a domesticated dog and not a lone wolf, he needs to get used to being separated from you from short periods, so it's okay to ignore the fussing When you're crate training a puppy, it makes the whole process a bit easier if you let him get used to his new crate, and feel comfortable around it, before he has to spend much time actually inside it.

Something worth mentioning here is that you should never use the crate as punishment. Fido needs to think of his crate as a safe, happy place where he gets the chance to chew on his very favorite toys! Putting him in his crate as a punishment or when you're angry with him will undo all the hard work you invested in the first place.

Here are some basic rules of crate training and a few ideas for ways in which you can help Fido get accustomed to his new crate and learn that it's a fun place to spend time -

  • Open access-When you begin crate training a puppy, leave the crate door open and throw some really tasty treats inside, all the way to the back. Puppy curiosity will get the better of your little fur ball sooner or later and he'll venture inside to claim them.
  • Feed him inside-Give Fido his meals inside the crate (with the door open). This way he learns to associate one of his favorite things (food!) with his crate. If he seems scared at first try feeding him right outside the crate door a couple of times then try it inside again.
  • Play Hide & Seek-Make crate training a puppy fun by playing this game. Put a tasty treat or special toy inside his crate and then encourage Fido to 'find' it. Using a happy, friendly voice say something along the lines of "where's your goodie? Let's find it?".Follow the search with praise, such as "Oh, there it is. It's in your crate (or bed, house whatever you want to call it). What a good boy, you found it!"

Gives him a safe place where he can get some 'alone time' and just rest and relax

Crate Training A Puppy 101

When you think your pup is ready to spend some time with the door closed start with very short periods and work up. Here are some more 'rules' (and a couple of hard-earned tips) to make this part of crate training a puppy a bit less stressful for both of you:

Give him a potty break first.

Make sure Fido has been outside to 'do his business' before you crate him, even for short periods. This way when he starts fussing right away you know he doesn't have an urgent need to 'go' and cuts down on the chances he'll eliminate in there.

Put his favorite toy in with him.

It's a good idea to have a special toy for Fido to play with only when he's in his crate. Make sure it's something he really likes and is safe (no loose parts etc.). It'll stave off boredom and help him forget he's not outside running around. If you have an old T-shirt or something similar that you don't mind getting ruined (it's possible it'll get peed on, pooped on or chewed beyond recognition) you could put that in the crate too. Fido will feel happier and be reassured if he can 'smell' you right next to him.

Don't just shut him in and then leave the room.

Young puppies want to be with their people at all times and if you disappear from sight he'll be scared, and you don't want him to make those kind of associations with his crate. At first try to stay in the room, or at the very least within sight, and sound, of his crate.

Ignore initial 'fussing'.

Crate training a puppy is not going to be all smooth sailing. Almost all puppies will fuss and cry the first few times. Remember, they want to be right next to you! If you take little Fido out as soon he starts whining I can guarantee he'll whine even louder and longer next time. Anyone who's raised children will know all about this phenomenon! Stay close by but ignore the racket and don't make eye contact.

There's one caveat here. Occasionally you'll find a puppy who is particularly highly strung and nervous who may suffer from severe separation anxiety when put in his crate.

If your puppy appears 'hysterical' (whining, barking, scratching, throwing himself around, has a bowel movement or is panting heavily) it's best to let him out and consult your veterinarian or an experienced dog trained for advice on how best to handle that. It may be that he has a tendency towards anxious behavior, such as separation anxiety

But don't be fooled too easily. Fido may act like a crazy dog for a few minutes but then settle down to the occasional whine. If he's generally not an anxious, highly nervous dog he's unlikely to develop raging anxiety issues because of his crate.

The freedom bell rings!

Wait for quiet before letting him out of his crate.

Whether your puppy is in his crate for 5 mins or 30, never open the door and let him out while he's crying and complaining. Wait for a lull first or he'll think he's getting out because he's making such a fuss.

Don't fuss over him when time is up.

When it's time for little Fido to come out of his crate open the door and put on his leash without making a big fuss of him. Take him outside right away so he can 'potty' in his usual spot, then it's time for play and lots of loving! If you give him a big welcome the minute his paws hit the kitchen floor it'll make him desperate to get out the whole time he's crated.

When you begin crate training a puppy you'll need to start with short periods of crating and work your way up. Here's a general guide to the length of time your puppy can spend in his crate during the daytime -

9 - 10 weeks old - 30 mins

11 - 14 weeks old - 1 - 3 hours

15 - 18 weeks old - 3 - 4 hours

18 weeks plus - 4 - 6 hours

The rules are a little different when it comes to overnight crating. Try to put your puppy in his crate beside your bed at night, or at least somewhere you can hear him (although you may wish you couldn't hear him at 2am). Remember, he's still a baby and as such will need to go out to 'potty' at least once during the night.

Crate training a puppy at night time is easier if you make sure he's had a potty break and hasn't had access to drinking water after, say 8pm. That way he'll most likely go to sleep for several hours before needing to go out. Don't ignore his crying at that point as he won't be able to hold it in and if forced to potty in his crate it'll make housebreaking him much more difficult.

This stage only lasts a short while and you'll be glad you persevered when you have a clean, housebroken dog.

What if he has an 'accident' in his crate?

As I explained earlier, crate training a puppy works because dogs are den animals by nature and will try very hard not not to mess where they sleep. If little Fido regularly eliminates in his dog crate the answer may lie in the following check list -

  • Is he too young (less than 8 weeks old) and has no bladder/bowel control?
  • Did you forget to give him a potty break before you put him in his crate?
  • Did he drink a lot of water immediately before being crated?
  • Did you leave a blanket or soft toys/bedding in there with him? Pups are much more likely to pee on something soft than they are on the hard, smooth floor of the crate.
  • Could he have worms or an upset tummy due to a change in diet or stress?
  • Could he have a medical problem such as a urine infection?

No matter what reason your pup has for messing in his crate, do be certain to clean the crate thoroughly, so that the scent of his 'accident' doesn't encourage him to get in the habit of re-soiling over and over.

The best type of cleaners to use when you're crate training a puppy, are the enzymatic ones, which totally break down and destroy the odors associated with urine, feces and vomit. Natures Miracle Advanced Stain and Odor Remover

is the one I would personally recommend, we use it a lot!

There are also a host of other dog urine cleaning products on the market, click here to see a full list of the ones that I can personally recommend.

Crate Training Safety

One of the reasons for crate training a puppy is that it helps to keep him safe - but there are a few things you need to do to make sure he stays that way.

  1. Don't ever leave a chain, prong, training or slip collar on little Fido when you put him in his crate. It's quite possible it could get caught up on something and then he'll panic, the result of that could be tragic.

If you really must leave a collar on make sure it's a simple, undecorated buckle collar - or even better a safety 'break-away' type collar

  1. Don't leave your puppy crated in a hot room, in sunlight (even indoors) or outside in direct sun, or in a car on a sunny day. It doesn't take much for a puppy or dog to overheat, and again the results could be tragic.
  1. A puppy or dog who is crated, can tend to feel cornered if approached or teased. Even an even-tempered, docile dog can react with growling or snapping if he feels threatened. Never allow children to tease Fido while he's in his crate or push their fingers through the doors or wire panels.
His crate is meant to be your puppy's safe haven and as such he has a right to some peace and quiet and to feel safe when he's inside.

Housebreaking and crate training a puppy is one of the biggest early challenges you'll experience as a new 'parent' ...but some basic knowledge and a positive attitude can get you a long way...
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