The purpose of a puppy crate is to create a safe, consistent way to confine and house train your new puppy.
Finding the Right Crate
The first step is purchasing the right crate for your puppy. Remember to leave enough room for your dog to stand up and turn around even when your dog is fully grown.
If you have a large breed puppy, crates with "dividers" are available. At first, your puppy should have just enough room to comfortably stand up and lie down but not much more.
Choosing the Right Place for Your Crate
The second step is choosing the ideal location for the crate, preferably in a room where your family spends most of its time. Good examples are kitchens, family rooms or bedrooms.
You want the crate to be a positive, enjoyable retreat for your puppy. Never use the crate as a punishment. It is okay, however, to use the crate to avoid potential problems such as chewing and house soiling. Times when you can't give your puppy your undivided attention, place the puppy in the crate and go about doing your chores.
Get To Know Your Puppy Before Putting Anything In the Crate
It is important to get to know your puppy before you put toys or bedding (or anything destructible) in the crate. Some puppies love to destroy beds and stuffed animals and then eat the remains. This could pose three types of hazards:
- Your puppy could eat bedding or stuffing and then develop intestinal upset, vomiting and/or diarrhea which might need medical attention.
- Your puppy could choke on this material.
- Your puppy could eat the material, resulting in a life-threatening blockage in the stomach or intestinal tract.
If you know that your puppy is not a chewer or if you find certain toys that are indestructible like Kongs or Galaxy Bones, then it is okay to have toys in the crate, but at first, ONLY when you are home and checking on the puppy often.
Once you understand your puppy's chewing habits, then you can leave your puppy unattended with toys or beds in the crate. This way you will feel confident that your puppy is safe and behaving while you are temporarily preoccupied. Think of it this way - you wouldn't leave an infant or toddler free to roam the house while you were showering or cleaning upstairs; you would place the baby in a playpen or some other device. A crate is just a big puppy playpen! Place a few treats, toys or food inside to motivate your puppy to enter voluntarily. Remember - the crate should be a fun, safe place for your puppy. Be sure to introduce your puppy to the crate as early in the day as possible.
Getting Your Puppy Used to the Crate
Crate training is neither cruel nor unfair, provided your puppy has sufficient exercise and an opportunity to eliminate before you place it in the crate. The first confinement session should be after a period of play, exercise and a trip outside. Place your puppy in the crate with a toy or treat and close the door. Leave the room but remain close enough to hear your puppy.
Never reward your puppy by letting it out when it cries or whines. That would only encourage it to cry louder the next time. Ignore your puppy until the crying stops and then release the puppy from the crate. If the crying does not subside on its own, a light correction may be useful. A simple but firm "No" usually works. Avoid any excessive correction (yelling or banging on the crate), as it can cause the puppy to become fearful and anxious and avoid the crate. When correcting, try to avoid being seen by your puppy so that it does not learn to associate the punishment with your presence.
The length of time a dog can stay in a crate is directly proportional to its age:
- An adult dog can be crated for 8 hours provided it has the opportunity to go outside to eliminate before being crated.
- A puppy can only control its bladder for 1 hour per month of age, plus 1 hour. For example, if your puppy is 2 months old, your puppy should be able to control its bladder for a total of 3 hours and not be crated for more time than that.
Let's be honest - most young puppies feel the need to urinate within 30 to 45 minutes of drinking. It would be acceptable to withhold water for an hour before you know you need to crate your puppy, provided you supply plenty of water before that hour and after you let your puppy out of the crate.
Some very young puppies enjoy having a stuffed animal in their crate to snuggle with. A baby puppy may not be used to being alone yet. But remember, before you put a stuffed animal in the crate, make sure your puppy isn't going to pull the eyes and nose off or rip it apart just to eat it! Instead, some of our clients have used a ticking clock, a radio or the television just outside the crate playing softly as background noise. Sometimes just the soft noise is enough to soothe a lonely puppy.
It Gets Easier
The first week or two of crate training can be difficult. We can assure you, once you get through it, both you and your puppy will fall in love with the crate! You won't have to worry about leaving the house and having all of your favorite belongings destroyed, and your puppy will have a safe and quiet space in the house that is all its own.
If you have questions about crate training your new puppy, please don't hesitate to call us at (978) 453-1784.