Crate training puppies isn’t just a good idea; it’s the easiest and quickest way to make a home a puddle-and-pile-free zone. Puppies can be taught to eliminate in a specific area or spot and minimize the number of accidents.
Some people wonder why a dog crate is such a useful tool. Extreme dog lovers may feel like they are putting their precious ‘baby’ into a cage. There is no reason to worry. This information will explain how the technique works and why puppies enjoy being in a crate to the extent that it feels entirely natural for them.
The dog crate is a versatile piece of equipment. Puppy crate training is more than a useful tool for housebreaking your pooch. Puppies are naturally ‘den’ animals. They feel secure and safe in a crate, or ‘dog den.’ As puppies mature, they enjoy being in the safe, cozy little hideaway.
They often choose the crate when they want to nap, chew on a favorite toy, or get away from too much fuss or noise. Crate training puppy benefits include:
- The pup learns where and when to pee and poop and where not to
- The puppy is kept safe and possessions and furniture are protected when the owner is not around to supervise
- Separation anxiety issues are prevented
- The puppy has a safe place to get ‘alone time’ to just relax and rest
Types of Crates
There are various crate styles from which to choose. Some are more puppy friendly than others. There are several things to consider. They include how the crate will be used, the puppy’s age, the personality, and the type of breed.
Practical issues include how easy the crate is to clean, whether it is portable, and if blending into the decor is necessary. Crates for puppies are available in a variety of sizes, materials, designs, and styles.
There is no one-size-fits-all puppy crate. What the owner chooses depends on many variables. All will contain the puppy and help in encouraging good potty training habits. Not every type is the best choice for every situation, home, or puppy.
Before parting with hard-earned money, ask these questions:
- Do you want a crate with a 360° view?
- Will the crate move from room to room or stay in one place?
- Will the crate be used for car travel, airplane travel, or when you are out and about?
- Is the puppy still at the ‘chew-on-everything’ stage?
- How easy is the crate to clean?
- Is it important for the crate to look good and blend with the decor of the home?
The best puppy crate meets the needs of both the owner and the puppy. Do not rush to buy the first crate you see. Puppies have different needs than older dogs. The intended use of the crate plays an important role in the selection. Convalescence, housebreaking, and travel require different styles of crates. Puppy crates are available in plastic and wire models.
Plastic crates have a top and bottom half that are joined together with plastic fasteners or metal screws. They have a metal-wire door. Puppies love to chew, even plastic doors. Along with the hazard of eating plastic, a puppy can get out and be exposed to danger when traveling or home alone.
There is a ‘moat’ that runs around the outside edge of molded plastic floors in plastic models. It channels and catches urine and helps in keeping the puppy dry. The plastic model is also easy to clean because it can be taken apart.
The most significant drawback is the limits it puts on the puppy’s view. A puppy can also get hot in the crate on a warm day. Many dog owners prefer plastic crates because they are the most practical house training choice and easy to clean. They are durable and sturdy and are usually approved and recommended for air travel.
Wire crates provide proper ventilation and allow the puppy to see what is going on in the outside world. They are typically sturdy and stand up well to puppies who love to chew. When the puppy craves seclusion, a tablecloth, old blanket, or special puppy crate cover can be placed over the crate. The little chewing machine is likely to nibble on the cover. It is not recommended to use a cover you do not want to be damaged.
The drawbacks of a wire crate are the awkwardness in moving it around, being unsafe for car or airplane use, and being tricky to properly clean. It is an excellent choice for puppies that like to be the center of attention or that can destroy a crate made of plastic.
The Nature of a Puppy
It is unlikely the puppy spent time in a crate before coming to live with you. Crate training is new to the puppy. Crate training should begin when the puppy is brought home. Puppies have a natural desire to keep the den clean. Wild puppies toddle out of the shelter to eliminate.
It is instinctive behavior. The brain of a puppy is hard-wired to step outside. While a new puppy may not have been in a real den, the crate will trigger a deep-seated instinct. The puppy will do its best not to poop or pee until it is out of the crate.
Crate training a puppy makes housebreaking easier for you and the puppy. Still, the pup has to deal with other natural instincts. The puppy instinctively wants to be next to the pack. You and your family have become the puppy’s pack.
The puppy feels worried and anxious when it is away from you. Puppies in the wild are in great danger and vulnerable when separated from the pack. The pup will whine and complain at first. The behavior is not due to hating the crate.
The puppy is safe but does not know that initially. The puppy needs to become accustomed to separation from you for short periods. Ignoring a fussing puppy is okay. Crate training and whining frequently go hand in hand.
Puppies come to love their crates as a special place or a den. It is a secure and familiar place whether they are at home, visiting, or in a car. The door to the puppy’s crate should never be closed unless the puppy is relaxed.
Allow the puppy to walk into the crate by itself. Do not push it into the crate. Forcing a puppy into a crate creates issues that cause the pup to feel trapped or confined. The crate gets a negative connotation.
Calmly associate the crate with good things. Accomplishing the association depends on the puppy and what works. Suggestions include feeding the pup in the crate or giving it a toy or bone to play with inside the crate when the door is open.
Spending time with an open door makes the crate something positive. The door should never be closed until the puppy is comfortable and relaxed. This rule applies not just to training, but anytime a puppy is placed in the crate.
Have a special treat or chew toy that the puppy gets when it is in the crate. Praise the puppy as you extend periods of time in the crate. Close the pup in the crate for one-to-two hour intervals on a regular basis.
Crates are not useful means of punishment. Timeouts don’t work on puppies. The size of the crate should be such that it allows the pup to stretch out, sit, and stand in the crate. The ideal situation is to start with a small crate or block on end of it.
The puppy cannot use one end as the bathroom and the other for sleeping. The principle being taught is not to mess where the puppy eats and sleeps. Puppies kept in big pens are hard to housetrain because they are forced to soil in their sleeping and living quarters.
The crate should be placed in an area near you and family activities, even if the puppy is just an observer. The basement is not the place for the crate. The family room or kitchen is best.
The crate works well if it is moved with you from room to room.
At night, place the crate in your bedroom. The placement provides comfort for the puppy, and it becomes attuned to your sleeping patterns. If the puppy fusses, you are nearby to deal with the problem.
Dealing with a Fussy Puppy
The puppy should not be taken out of the crate when it fusses. Taking a fussy pup from the crate rewards lousy behavior and teaches the puppy that fussing will eventually cause being let out of the crate.
A certain amount of complaining and noise is normal. It is important not to let the behavior spoil the puppy potty training efforts. General whining or complaining is not an indication the puppy is emotionally traumatized. The pup is letting you know it prefers to be next to you.
Dogs are more than den animals. They are pack animals. A young puppy in the wild depends on staying with the pack for survival, food, and protection. Even domestic puppies have a strong urge to stick with the pack. Putting a puppy in a crate makes it anxious.
Complaining, sometimes long and loud, is the puppy’s way to share its feelings with you. When you know the puppy is okay, it is safe and necessary to ignore the whining so that the puppy learns how to be alone for short time spans, it is safe, and you will return. Wait about five minutes after the puppy stops fussing. When the puppy does leave the crate, do not extend a big welcome to the outside world.
There is a difference between the noise a puppy makes when it needs a potty break and ‘nuisance whining.’ Make sure the puppy has a potty break before putting it in the crate. If the puppy has been quiet for more than 20 to 30 minutes, it probably needs to be taken to the potty spot when it starts complaining.
If the puppy doesn’t go, you have eliminated that as the problem. If complaining starts the minute the crate door is closed after a potty break, the puppy wants merely to be free of the crate. You can ignore that kind of whining.
Using a crate to train a puppy is not unkind. Crating the puppy will cause no scars or harm it emotionally as long as the puppy gets lots of exercise, attention, love, and out-of-the-crate time. Many puppies that fussed and complained grew up to be well-mannered, confident, friendly, happy and fully potty-trained dogs.
Putting a puppy in a crate is not the end of housetraining. It is lovely when the breeder has paper trained the puppy and it knows not to soil the living quarters. Successful crate training prevents a puppy from making mistakes.
Too often, people punish a puppy for making a mess in the house and ignore proper behavior when the puppy eliminates outside. The puppy learns not to mess inside if the owner is present. Do not clean up messes when the puppy is watching.
To prevent mistakes, the puppy cannot have free reign of the house. 100% active supervision is necessary. If you leave a room, crate the puppy or take it with you. The reason people crate train puppies, other than preventing problems, is to help predict when they need to go to the bathroom so that they can be taken to the correct spot.
A regular feeding schedule is the first step. Confine the puppy for ten or 15 minutes after eating, then take it to the spot for elimination. Give the command, ‘Go pee.’ Puppies understand and learn to pee when told to do so.
Praise the puppy after it eliminates. Play with the pup indoors or out. By continually taking the puppy outside to eliminate, it learns to hold it. After it has its third set of shots, it can be taken for a walk.
Let the puppy go to the bathroom before going for a walk. When the puppy eliminates on the walk, then returns home, it gets the message going to the bathroom is the reason you are returning home. If the puppy poops during the walk, do not head directly back.
After the puppy plays for half an hour, crate it for a nap. The list below is a set of guidelines for how frequently a puppy should be taken to the bathroom:
- Six weeks – Once an hour
- Two months – Two to three hours
- Three months – Four hours
- Four months and beyond – Five hours
At three months, many puppies go all night without having to be taken out. Use the same door that you want the puppy to use as a signal when it needs to go to the bathroom. Some pups will quietly stand at the door, some let out a yip, while others rely on the owner to see them by the door.
Some owners find a bell works well. It can be a marvelous tool. Give a bell, hung on the door a jingle each time the door is used. The puppy learns to swat it to get the door open. Doggy doors work for some puppies. Young pups must be taken out and not sent out to pee.