Bringing home a new puppy is a process filled with excitement! Getting down to the nitty-gritty of puppy training can be overwhelming, though, so we’re here to get you started with a few crate training tips!
Teaching your new puppy to be comfortable with confinement is an important life skill. Crate training is a helpful tool for teaching our puppies to potty outside, a useful management tool for teething puppies, and is important preparation for puppies who will eventually go to doggy day care, the groomer, or have pet sitters caring for them. Crate training is also a good proactive skill to teach since all dogs will likely spend some time at the veterinarian during their lives and comfort in a crate can help to minimize stress during such situations.
Here are a few of our top tips for teaching puppies to calmly settle in their crates:
1. Be sure that your crate is an appropriate size!
Your puppy should be able to stand up, lay down on their sides with their legs stretched out in front of them, and fully turn comfortably.
2. Pair your crate with wonderful things!
We want the puppies to understand they’ll often have the opportunity to enter the crate, have something wonderful happen, and not necessarily be locked inside. Feed them their meals in the crate with the door open, toss a few treats or toys in here and there throughout the day, offer filled Kongs inside their crate, and occasionally spread a little peanut butter or canned dog food on the crate pan for them to lick off. We want our puppies to learn to joyfully go running into their crates because it predicts a positive experience.
3. Create comfort!
Be sure your pup has a comfortable bed to lay on, a long-term chew such as a Whimzee, and a familiar, safe toy or two before you crate them. Of course, you’ll want to supervise your puppy initially to ensure they are unlikely to chew on their bed or any of the other items in the crate. **Remember, be sure to always take off your puppy’s collar and/or harness before leaving your puppy crated and unattended. **
4. Choose your moment for crate training!
Ideally, you want to put your puppy in their crate in moments where they are ready to settle and sleep. Especially in the beginning, you may need to support your puppy by sitting next to the crate and speaking softly to them to comfort them as they settle in and fall asleep. Proximity to familiar humans can be incredibly helpful in building comfort, particularly in the beginning.
5. Keep it short!
A helpful rule to follow is to crate train your puppy (at least during the day) for a maximum of an hour for each month of life. For example, you would crate your two-month-old puppy for a maximum of two hours at a time, your three-month-old puppy for a maximum of three hours at a time, etc. This is a general guideline and may need to be adjusted based on the individual puppy.
6. Keep them close!
If you crate your puppy overnight, be sure to have their crate in the same room as you. Proximity to familiar humans, as mentioned before, can make a massive difference in comfort and the speed with which they settle.
7. Technology is your friend!
Whenever possible, use cameras to monitor your puppy when you leave them while crate training and after. Home cameras like the Wyze Cam will give you the ability to see in a clear and defined way what their level of comfort is while you are away, whether they are able to work on the enrichment items that you leave with them, and whether they settle fully and sleep. Cameras can even be helpful in providing you peace of mind when you’re just in the next room!
8. Be open to alternative forms of confinement!
If your puppy is struggling with crate training and is regularly barking and crying in their crate, you may need to utilize alternative forms of confinement while you build their comfort in the crate. This may include puppy pens or small, puppy-proofed rooms with a baby gate up.
These recommendations for crate training are a starting point, and if your puppy is struggling with confinement, you may need to enlist the support of a positive reinforcement-based professional dog trainer. Happy Training!
For more training tips, read our article about Train Your Dog Month.