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There are many benefits to crate training your puppy, including the main reason which is potty training. Safety while you are unable to supervise your puppy, when you are away, and giving your puppy a safe place to go when he or she is tired or needs some alone time are other great reasons. As a den animal, crate training is a natural instinct for dogs but it can take some time and patience for sure!
Puppy training in general is all about socializing them to anything they may be exposed to in their life so they do not become unecessarily stressed. Crate training is important because sometime in your dog’s life, being in a crate or kennel is inevitable. Think about a visit to the veterinarian for their spay or neuter surgery? If they are comfortable in a crate, this will be a much more positive experience
First pick a kennel that is just big enough for them to stand and turn around in. Too big of a space will allow them to potty in one area and sleep in another. KEEP IT POSITIVE! This is a process and may take longer for some depending on their age, breed and background. Crates should not be used for punishment. Choose bedding material for them, the best option is a flat pad extending to the edge of the crate is best to avoid destructive chewing.
Step One-Feed meals in their crate with the door open. If they are hesitant to enter, feed them next to their crate until you are able to put their bowl inside the crate and they are comfortable getting completely in their crate. Use a command such as “crate” or “kennel”. So they start understanding the association.
Step Two-Once they are very comfortable with meals in their crate, start to close the door for short periods of time. You can stay nearby their crate at first. Make sure to open the door BEFORE they start to whine or cry or you will be reinforcing that if they make noise, they are let out. As you are able to close the door for longer times, start to leave the room for shorter periods. Practice this several times per day.
Step Three-Once you are able to leave your puppy for periods of about 30 minutes then you are ready to leave them in their crate while you leave to run quick errands. The general rule is 1 hour per month of age with a longer stretch at night. A puppy that is 3 months old may be left for about 3 hours at a time. You will need to work up to this amount of time though. Reinforcing positivity with a special toy or peanut butter and kibble-filled treat to keep them busy while you are away is a great option. A Zogoflex toy, Kong or Premier Busy Buddy are all good choices.
Step Four-When you do start to leave your puppy in the crate, be matter of fact about your departure, don’t draw a lot of attention as your puppy will pick up on your emotions. If you are anxious about leaving him or her, they will become anxious too! Command, praise, treat, and leave quietly.
Step Five-When you return stay low key-do not get them too excited as you will reinforce that crazy behavior every time you come home. Take them to potty, once they’ve done their business, then you can play and let them know how special they are to you!
A little bit about Night Crating-you may choose to put the crate near your bedroom at first so that you can hear your puppy if they have potty needs in the middle of the night. Also, you don’t want them to feel like they are isolated and associate that with the crate. Bedtime and feeding routines are important making it easier to predict potty patterns. If your puppy wakes you in the middle of the night-again keep it low key-use potty command and right back into the crate.
I know crate training can be trying on your patience, stick to it! It will be worth it!