For most puppies, crate training is necessary to help manage their behavior. A crate can be an invaluable tool to help potty train or to prevent unwanted chewing. Unfortunately, most puppies don’t immediately love their crate, but with some guidance and training you can help to create a positive experience.
For starters monitor your puppy closely, using a leash to tether your puppy to something stationary in a room you’re in. If your puppy chews on the leash, use something indestructible like a small chain leash. Provide plenty, we normally recommend 8-10, appropriate toys including Kongs, Nylabones, and deer antlers. For smaller puppies, nylon squeaky toys are also helpful.
Type, size, and location of the crate
I normally recommend a plastic, airline style crate. For giant breed puppies who grow exponentially, it may be wise to invest in a wire crate that is adjustment unless a friend or neighbor is willing to loan you a plastic crate for temporary use. It should initially be free of bedding to encourage your puppy to keep it clean. Once they are consistently not soiling the crate, bedding can be introduced at times where they won’t need to hold it for very long. After you’ve offered bedding be sure to thoroughly inspect it for urine. The size of the crate should be large enough for your puppy to stand and turn around, but not so large that they can soil on one side and sleep on the other. It should be kept somewhere that you spend a fair amount of time–family room, kitchen, or even a master bedroom. I try to encourage owners to avoid keeping the crate in an unfinished basement or spaces that are more isolating.
Crate training your puppy
When you start crate training your puppy it’s important to proactively seek out times while at home instead of waiting until you need to leave. Your puppy should spend time in the crate each day even if you are home all day. To begin crate training, allow your puppy to walk in and out freely. Toss treats into the back of the crate to encourage them. Continue tossing a treat and allowing them to walk out until they do so without hesitation. Begin closing the crate door, feed a treat, and open the crate door. Be mindful of any hesitation from your puppy. If so continue at the same step without advancing to the next step. Start spacing the time between treats and begin moving around the house, offering a treat inside the crate for calm behavior. If the crate is small enough, I recommend keeping it around eye level and bringing it from one room to the next. Slowly lengthen the time your puppy spends in the crate and begin fading out treats. Instead of offering treats give your puppy plenty of appropriate toys or an edible bone (if they can be monitored). At night, I recommend keeping the crate in your room at least initially. For some extreme cases, the crate may even need to be in bed with you! Then, each night, get the crate farther and farther from you. Slowly but surely your puppy will learn to be comfortable in their crate!
Check out the video clip below to watch some of steps in action. If your puppy is struggling even after a few days of training or is soiling the crate, we recommend contacting a trainer in your area to help. Or, if you prefer, we are available via video chat for those who reside outside of the Kansas City or Houston areas.