Do you notice your puppy getting overwhelmed in loud environments or around other people? Does your pet hide in your bedroom, under a table, or in the corner? Dogs have a natural instinct to find a quiet, comfortable place that makes them feel safe and secure. Crate training your puppy allows you to leverage this instinct and provide a safe space for your furry friend to relax and rest. The best part? You can do it in five easy steps!
Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate
The best way to crate train your puppy is to help your puppy create a positive association with their crate. Start by placing the crate in a popular area of your home – somewhere that you or your family spend a lot of time. Put a comfortable blanket or bed inside the crate and take the door off or keep it propped open. Don’t force your dog into the crate. Let them explore it and get comfortable with this new space on their own. Talk to your dog in a warm and happy tone when encouraging them to check out the crate. Dogs understand voice tones but we will discuss that later on.
Continue to help your puppy to associate the crate with good things. Leave a trail of treats near the crate, put at the front, and then have more treats inside the crate. You can also put a favorite toy inside the crate to make your pet feel at home. Use treats or puppy kibble until your dog can calmly enter the crate to eat and relax. Practice getting your dog used to the crate until they’re comfortable going in and out of the crate. You want to create a space that your puppy WANTS to spend time in, so don’t force or rush this process. Depending on your pet’s temperament, this can take several minutes or a few days depending on the trainability of your breed and your relationship with your dog.
Step 2: Feed your dog meals in the crate
Once your puppy is comfortable with the crate, start to feed them regular meals near the crate. If your dog still isn’t comfortable staying in the crate, start easing them in by placing the food further inside the crate each time you feed them. If your dog has been regularly going in and out of the crate when you start this step, put the food at the back of the crate.
Eventually, when your puppy can eat their meal fully inside the crate, you can start to close the door. The first few times, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. Then you can start leaving the door closed a few minutes after your dog has eaten and until they can stay inside for about 10 minutes after eating. If your puppy starts to whine, you may have progressed the training period too quickly. Next time your dog eats, shorten the length of time and see what happens. If your puppy is whining, you should wait until they are calm and quiet before opening the door so that you are not teaching them that whining gets them out of the crate.
Step 3: Get your puppy used to longer crating periods
When your dog can eat their meals inside of the crate with no whining or anxiety, start keeping them there for short periods of time when you’re at home. Bring your puppy over to the crate using your pleasant tone of voice and give them a treat. Then pair a command such as “inside” with an action like pointing into the crate with a treat in your hand. Once your dog goes inside of the crate, celebrate with them and reward with a treat. Then close the door.
Stay by the crate for a few minutes and then go into another room. Come back after a few minutes and sit by the crate again before letting them out. Repeat this process multiple times a day, progressively increasing both the time your dog spends in the crate and the time that you are out of sight. Work up to 30-minute intervals where your dog can stay calmly in their cage while you’re out of sight. This step can take from several days to a few weeks. Keep in mind that if your puppy whines, you may need to shorten the time period they are crated.
Step 4: Crate your dog when you leave
After your puppy can stay quietly in their cage for about half an hour, you can keep them there for short periods of time when you’re out of the house. Use your voice command and treat to put your dog in the crate. Don’t make leaving a big deal. Praise your dog for going into the crate, give them a treat, and then leave quietly. It’s a good idea to alter the time that you put your dog in the crate when you’re getting ready to leave, so they do not associate the crate with you leaving (and encourage separation anxiety).
The same thing goes for when you return home. Keep your arrival relaxed and don’t encourage excited behavior. Do not go directly to their crate. If you need to, keep your dog in the crate until they have calmed down. You can speak to them gently to help with this. Doing these things will help to prevent creating anxiety around when you will return. You should crate your dog for short periods now and then while you’re at home, so they do not associate the crate with you being gone. Remember to keep in mind that you want the crate to be a place where your dog can relax and feel safe, not a source of anxiety.
Step 5: Crate your dog at night
When crating your dog at night, just like the previous two steps, use your usual voice command and a treat to get your dog into the crate. If you have a young puppy or want to keep an eye on your dog, consider moving the crate into your bedroom or just outside in the hallway. Your pet may need to go outside during the night, so having them close by can alert you to their puppy potty training schedule. This also prevents your pet from associating crate time with social isolation. As your dog becomes comfortable sleeping through the night, you can slowly move the crate back to the location you prefer.
Congratulations! You’ve learned the five easy steps to crate train your puppy!
Crate training your puppy can take time. For younger puppies, it can take up to six months with consistent training. Remember that you want to create a comfortable and secure place for your pet, so don’t rush the process and never use the crate as a punishment. With gentle encouragement and positive reinforcement, your puppy will learn to love their crate and you!