Crate Training is a fantastic way to give your dog an area where they can be safe, relaxed and content. It's crucial that we TEACH our dog HOW to behave in the crate as well as create an environment that they desire.
Here are some basics:
- Size: The crate should be small enough so that the puppy cannot go to the bathroom in one area and then escape the mess in a clean area of the crate. It just needs to be big enough for them to turn around and lay down while they are still in the housebreaking process.
- Type: For puppies we like to use the plastic airline crates as opposed to wire crates. See if any friends have a crate you can borrow so you don't have to purchase multiple sizes. When they're really young or a small breed they can often fit into a cat carrier crate!
- Interior: While your puppy is house training, there should not be any bedding, blankets, training pads, etc. in the crate. They are fine to just have the tray or bare floor. Your puppy will either chew and possibly swallow the materials (which can result in a very sick puppy), and/or it may inhibit house breaking since it will soak up the urine, essentially allowing the dog to escape the mess.
- Crate Games: Build a positive association with the crate by pairing crate time with things the puppy likes... food, treats, appropriate chew toys (no fabric or stuffed toys!) But don't use bribery! Reward the puppy for entering the crate on his/her own.
- Location: The crate should be in an area of the house where activity takes place (family room, kitchen, etc.) It's important that they experience the daily routines of the family, sounds, movements, etc.
- Address Behavior: Crate your dog while you are home to teach them what is appropriate behavior in the crate and addressing what is not. If your puppy is whining/barking while in there ignore them until they are quiet. Do NOT let your puppy out of the crate while behaving in ways that are inappropriate/demanding. If you do, that behavior will continue. Once they are quiet for a short period of time, you can reward them with food, praise or perhaps a special chew toy, or you can release them. Reward the behavior that you like!
- Basic Needs: Make sure the puppy's needs are met before going into the crate; bathroom, food/water, exercise.
- Prevention: Crate your puppy often throughout the day, they need plenty of sleep in addition to learning how to relax in that space while activity is happening around them. When you cannot supervise your puppy with your full attention, they must be confined. This will prevent them from practicing behaviors that we deem inappropriate (peeing on the carpet, chewing furniture, chasing children, etc.) Keep this saying in mind: What we allow is what we teach.
VIDEO: ENTERING THE CRATE
VIDEO: EXITING THE CRATE
Separation Anxiety Prevention
Separation Anxiety is a condition that many dogs acquire simply because their owner unintentionally reinforced the anxious behavior or they were able to self-reinforce. In order to prevent SA it's crucial to crate your dog while you are home, rather than only when you leave the house or go to bed. We want dog's to have coping skills and emotional independence. We can help nurture those qualities by doing the following:
- Crate while you are home, not just when you are leaving or going to bed
- Crate while you are active or present in the same area
- Address unwanted/arousal behaviors (whining, etc)
- Reward good/calm crate behavior
- Duration of crating while left alone should begin with short stints
- Even if you work from home you must condition the pup to be left alone
- No contrast between leaving and entering...humans must be calm and uneventful
- Create a pattern that the crate means time to relax, rather than the crate means you are leaving
- Use a crate for goodness sake! As we mentioned above in the Crate Training section, the size of the crate matters for house breaking your dog. Make sure it's small enough that they can't escape their mess and move to the other side of the crate.
- Supervise! If you're paying attention to your pup you'll notice certain signals...maybe they begin to sniff the ground, pause in play, make circles, walk towards the door, bark or whine. But it's your job to pay attention to your puppy. The best way to do this is to have them on their leash when they're not in their crate or confined to a safe tether.
- Timing and Measurements...keep track! Your puppy will need to go to the bathroom after every nap, before and after playtime, before and after crate time, before and after mealtime, and before and after all the time! Control your puppy's food and water portions and don't allow unlimited access to either. As I mentioned earlier, it's your job to pay attention to your puppy...including their bathroom habits.
- Be boring! When you take your puppy outside on the leash to use the bathroom, go to one area and stand there...be as boring as you can. We want the focus of this situation to be potty time, not play. Wait for a few minutes...maybe up to 5 minutes or so. If your puppy has not relieved himself by then go right back inside and put him in his crate. Repeat the process in 15-30 minutes or so.
- Accidents happen! In this case, immediately take your dog outside. Do not scold or punish, but allow them to continue relieving themselves in the appropriate area. Clean the mess thoroughly so there is no lingering odor. And then give yourself a slap on the wrist for missing your puppy's potty signal or miscalculating the time. Mistakes happen and we need to move on without malice.
Download our Bathroom, Feeding and Medication Chart