It doesn’t need to be hard: Tips for crate training a puppy
We gathered advice from two of Rover’s Sit-A-Dog, Save-A-Life partners, the Humane Society and ASPCA, as well as certified professional dog trainer, Nicole Ellis, for the best tips on crate training a puppy. While you may think it’s harsh, crate training a puppy actually helps that dog develop confidence and a sense of security. Plus, life will be easier for you!
Check out the video below, then read on for a step-by-step guide.
Step 1: The crate
Crate training a puppy starts here. Choosing the right size crate is important. Make sure the crate is just big enough for your dog to comfortably stand up in. He should be able to turn around in a circle inside the crate. Any bigger than that, and your dog may feel like the space is so large that it’s ok to soil part of the kennel. Any smaller, and he won’t be comfortable.
After you’ve selected the right size crate, be sure to make it comfortable and cozy for your dog with a blanket or towel at the bottom.
Step 2: Introducing your dog to the crate
Put the crate in a familiar area of your house and leave the crate door open. Leave treats or toys in and around the crate, which will encouraging your dog to explore inside the crate. This step could last a few days, depending on how comfortable your pooch is upon first encountering the crate. Remember that giving a puppy ample time to adjust to each stage of crate training will help the entire training process go smoothly.
Step 3: Feed your dog in the crate
When crate training a puppy, you’ll want to start feeding your dog his daily meals in the crate. If he is still shy about entering, you can start by placing his food dish at the edge of the crate and moving it in progressively farther after each feeding. Once your dog is eating comfortably inside the crate, try quietly closing the door to the crate–while remaining close by–and open the door once he finishes.
Step 4: Begin with small amounts of time in the crate
Now that your dog is comfortable, it’s time for him to get to know the crate even better! Decide on a command word you’d like to use to let your dog know it’s crate time. (“Kennel” or “go to bed” are commonly used commands.) Make sure everyone in your family uses the command consistently.
Use the command word and coax—do not force!—your dog into his crate with training treats or a favorite toy. Praise him when he enters. Shut the door and remain near the kennel (you may want to have a book on hand, or put the kennel near the TV to keep yourself entertained). After 20 minutes or so let him out, and repeat this process a few times throughout the day.
Step 5: Crating during short trips away from the house
After a few days of the mini crate sessions, start leaving room for brief periods, showing your dog that even if you leave while he’s in the crate, you’ll always come back. Once he becomes comfortable with this, it’s time to try leaving him them during short trips away from the house. Using the same command and praise routine your dog is familiar with, put him in the crate about 10-15 minutes before you leave the house. Then, just leave your house as you normally would, without adding any extra emphasis to your goodbyes. When you return, keep a calm energy so as not to increase your dog’s excitement or anxiety.
The ASPCA offers some guidelines for how long your dog can be crated daily, based on age:
Age and maximum daily time recommended in crate:
8–10 weeks: 30–60 minutes
11–14 weeks: 1–3 hours
15–16 weeks: 3–4 hours
17+ weeks: 4–5 hours (though please don’t resort to this often!)
As your dog gets older, he can be kept in the crate for longer periods of time. But keep in mind, it should always be used as a short-term solution. It’s important that your dog gets lot of exercise and human interaction.
If you’ll regularly be out of the house for long periods of time, it can be helpful to hire a dog walker, or use dog day care service. Consider using a sitter from Rover.com, as many listed sitters offer these services.
For more info on when NOT to crate your dog, solutions for if your dog whines and barks while in the crate, and additional crating tips and tricks, check out these great articles from the Humane Society and the ASPCA.
We hope these tips help you as you strive to provide the best care possible for your dog. As always, be sure to consult professional trainers or your veterinarian to find the training routine that’s best for your dog! Stay tuned for our next post on deterring destructive chewing!
For even more puppy tips, read the Rover.com blog post on 50 puppy-training tips to help you stay sane when you have a puppy.