Crate training your puppy

All puppy parents should consider crate training. A crate or kennel is not a puppy babysitter but instead a helpful tool in your puppy rearing toolbelt. Crating teaches your puppy independence, good bathroom habits and is also a safe way to travel.

Why should you consider crate training your puppy

Creating a safe space

Crating training is beneficial for a variety of reasons. One of the most important is that it’s for your puppy’s own comfort. In the beginning, chances are your pup will not like their crate but with repetition and positive reinforcement, it will become their safe haven. 

A crate isn’t the cruel, puppy prison it’s made out to be. With the right training, a puppy crate becomes a safe space for them. Like us humans, dogs can get overtired from the socialization and stimulation of their human family. A crate is essentially like your dog having their own bedroom and is a place where they can retreat to for some relaxation and destressing.

Keeping puppies safe

Crates can also be used to keep your puppy safe while you’re away. Puppies like to taste test everything and will try to eat things that aren’t always food. Consuming non-food objects can result in a foreign body which could be very serious and may even require surgery to remove. If puppies are stored in their crate while you’re out and about, it reduces the risk of them eating something that might be dangerous for them. Just make sure not to leave them in a crate for long hours. Your puppy’s crate should be a short term solution and not a full time nanny!

Less stress during vet visits

Another reason to consider crate training is for when they make trips to the vet. At some point in their lifetime, it is likely that your puppy will need an overnight vet visit. During overnight or long term vet stays, dogs are kept in a kennel. If dogs are not used to being in a crate or kennel, it can be very stressful for them. Having your dog crate trained will lessen their anxiety during a time where they need to be resting and healing. Even if you do not plan on using a crate regularly, it is good to at least have your puppy accustomed to and comfortable using a crate.

The type of crate is best for your puppy

There are many different crates on the market. It is important to choose the one that is best for your puppy’s breed and the size that they will be when full grown. The right crate can vary greatly between pup to pup. It is always better to purchase a crate that is a little bigger than the “ideal size” measurement listed on most kennel packaging.Always consider growing space when buying a crate for a puppy as they will double and triple in size before you even know it!

Types of crates that are good for puppies

  1. Plastic dog crates

Pros: Easy to move/portable, Less visibility (better for shy or stressed dogs), easy to clean

Cons: Low air flow (can cause dogs to overheat if it’s too hot in the room), does not collapse for easy storage, plastic may absorb smells

  1. Metal dog crates

Pros: More visibility, more airflow, optional crate divider for growing puppies, folds flat for storage

Cons: Very determined dogs may be able to escape, can damage dog’s teeth if they chew on the crate.

What to put in your puppy’s crate

Puppy’s are much more likely to accept and love their crate if it’s filled with their favourite things. For comfort, add a bed or soft blanket. Adding some of their favourite toys to their crate can also create an extra layer of positive association. Remember that if they start to eat or destroy their crate bedding or toys, you should remove them. Afterall, an empty crate trumps an intestinal blockage!

A few effective tips on crate training

Where to start

1. Before you even get your puppy, start by setting up the crate in the desired area of your home (some dogs may prefer a more social area and some dogs may prefer a secluded bedroom). Adding a bed and toys may make the crate more comfortable for your puppy as well. 

2. Once you get your puppy, begin by placing them in the crate with the door open. Reward them while they are in the crate. Do this either with food, a toy or praise, whichever your dog responds most positively to. The goal here is for your dog to establish a positive connection with their crate.

3. Next, close the crate door. If your puppy lays down or doesn’t react, reward them.

4. Slowly begin to close the crate door for longer periods of time. Start with 1 minute and work your way up in time. Do not be alarmed if your puppy cries, whines, scratches or barks. This is normal, stay strong! If you let them out of the crate while they are like this, they will begin to learn that dramatic behaviour will get them out of the crate and they will continue to do it. Your puppy is safe in the crate and is just being over dramatic. Eventually they will learn that they are okay in the crate and it’s okay to not be with you all the time.

Remember, crate training will take time. There are few dogs who like the crate their first time in it. Over time and repetition, they will learn to accept and appreciate it. 

Getting your puppy to love their crate

  1. Keep your puppy “naked” when in their crate. This just means take off any collars, harnesses or doggy clothes that may get caught and be a danger to your dog.
  2. Keep the crate door open all the time when you’re not using it. This makes the crate more inviting and your puppy will feel more comfortable going in it just to hang out.
  3. Feed them dinner in their crate. One great trick to reinforce the crate as a positive place is by rewarding them with Kabo. Kabo meals are highly nutritious and palatable, making them a perfect crate training tool. Reward your pup with Kabo fresh food while they are in their crate and soon enough they will love going in! 
  4. Play crate games. Get your puppy to view the crate as a fun place by playing fetch or hiding snacks in the crate.

Overall, be patient. Like training, crate training is a learning process and will take time. Eventually, your pup will learn to love their crate and you will feel at peace knowing your dog is safe.