How to crate train your puppy

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Kathy Santo breaks down the steps involved in crate training your dog or puppy while giving you a few extra professional tips along the way.

How to crate train your puppy

Use the followins steps to crate training your dog or puppy. Remember, it’s important to never use the crate for punishment or leave a puppy under six months in his crate for more than three hours. Here are the steps:

  1. Once your puppy is settled into your home, you can begin crate training by introducing him to his crate and bedding. Investigate with him so he feels your support. If he chews or urinates on his bedding, permanently remove it. You can also pre-place some treats in the back corners and under the blankets to help make it a pleasant experience.
  2. Start feeding your puppy at the opening of his crate and slowly inch his food back every time so that it is eventually in the back of the crate. When you get to the point where your puppy happily enters the crate and stands in the back to eat, begin gently closing the crate door behind him while he's eating. At first, open the door immediately after he finishes.
  3. Begin leaving the door closed a bit longer every time. When he does cry, do not let him out until he stops or he'll always do this to get his way.
  4. Once your puppy is used to eating his meals and waiting to be let out with no anxiety or crying, you can start confining him longer when you're home. To do so, call him over with a treat and give it to him in his crate. At first, you'll need to sit quietly next to him. If he's fine after 10 minutes, go into the other room for a bit and then come back and let him out only if he is calm and not crying. If he is crying, you'll have to wait until he's calm.
  5. Once you can leave him for about 30 minutes at a time without him getting upset, you can start leaving him there longer. Eventually decrease the amount of reward you give for entering the crate to nothing so that your command alone is sufficient. 
  6. Make sure to crate your dog for short periods of time while your home or else he will associate crating with being left alone.
Transcript Hi, I'm Kathy Santo for Iams with Howdini. And today we're going to talk about how to create train your puppy. We'll begin with a general discussion on the philosophy supporting the crate training method. We'll review what you'll need, the steps involved in the process itself, and some possible troubles you may encounter along the way.
 
Before you begin crate training, it helps to understand the philosophy behind this method. If your dog is properly crate trained, he'll view his crate as a private room with a view, a safe haven he can call his own, and a quiet place he can relax in. He won't see it as a rigid structure of confinement and punishment. In fact, it'll be just the opposite.
 
In nature, wild dogs seek out and use their den as a home where they can hide from danger, sleep, and raise their young. In your home, the crate becomes your puppy's den, an ideal spot to sleep and stay out of harm's way. And for you, the benefits of crate training are-- house training, because your puppy won't like to soil the area where he sleeps. Limited access to the rest of the house where he learns the house rules. And transporting safely and easily in the car.
 
Start crate training a few days after your puppy settles in. Before you can start crate training, you and your family members must understand that they create can never be used for punishment. Never leave your young puppy under six months in his crate for more than three hours. He'll get bored, have to go to the bathroom, and won't understand why he's been left alone in discomfort.
 
As your dog gets older, he can be crated for longer periods of time because his bladder isn't as small. But keep in mind he still needs a healthy portion of exercise and attention daily. If you and your family are unable to accommodate your puppy's exercise, feeding, and bathroom needs, consider hiring a dog walker or asking a neighbor or friend for assistance.
 
After that, the crate should be a place he goes into voluntarily, with the door always open. There are a variety of crates available for purchase these days, each of which is designed for a different lifestyle need. When selecting a crate, you want to make sure it's just large enough for your puppy to be able to stand up, turn around, and lay down in comfortably. Because your puppy will grow quickly, I often recommend getting a crate that fits the size you expect your puppy to grow to and simply block off the excess crate space so your dog can't eliminate at one end and retreat to the other.
 
Now for the crate training process. The two most important things to remember while crate training are that it should be associated with something pleasant and take place in a series of small steps. The first step is to introduce your puppy to his crate. This will serve as his new den. Put bedding and chew toys in his crate and let him investigate his area. If he chews or urinates on his bedding, permanently remove it.
 
Observe and interact with your puppy while he's acclimating to his crate. This will help forge a sense of pack and establish you as the pack leader. Encourage him to enter the crate with soft words and some treats. You can also pre-place some treats in the back corners and under the blankets to help make it a pleasant experience.
 
Step two is to start feeding his puppy in his crate. Begin with the bowls near the opening of the crate. As your puppy becomes less reluctant to enter, slowly inch the food back every feeding until you're placing all the way in the back. When you get to the point where your puppy happily enters the crate and stands in the back to eat, begin gently closing the crate door behind him while he's eating.
 
At first, opened the door immediately after he finishes. But after that, begin leaving the door closed a bit longer every time. If your puppy cries, you may have increased the time too fast. So decrease the length a bit and then slowly begin increasing it again. When he does cry, do not let him out until he stops or he'll always do this to get his way.
 
Once you puppy is used to eating his meals and waiting to be let out with no anxiety or crying, you can start confining him longer when you're home. To do so, call him over with a treat and give it to him in his crate. Associating a command such as "kennel" is important, so he understands the reward is a result of going in the crate.
 
At first, you'll need to sit quietly next to him. If he's fine after 10 minutes, go into the other for a bit. And then come back and let him out only if he is calm and not crying. If he is crying, you'll have to wait until he's calm. Once you can leave him for about 30 minutes at a time without him getting upset, you can start leaving him there longer. Eventually decrease the amount of reward you give for entering the crate so that saying the command word is sufficient.
 
When you get home after being away for a long time, your puppy will likely be very excited to see you. It's important not to reward this behavior or anticipating his arrival every day may be stressful for him.
 
And lastly, make sure to crate your dog for short periods of time while your home or else he will associate crating with being left alone.
 
I'm Kathy Santo for Iams with Howdini, and I hope that you've found this helpful as you welcome your new addition to your family.
 
For more information on puppy care and training, visit iams.com/puppy.
meet theexpert
  • Kathy Santo

    Kathy Santo Professional Dog Trainer Kathy Santo is a columnist for the American Kennel Club’s Family Dog Magazine, and House Beautiful. Good Housekeeping has launched her as their online “Pet Expert” and in 2005 her dog training book, Kathy Santo’s Dog Sense was internationally released. more about this expert »

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