People have scatters of opinions when speaking of crate training a dog or puppy. Some believe that it is ineffective, while others root for the idea. Still, there are many people who feel that is in inhumane to cage an animal.
The latter feeling is natural; we humans greatly value our freedom to roam about, doing and saying what we please. However, this isn’t always the case for dogs. All dogs like feeling secure, warm, and happy. Even wolves of the wild feel this way. Because puppies have “den” instincts, a crate can serve this purpose.
In a “den”, dogs feel secure. It’s a place for them to relax and not be bothered. Think of it as a hiding spot where a dog can sleep for hours and let go of any fears or insecurities. It works much the same as an infant or toddler with a security blanket.
Thus, crating a dog is not inhumane! If you’ve been worried about this, fear no more. Go ahead and get a crate for your new puppy. After all, don’t human babies sleep in cribs and play in playpens? The crate will serve this exact purpose.
RULES OF CRATE TRAINING
- Get one that can accomodate the size of your puppy when he becomes an adult. There should be enough room to sit, lay, stretch, and change positions comfortably. Some people buy too large of a crate. A “den” isn’t an endless stretch. It loses the feeling of security when a crate is too large. Besides, dogs will frequently eliminate in their crates when the cage is too big, simply because they can relieve themselves and still have a clean spot to lay in at the other end.
- Don’t keep your puppy or dog crated for too long. If confined for too long, your puppy may associate negative feelings with the crate. In general, very young pups shouldn’t be left in crates for more than a couple of hours at a time.As a general guideline, take the number of months and add 1 to it. This is the maximum time a dog should stay in a crate at any one time. (Example: 3 months + 1 = 4 hours MAXIMUM) You shouldn’t exceed 6 hours unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Keep a puppy in a crate too long and he’ll soil his den. And if it happens, you shouldn’t be upset. After all, they are very young and their kidneys aren’t properly developed. Puppies have to “go” every hour to two hours, and just minutes after eating, drinking, playing, and napping.
- NEVER use the crate as a Time-Out spot or punishment. Again, your puppy or dog will associate negative feelings with the crate. They’ll feel overly stressed in such an environment and it may ultimately lead to destructive behaviors (stress-related chewing) or depression.
- Don’t give up if the puppy or dog cries in his crate. Remember, your new puppy has gone through a terrible ordeal; he has been taken out of his home, away from his mommy and littermates, and into a fearful, new place where he doesn’t yet feel secure. He might cry or whimper for a few nights as he gets used to you and his new home. It’s a good idea to keep the crate in your room for a few weeks. Put down some soft, comfortable bedding, and throw a few puppy-safe chew toys into his crate. Leave a small amount of ice for him to lap while you’re gone.
- Reward your puppy for being “good” in his crate. NEVER PUNISH FOR CRYING OR WHIMPERING. You can reward him when he’s NOT whimpering or crying by giving him a very small treat through the gate. Try not to run over to the puppy each time he cries — this will give him the impression that each time he fusses, he’ll be rewarded with love and attention. Your puppy’s cries will subside within a few moments. When it does, go over to his crate and praise him and reassure him that you’re there.
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of food and exercise before going in the crate. And let’s not forget, he should be taken outside to relieve himself before going inside the crate. He won’t be able to relax and sleep if he’s hungry, restless, or has to “go”. Puppies should get 30 minutes of play time for every four hours of rest.
- Use the crate WHILE you’re at home. If you only use the crate when you’re out running errands or at work, your puppy will feel abandoned or lonely each time he’s in the crate. Leave your puppy or dog in his crate for a little while when you’re working around the house. If possible, keep his crate in the general area where you’ll be doing your chores. This way, he’ll know that “crate” does not mean “lonely”.
These are only few rules to the hundreds out there on the art of crate training. It’s best to start crate training right away. It will make housebreaking much easier. As with anything else, it takes time and patience, especially with puppies and older dogs who weren’t properly crate trained. As your dog feels more confident about his safety in your home, he’ll value his “den” more and more. It won’t take as long as you think; within a few days to a few weeks, your puppy will actually want to be in his crate!