Quick Answer: Crate training is most effective when the crate is associated with positive experiences, not punishment. Puppies should be crated for short periods, with the goal of transitioning to house freedom as they mature. Choose the right crate, make it comfortable, and be consistent in training to achieve the best results.
Crate training, also called kennel training, is an important part of your new puppy’s house training. It can help dog owners build discipline for their young puppies while also helping the dogs feel comfortable in a safe space. Following these training tips can help to create a positive association between your new dog and its dog crate.
Things to know before you start crate training a puppy
It should not be used as punishment
Pet parents will get better results from their pup if they associate the crate training process with positive feedback. Using chew toys and treats to create positive reinforcement with the crate during play time will help your puppy want to come into the crate willingly.
There’s a time limit
Dogs, especially puppies, cannot be crated indefinitely. According to the Humane Society of the United States, puppies under six months of age shouldn’t have crate time that extends for more than three or four hours at a time. Even though puppies will restrain themselves from urinating or defecating in an enclosed area, they can’t control their bladders or bowels for an extended amount of time.
It should be temporary
Your goal should be to crate your dog until they are able to behave in the house alone without your supervision. You should aim to slowly transition your dog from a crate to an enclosed part of the house (such as the living room) before it gets accustomed to having full access to the house while you’re away.
Steps to Crate Train a Puppy
Step 1: Choose the right crate for your puppy
Crates come in different varieties, with the most common types being metal, fabric or plastic crates. They come in a wide range of sizes and some are collapsible. Choose the best one for your pet, keeping in mind that the crate should be large enough for your puppy to comfortably be able to stand up and move around.
If your dog is still growing, you might opt to rent a crate from your local shelter or pet store. This way, you can trade up until you can get a permanent one when they reach full size.
Step 2: Get your puppy accustomed to the crate
Make the puppy crate a comfortable space and let your pup explore it on its own, leaving the crate door open for it to go in when it desires. Use treats, its favorite toy and a calm voice to make sure your puppy associates the crate with positive stimuli.
Feeding them regular meals near the crate will also help your puppy grow more accustomed to being in it and associate it with a safe place. If they seem reluctant to enter, don’t force it. Instead, put its meal as far in the crate as the puppy will go to slowly make them comfortable to be around the crate.
If your puppy is comfortable with taking its meals inside the crate, try closing it for limited periods of time. Try slowly increasing the length of time your puppy is locked inside each time. If they complain, you may have increased the time too quickly. Let it out and try a shorter time period next time until it becomes comfortable with a longer stay.
Step 3: Crate your dog at regular intervals
Once your puppy gets used to taking its meals in the crate, you can extend their stay in the crate throughout the day. You should have a specific word —such as ‘crate’ or ‘bed’— as a command to have them go in the crate.
Once your puppy can stay in the crate for longer than 30 minutes without your supervision, try leaving them crated while you’re out of the house for brief periods and having them sleep in the dog bed inside the crate at night.
For this, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals recommends consistency: it’s better to stick to routine come nighttime as puppies are creatures of habit. If you’re going to have them sleep in the crate, it’s better to do it every night.
Things to keep in mind when crate training a puppy
It takes time
Some puppies will be easier to train than others, which can vary depending on the breed, how young you started training them and how comfortable they are in enclosed spaces. Remember to be patient and always maintain a good demeanor around the crating process, using small steps and having your puppy be in the crate for short periods of time as it gets used to it.
Consistency is key
As stated before, puppies are creatures of habit and will follow the patterns you teach them. The more consistent you are with your dog training, the easier it will be for your puppy to understand what you are trying to tell them. This is, after all, a collaborative process.
Give your puppy a potty break before being put in the crate
To minimize accidents inside the crate and have your puppy be as comfortable as possible, try to have your dog “do their business” before being crated. It's the best way to ensure your puppy won’t get anxious before you get back.