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Crate Training a Puppy
Why do I need to use a crate for my puppy?
A crate is not meant for punishment, it is meant to be used as a training tool for a period of time. The crate should be viewed as a happy, safe den for your puppy. It keeps a puppy confined until they learn the rules of the house such as not to potty in the house or chew furniture, walls, shoes, etc. It is meant to a safe zone. If they get tired or over- whelmed they can go in their crate and rest. It is meant to keep them safe from themselves. Young puppies do not always make the best judgment calls on what is safe to eat and can end up poisoning themselves. A crate is meant to be a temporary tool. Most puppies can sleep out of their crates overnight in a room with an adult and the door shut or baby gate up about 10 months of age. Typically waiting until they are 2 years old for full run of the house.
How do I crate train my puppy?
Crate training is not too difficult if you follow the guidelines in this article. Your puppy can’t succeed at doing unwanted behaviors or hurting themselves if you use the crate when you can’t watch them. Your puppy learns from repetition and this also counts when he/she is doing the “wrong” thing. You want your puppy to succeed at the right things, not the unwanted things.
STEP 1: Put the crate in a place where your family spends most of their time. Don’t worry, the crate is a training tool and it will not be there forever. During the times your puppy needs to be in the crate it can still be apart of what is going on. Puppies get stressed if they are locked away somewhere like a bathroom or basement where they can’t see what is going on. A second crate can be put in the bedroom for overnight sleeping. Some dogs find this comforting because they are sleeping in an area with you.
STEP 2: Give the crate a command like den, kennel up, or crate. Use it every time you put them in the crate. At first you may need to use a treat to bribe them to go in. After awhile they will understand the crate is a happy place and go in willingly.
STEP 3: Feed in the crate! Food is one of the major drives for puppies. Feeding them in their crate associ- ates the crate with a happy thing, food. You can also give them bones and frozen Kong’s in the crate to associate it with something positive.
STEP 4: No beds in the crate, for now. Unless your puppy has a joint problem or is a puppy under 12 weeks, do not put a bed, blanket, or towel in their crate. This is especially true for puppies that are being potty trained. Puppies are quick to figure out that the bedding will soak up the potty. They learn they can just stuff the bedding in a corner and lay someplace else. Bedding is also quite tempting to chew on. You don’t want them to end up having to go to the vet to have bedding removed because it is stuck in them. Don’t worry most dogs will be able to have a dog bed once they have gotten over the chewing and potty problems.
STEP 5: Non-destructible toys and chews are recommended in the crate. Material toys are much like bedding, they can potty on them and stuff them in a corner, chew them, or ingest them. Using toys that have numerous textures will provide entertainment. Hard rubber or plastic toys are the best to leave in the crate. Chews such as bully sticks, marrow bones, or deer antlers are good choices depending on the rate in which your puppy chews. Just be sure the chew will last and not become something they can choke on.
STEP 6: Never use the crate as punishment! Now that is not to say you will not need a time-out for yourself at times. It is all about how you put them into their crate. You should use a crate command with a positive voice and not anger. After they are in their crate with a bone to chew or stuffed Kong then you can go take a timeout.
STEP 7: Crate them when you are gone, at night, and odd times! Why odd times? If they only get put in the crate when you leave or at night then they may start to protest or get anxiety. If they have to go in at other times when you are home for short periods it creates balance.
STEP 8: Crate them if you can’t watch them as talked about in the Why do I need a crate section.
STEP 9: Children should never be allowed to play in or on a crate. That is the dog’s safe zone. It could create anxiety for the dog and possibly lead to a bite situation.
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