Gone are the days when people and their dogs stay together all the time working side by side. People now need to leave their pups alone at home when they go to work, to school or run errands. As a result, many dog owners have turned to crate training to keep their pups and their belongings safe. However, just because crate training is common place, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to teach your pup to like being in their crate. Some puppies will take to the dog crate right away. But for others you will need to teach them that being in the crate is a good thing. If you are reading this post you most likely have a puppy that did not take to the crate. In How to Crate Train Your Puppy we have created a list of 10 Crate Training Mistakes people make.
The Puppy Blues – Dealing with a new puppy can be hard, especially if you are a first time puppy parent. It’s not uncommon to feel like you made a mistake. Let’s face it puppies generally come untrained, can’t understand you and don’t know the rules of the house. But it does get better. It’s important to understand that you are not alone. Check out my post on Puppy Blues: Dealing with Regret to see on how I managed my own puppy blues.
How to Crate Train a Puppy – 10 Mistakes You Want to Avoid
1. Lack of Patience
It takes a lot of patience to properly crate train a puppy. However, if done right you will be rewarded with a dog that willingly goes in and out of their crate whenever they need a quiet place to rest. You will even be able to teach your pup to enter their crate on your command. On the other hand, a lack of patience can result in a puppy that is afraid of their crate. If you push too hard in crate training or make the dog crate an unhappy place they will look at the crate as a bad place to be. A puppy that is afraid of their crate will take much longer to crate train and may never become comfortable in their crate.
What does being patient with crate training mean?
We will go into more detail on some of these items later in this post but for now it includes:
- Not forcing your puppy to go into their crate before they are comfortable with it
- Taking the time to make the crate a happy place for your pup to be
- Not yelling at them or banging on the crate when they cry or whine in the crate
- Not giving into their crying and whining by letting them out of the crate while they are crying
So why do some people make training a puppy look so easy while others struggle with it? This is because the people who make it look simple know the secrets to easy puppy training. These secrets will help you with every type of training from housetraining to agility training. Let us fill you in on the secrets to easy puppy training.
2. Crate Is Not An Inviting Place
When setting up your puppy’s crate you want to make sure it is a warm and inviting place for them to hang out.
When our dog was a puppy we used old towels in her crate. The towels worked well in that they could be easily washed if soiled and she could move them around as she wanted to. But looking back I think she would have settled into the crate quicker if she had a more comfortable place to lie down.
But keep watch for signs of your puppy possibly chewing on the towels, blanket or bed. Although many puppies will appreciate the softness and not destroy it, some puppies will chew on anything. Ingesting the fabric can be fatal. If you think your puppy will chew on loose towels or blankets in their crate, give them a firm bed with a fitted cover that is chew proof. Though for some puppies this may still be an issue. You will need to keep them close so you can watch them. Also do not leave your puppy in the crate unattended for any length of time if they have soft bedding.
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Where you place your crate is also important. Do not put the crate in front of a heating or cooling vent.
How to Crate Train a Puppy
First Introduce the Crate
Prepare the Crate
As I mentioned above you want to start the process by making the crate an inviting place to be. This can be done by adding a few soft blankets and toys. If possible try to include a blanket or toy that has the scent of where your puppy came from. This scent will help make the crate feel like a familiar place to your pup.
For some puppies using towels and blankets may not be enough to make them want to sleep in their crate. In this case you will want to get a crate pad to make your pup’s crate a more inviting place.
We prefer to use only USA made dog beds due to concerns over toxic chemicals found in many imported pet beds.
Big Barker Dog Crate Pad
The Made in the USA, 4″ foam Dog Crate Pad by Big Barker is a good option. Although Big Barker specializes in making beds for large sized dogs, the 4″ Certi-PUR US® certified foam bed can be used with all sized dogs. It comes with a removable, washable, waterproof and tear resistant cover. You can find this crate pad at Amazon.com.
Another option is the MidWest Homes for Pets Deluxe Super Plush Pet Bed. These beds are not made in the USA but they are very well rated and are made to fit the Midwest crates. The beds are completely machine washable and a good option if you have a Midwest Lifestages crate. You can use a smaller sized bed in the crate while you have the divider up. Once they are grown you can get a full sized bed for your pup. You can find the Midwest Deluxe Pet Beds at Amazon.com
Tip: When choosing a bed for your dog, try to think of it as an investment in the health of your dog. Toxic chemicals can cause allergies and other health issues in dogs. Also a well-made bed will last longer than a cheap bed will.
Create a Den
To tap into your dog’s natural instinct to find a safe place to sleep, try to make the crate feel more like a den. To do this drape a thin blanket over the crate to block out light and noise. We did this with both of our pups when crate training. Just make sure to use a thin blanket so the crate does not retain too much heat.
Using an old blanket is an inexpensive way to make the crate den like, but it’s not the best look. If you are looking for a polished look you can also use a crate cover. Pictured here is the Midwest crate cover. These covers are designed to fit the Midwest crates. You can find these and other crate covers on Amazon.com.
Time to Discover
Once the crate is ready, give your pup some time to explore the crate on their own. Make sure to leave the gate propped open. This will ensure your puppy can go in without the gate closing. With some luck your pup will take to the crate right away. If not, you will need to start the process of luring your pup into the crate. You can do this by using either toys or treats. For simple steps on how to crate train a puppy please read Crate Training Made Easy – 5 Simple Steps.
As long as you are able to keep a watch on your puppy you can give them a toy or something to chew while they are in the crate. But do not leave a puppy alone with a toy in their crate.
3. Forcing Them into Their Crate
Never force your puppy into their crate. In order for your puppy to be comfortable with their crate they need to feel safe and in control. Think about it. How you would feel if you were in a new home and someone pushed you into a small closet and closed the door. Would you feel comfortable in that situation? Probably not and neither does your puppy. Once you force your puppy into the crate they will view it as a bad place to be and will not want to go near it, let alone in it. This is where a lot of patience is needed on your part. You want to take the process of introducing the crate to your pup very slowly.
4. Not Being Consistent
Consistency is the key to all puppy training. Your puppy learns through repetition. Puppies do not learn the meaning of words they simply learn cause and effect. If you make a certain sound and the same thing happens each time, they learn to associate the two actions.
Let me give you an example. In our home we use the ‘Go to Bed’ command, to direct our pup into her crate. It can be any word as long as you are consistent with it. As a puppy we taught her this command by saying it and then throwing a treat into the back of her crate. She would always go into the crate to get the treat. After some time she learned that if we gave her the command and she went into the crate she would be rewarded with a treat. As an adult dog she will now go into her crate on command because she understands that is what we want her to do, even if there is no reward.
If we used different commands every time we wanted her to go in her crate, the only time she would listen is if we threw in the treat first. That is because the treat would be the only consistent part of the request.
Having a daily routine is also an important part of consistent training. If you walk your dog every morning and then put them in their crate for a nap, your pup will soon learn that they are expected to nap in their crate after their morning walk. However, if some days after your walk you play in the yard and other days you expect them to nap in their crate they will surely protest that they want to play with you instead of napping.
5. Respond to Crying
During the day
If your puppy is in their crate and they want out, it is common for them to whine or bark. It’s important that your do not respond to their protests. This includes taking them out of the crate, scolding them, banging on the crate or talking to them. Do your best not to give them any type of attention until they are quiet. If you give into their demands or give them positive attention they will learn that making a fuss gets them what they want. If you react in a negative way like yelling, they will associate the crate with something bad.
Remember you want your puppy to like being in their crate. To encourage the proper behavior you need to wait until they have stopped making a fuss. Only let them out of the crate when they are quiet. You might only have a very short period of time when they stop crying so be ready to open the crate.
Even though you should not give into their crying, you should check on them to make sure they are ok. Don’t leave a crying puppy unattended for any length of time.
Not responding to your puppy crying in their crate during the day is fine as long as you let them out of the crate after a short period of time. However this recommendation changes at night. Since most people want their pup to sleep in the crate all night long you can’t just let them cry. I know from personal experience some puppies will not stop crying. For tips on what to do if your puppy cries in their crate at night please read our post: Puppy Crying in the Crate at Night? How to Make it Stop
6. Too Much Crate Time
Puppies are very social animals. It is important to their mental and physical development that they are able to be active while also being close to us. This means that they should be out of their crates for as much time as possible.
How much is too much time in the crate depends on the puppy and their age. The general guidelines stated by the Humane Society of the US is “a puppy can control their bladder one hour for every month of age”. This means that a two month old puppy needs to go out at a minimum of every two hours. However this does not mean your puppy can stay in the crate all day as long as you let them out every two hours. They need to be out of the crate to learn the rules of the house and bond with their new family. Plus your puppy will actually potty train faster if they are only in their crates for short periods of time.
To learn about the ways you can use your puppy’s natural instincts to potty train quickly read our post Potty Training a Puppy – Made Easy
Keeping your Puppy Safe
Of course if you can’t keep an eye on your puppy you need to keep them in a safe place where they cannot hurt themselves. Instead of keeping them in a crate, use safety gates to enclose them in the same area you are in. When we brought home Bella I moved my work area to the kitchen and blocked the doorways with gates. This allowed me to keep watch over her but she still had room to move around and play. Plus she wasn’t alone.
If you live in a home with an open concept gates may not work well. In this case I would recommend an exercise pen. An exercise pen will give your pup more space to play but still provide a safe environment. Midwest Homes for Pets offers a foldable metal exercise pen that can be used independently or connected to their popular Midwest crate. This combination creates a safe place for your puppy to play and sleep when you can’t watch them. Just remember to place the exercise pen near where you spend most of your time. Both the Foldable Metal Exercise Pen and the Midwest Crate can be found at Amazon.com using the links provided.
Puppies need time outside of their crate to play and explore their surroundings. Therefore you need to puppy proof your home. In Puppy Proofing Your Home – 10 Silent Dangers we go over many of the common household hazards you need to watch out for.
7. Use the Crate as Punishment
As I mentioned above you want your puppy to feel that the crate is a safe place for them to be. If you force them into the crate when they are bad they will associate the crate with negative attention.
Instead setup a space in your home that is only used for time outs. Preferable somewhere near where you are. In our case we set up a space in the corner of the room we were in using safety gates. Bella was only placed in there a few times. She quickly learned that if she became too out of control play time would end and she would be separated from the family. An exercise pen not attached to the crate will also work for timeouts. You can find an exercise pen at Amazon.com
8. Not Enough Exercise
Just like children your puppy is full of energy that needs to be burned off before they can settle down for a nap or focus on training. If you place your puppy in their crate before they are ready for quiet time you will have a very uncooperative, unhappy dog. It is best if you spend some time being active with your puppy before trying to convince them they should spend time in their crate.
Being active could take the form of a walk or a game of chase. All puppies love to chase balls or their favorite toy. Playing chase also allows you to see when they become tired enough to take a nap. As your puppy starts to get tired their pace will slow down. Some puppies might even decide to take a break by lying down in the middle of the game. This is a great time to lure them into the crate with either a treat or a favorite toy for a short nap. Just make sure to take them outside for a bathroom break before placing them in the crate.
9. Crate in another room
Dogs are very social animals. They need to be with their family at all times. This includes even when they are in their crate. Your puppy will have an easier time being in their crate if the crate is close to where the family is. This may mean that you need to have two crates or that you move the crate around with you. We kept our crate in our bedroom so she was close to us at night and blocked off space in the kitchen for her to be near us during the daytime.
10. Not Taking Off Their Collar
So this last one really isn’t a crate training mistake, but it is a mistake people make when using a crate. You should never leave your puppy or dog alone with their collar on in a crate. The reason for this is that if the collar becomes caught on the grating it can be a strangulation hazard. Many people would advise that you should never leave a dog alone with their collar on regardless of where they are for this same reason.
We once had a scare with our springer spaniel puppy. We came home to find that she managed to slip her collar into her month causing her lower jaw to be pulled open. She was clearly in pain and we have no idea how long she was like that.
How to Crate Train a Puppy
Hopefully we have provided you with useful tips that will help you crate train your puppy. To discover more tips and tricks on how to crate train a puppy please read our post How to Crate Train a Puppy – 5 Simple Steps. Also check out our post on Potty Training Mistakes – What you need to know BEFORE you get a Puppy.