Crate Training, Teaching Your Puppy to Love Their Crate!
Over the last 20 years the use of crates has grown in popularity and most people’s perception has changed from viewing them as a negative, a cage, to realising they can be a really helpful aid in training if used correctly. In fact, when you research about getting a new puppy they are often listed as an essential piece of equipment.
In my experience, having worked full time as a dog training and behaviour professional for over 20 years and helping literally thousands of dogs and their owners, there is absolutely no doubt that a crate can be really beneficial, especially with puppies BUT only if they are used correctly and the puppy properly acclimatised to one.
A crate provides:
• An excellent way of keeping your pup safe when unsupervised.
• Helps teach desired behaviour such as toilet training.
• Prevents some behavioural problems from developing such as chewing.
• Are an ideal way to ensure your pup is safe when travelling in a vehicle and in addition really helps them settle.
• They can also help in overcoming travel sickness.
• An excellent way to restrict a dogs movement, so are perfect to use if your pup ever needs to be rested due to injury or an operation.
• A familiar safe haven for your dog whilst away from home with the additional benefit of preventing your dog causing any damage.
Before you use a crate, it is essential that you understand that no pup is born naturally liking being shut in a crate. It is crucial that a puppy is introduced to the crate in the correct way so that she views it as her den, a place she feels safe, can relax, chill out and enjoys being in.
It is vital that before you expect to contain your pup in the crate that you teach her to:
• Go in the crate happily
• Get used to staying in the crate for a short time with the door open
• Get used to staying in the crate with the door shut initially for short periods
• Get used to being happy and relaxed in the closed crate for longer periods (up to 3 hours max.)
It is important to ensure the crate you have is the correct size for your dog. It needs to be large enough for your dog to comfortably stand up, sit and stretch out when lying down.
Make it an inviting comfortable place for your pup. Bedding and safe toys are good for this.
Make sure you provide water, I like to use the water bowls which clip to the side of he crate this way its unlikely that the pup will spill it and cause all her bedding to become wet.
Locate the crate in a draught free area
How to teach your pup to love her crate.
Step 1 Start by luring your pup into the crate using a piece of Natural Instinct Beef Jerky
Step 2 Immediately she steps into it mark this verbally with a word , I tend to use ‘good’ or ‘yes’. This will work better and faster if you have previously positively conditioned your pup.
Step 3 Give her the treat whilst she is in the crate
Step 4 Repeat
Step 5 Once you have repeated this several times you will find that your puppy starts to anticipate and enters the crate without you needing to lure her. Once she is offering this start to give a command I like to use ‘crate.’ This will be the command I use later when I want her to go in her crate.
Step 6 Build up the time she spends in the crate by repeating the verbal marker word for being in the crate and followed it by more pieces of Beef Jerky as rewards whilst she remains in it.
Don’t rush to shut the door slowly begin to close it for several seconds and continue rewarding her by dropping the pieces of Beef Jerky through the bars on the crate. Gradually increase the time the door is closed until she is happy to remain there for up to five minutes.
You are now ready to shut the door for longer periods and get her acclimatised to you not being there. An effective way to do this is to feed your puppy their Natural Instinct Puppy Food whilst in the crate. By doing so you will create a powerful positive association and at the same time keep her mind occupied on something other than wanting to be out. To keep your puppy occupied for longer try stuffing a Kong toy with their Natural Instinct Puppy Food.
Always ensure your pup is calm before inviting them out of the crate. To achieve this I say the conditioned word and give some Beef Jerky by dropping it through the bars before opening the door and telling them to come out.
Other things you can use to help make the crate a positive for your pup are Natural Instinct play bones and chews such as beef pipes.
Crate dos and don’ts
• Make the crate a cosy and pleasant place to be
• Always ensure everything associated with the crate and being in it is positive for your pup.
• Take time to teach your pup to love their crate
• Be patient if your puppy is even slightly anxious go back a few steps in your training
• Provide things your puppy really likes to occupy her whilst in the crate
• Only leave your puppy for short periods initially
• Once your puppy is crate trained never leave her for over 3 hours in the crate
• Make sure clean fresh water is available
• Whilst your pup is in the crate make sure there are no excitable distractions happening causing your pup to want to get out to join in.
• Never put your puppy in the crate as a punishment or time out
• Teach your puppy to wait calmly to be let out of the crate
To help you further I have together with Natural Instinct produced a short film which shows me teaching Poppy a Cocker spaniel puppy to love her crate.