Many dog owners are divided on the subject of crate training. Dogs are den-based animals and we believe when done properly a crate provides a comfy spot for your pooch – and a great tool for training, travelling or simply keeping a curious young puppy calm and safe. The golden rule to keep in mind at all times is that the crate is a happy place and a safe spot in which to rest.
If you’re considering crate training, there are some important considerations. That’s why we’ve created a Scrumbles guide to crate training for puppies based on our experience with Smudge. For full disclosure, we aren’t professional dog trainers nor behaviourists. We’re simply loving dog owners who have read a lot, experienced a little and can share what has worked for us.
Keep reading for our six-step guide on how to crate train your puppy.
1. choosing a crate
Crates come in all shapes, sizes, colours and materials. What is most important for your puppy is the size. The perfect crate should be large enough for standing, sitting and stretching but not so large that your dog can make a mess at one end and ignore it. You can explore some of the best crates here.
When Smudge was a baby she was so tiny that all crates we could find were far too big, so we simply used a couple of pillows to block off one side and that worked just fine.
2. make it cosy, comfy and fun
One of the principals of crate training is appealing to the natural instinct of dogs as denning animals. Solid walls and a roof make for a nice cosy feel, but a wire crate covered by a towel or blanket can be just as good, especially for night times.
Don’t worry too much about hard bottomed crates looking uncomfortable as they can soon be improved with a blanket or two. Remember, you can always throw these in the wash if there are any accidents along the way.
One sure-fire way to make your puppy think of the crate fondly is to make it fun. Their favourite toys, blankets and occasional treats are perfect for this.
3. introducing your puppy to their crate
Inquisitive puppies will normally be excited to explore a potential den. If this happens naturally, simply reward them to reinforce that the crate is a fun place. If they aren’t so sure, a little bribery with treats and toys won’t harm.
It’s important to get your puppy used to being without you to avoid separation anxiety. Start by leaving them in their crate for nap time and leaving the room. If your dog cries, wait for them to calm down before letting them out so that they don’t learn that making a fuss gets a response.
4. crate training and toilet training
Crate training is a great tool when it comes to toilet training or house training. By giving them frequent opportunity to go to the loo outside and praising them when they do, you will quickly be on track for a fully trained pooch.
how long should you leave your puppy in the crate?
The rule of thumb is their age in months plus one hour. So for a 12-week-old puppy (3 months) that would be 4 hours max but we’d recommend less if possible. Young puppies have little bladder control and will need to release frequently.
By adopting a routine and following each activity (feeding time, nap time, playtime) with a toilet break, accidents will be difficult to come by and you may even enjoy toilet training. A typical routine would be:
Take your puppy directly from the crate to the designated toilet spot outside and use your command word. Ours was “go wee wee”. First thing, your puppy will be excited to play with you and forget their bladder needs, so it’s important to keep redirecting them to the designated spot until they go. When they do make sure to offer lots of praise and then give them their breakfast.
It’s back to potty time and once successful reward your puppy with a 20-30 minutes play period. Puppies sleep an awful lot and you may find you playful puppy starts to get sleepy during play time. Before re-crating them, it’s time for potty time again.
nap time in their crate
potty time / feed time / potty time / play time / potty time / nap time
can you leave your dog in their crate at night time?
Initially, puppies are unable to sleep through the night without needing to go to the toilet, so you’ll find that you’ll need to take them outside every 2-3 hours during the night, but this will quickly build to them sleeping the night through.
Night times aside, avoid leaving your dog for more than a few hours in their crate. Dogs are social animals and long periods of time alone is not good for their wellbeing.
5. the long term
Once your puppy is toilet trained, we’d recommend leaving their crate available in one of their favourite spots. It’s their sanctuary and you’ll find them there when they need some alone time. Smudge often naps in hers during the day and her crate is her go to safe place during fireworks and stormy weather.