Crate Training

Jason Cook

APL_logo_black [Converted]When introduced properly, the crate is a safe haven for your puppy or dog.  Dogs naturally prefer a den-like space to call their own.  The crate is a valuable tool for housetraining.  When you are unable to supervise your puppy, he can rest in his crate.  This can prevent your pup from chewing inappropriate items when you are not watching him.  The crate is also a safe place for sleeping and a means of transporting your pup.

The crate should be big enough so that your pup can stand up, turn around, and lie down, but not big enough that he can use one end for a bed and the other end for a bathroom.  Used this way, the crate can encourage your pup to “hold it” until he is released from confinement.  Dogs have an instinct to keep their eating and resting places clean, so they are inclined to not soil their crates.  You should not crate your pup for more hours than his age in months (so, a three-month-old puppy should be crated for no more than three hours).

The key to crate training is to teach the dog that great things happen when he is in his kennel.  Start by feeding your pup his meals just outside the crate.  When he is comfortable with this arrangement, place the food bowl just far enough inside the crate that he has to stick his head in to eat.  Over the course of a few meals, move the bowl further and further into the crate until your pup has to stand all the way inside to eat.  At that point, you can shut the door while he’s eating.  As soon as your pup is finished eating, open the door and let him out.  You can also occasionally put food “surprises” in the crate for your pup to find.  Try pieces of hotdog or cheese under his blanket, or a stuffed Kong at the back of the crate.

The next step is to use food as a reward rather than a lure to get your pup to go in his crate.  Give the treat after your pup enters the crate, then prevent him from getting out by sticking another treat in front of his nose.  Teach him to go in the crate when you point and say the words “crate” or “go to bed” (or any other word you want to use as the cue for your pup to enter his crate) by saying the word and then then tossing a treat into the crate.  Feed him a stream of treats while he stays in his kennel.

Make sure to always exercise your dog and give him a chance to go potty before you put him in his crate.  In addition, take him outside as soon as you let him out of his crate.  Give your pup something to do while he is in his kennel such as a stuffed Kong.  If you have to crate your pup during the day and at night, be sure to give him plenty of exercise and playtime with you during his time out of the crate.