We get asked a lot about crate training and the correct way to do it successfully. So we thought we would put together some tips and hints on the topic.
Why is crate training so useful?
When you first bring your new puppy home they are a little bundle of fun and in to absolutely everything.
I like to get my pups used to a crate from day one and here’s why.
- They give the pup a safe place to rest with no distractions that are going to keep them active. (remember pups need 18-20 hrs rest a day)
- They provide a safe place for the pup to go whilst I need to get something done like take a shower or cook tea etc. Many clients tell us about all the naughty things their pups have got up to whilst they have been occupied. When they are safely in their crate with a kong or a chew you know they are safe and that your house is safe too.
- They help teach your pup about being on their own.
- Your pup if god forbid they are ever poorly and have to stay at the vets will go in a crate. If your dog isn’t used to a crate this can be an even more stressful situation for them.
- You can also use crates and dog boxes in the car to keep your dog safe travelling.
How to start crate training?
First and foremost the crate is never to be used a punishment so never put your pup in there in an angry manner.
The crate shouldn’t just be somewhere you shut your dog at night, the crate training needs to be completed throughout the day too so the crate becomes a valuable place to be for your pup and ensures they get adequate down time.
Start off with some extra yummy treats (high value treats are great for training new behaviours).
Lure the pup into the crate by guiding them to the opening and then holding a treat through the bars that the pup can go in to get. As the pup goes in praise before they take the reward. The pup is most likely to turn and come straight out so make sure you give a release command first inviting the pup out like “Ok”.
Repeat this process several times until your pup is eagerly trotting in to the crate. At this stage you can add a command to the action like “bed” or “crate” or whatever you choose, just be consistent with it. Start to build the time your pup remains in the crate you can break the treat into smaller pieces and reward slowly.
When your pup is happy with this shut the door behind them and again reward. This is wear you start adding some basic self control.
If your pup knows sit I generally ask for a sit but if not it doesn’t matter.
Start to open the crate door, if the pup tries to run straight out say “ah ah” and gently close the door preventing exit.
Continue with this until you can begin to open the door and the pup remains still. Praise and feed a reward through the side of the crate. (not through the doorway)
Build this up bit by bit giving lots of rewards in the crate, until you can open the door enough for the pup to get out then give release command.
The pup doesn’t get fuss or rewards for exiting the crate all the good stuff happens in the crate and therefore builds value in it.
Practise a couple more times of your pup going in and out the crate so the door doesn’t shut every time, but when you do it is always a controlled exit.
Give the pup a break go have a play in the garden and let them go to the toilet etc.
When you know your pup has been active for a bit of time now they are probably getting a little tired. This time we are going to see if they can start to settle in the crate. Do exactly the same drill of getting the pup in and shutting the door. This time I would pop in a stuffed kong or a puppy safe chew. These are great when teaching our pups about settling as pups tend to chew/lick themselves to sleep.
Now your pup is busy take yourself off and busy yourself with something in the same room or the next room. Your pup may have a couple of squeaks but try not to react. Hopefully your pup will have a nap. (Let sleeping dogs lie) but after about 30-45mins go and wake your pup up before they wake up and start asking to go out. The aim is to always go back to your pup when they are quiet so they never get inadvertently rewarded for crying.
Pop them straight in the garden after their nap. (Golden rule of toilet training is after the end of every activity whether that is sleeping, eating, playing or training they need to go to the toilet and not come inside until they’ve at least had a wee)
Repeat this nap process several times throughout the day, sleep and rest is really important for a well-rounded balanced pup that isn’t over tired and unable to learn. Remember 18-20 hrs per 24 period should be rest/sleep for your pup.
Other tips – toilet training
My other tip for the crate training as far as pups are concerned is to make sure you fill their crate with a big fluffy bed so they can snuggle. Most pups will not purposely pee on their bed so this can help with toilet training. When we start putting a puppy pad in their crate too it can encourage them to pee in their crate even if they don’t need to. Obviously be realistic with the times you are expecting your pup to hold it.
When out of the crate take the pup out after every activity or every 30-40 mins.
Over night your pup may need a toilet break, you want to aim to wake them before they wake you. As if our pups learn than when they cry we come running they will start to do it just to get your attention.
If you ensure the pup has had a wee and poo before bed you will set them up much better to succeed. This sometimes means standing in the garden for quite a while walking in little circles. Be patient and don’t cave as that when your pup will go back in the house and have a wee.
Can I start crate training at any age?
Yes totally! You can use exactly the same process just with a bigger crate.