by Lesley White, Owner, Peak City Puppy
One of the biggest decisions you will make when welcoming a puppy into your home is whether or not you will crate train your new friend. Crate training is a comfortable and safe alternative to leaving your dog unattended when you must be away from them. Crates leverage a dog’s natural den instinct to help keep them safe, alleviates separation anxiety while you’re away and gives them a space to call their own. That said, crate training is not easy and it takes planning and perseverance to do it right. Read on to get the inside scoop on crate training so you may avoid common mistakes and ensure success with your new puppy or dog.
Why Should You Crate Train Your Dog?
Crate training has many benefits for both you and your dog and can help ease the transition to being left unattended as your dog matures. Whether you have a new puppy in the home or have adopted an adult dog, choosing to crate train is a personal choice and is one only you and your veterinarian can make. Some of the benefits of crate training include:
- Keeping your pet comfortable in their own den
- Providing a space for your dog to relax when they are overwhelmed or overstimulated
- Giving your dog their own area while you are away
- Keeping your pet safe from household hazards while they are unattended, including food, power cords, garbage and other dangerous household items
- Keeping your furniture and home safe from destruction should your dog have anxiety about being alone
- Hastening the housebreaking process and helping your dog understand appropriate behavior
- Helping your dog travel with less stress so they can spend more time with you
How Do You Get the Right Crate for Your Dog?
Before you begin crate training, you want to make sure you have the right tools for the job. To start, you should pick the right type and size crate for your dog or puppy. The crate can’t be too small, or your furry friend will be cramped and uncomfortable. At the same time, it can’t be too large, or your pet will be anxious and may potty inside their crate while you are away. The best way to make sure to get the right size crate is to read the manufacturer’s instructions on sizing. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Make sure to get a crate that your dog can stand up in, but not jump around in. Measure your pup to the top of their head or the tips of their ears and add an inch or two for the best fit. It’s also important that your crate is big enough for your dog to turn around in. Measure your dog from nose to tail plus four inches to determine the width.
- Crates come in many different materials, and the right material depends on the preferences of both you and your pet. The most common materials are metal and plastic, and both have upsides and downsides. Metal crates are safer for dogs who like to chew and who like to see the outside world while they are crated. Plastic carriers are great for small dogs and for dogs who travel frequently.
- Make sure your crate grows with your dog. Puppies grow up fast, which means you may need to purchase multiple crates for your dog as they age and outgrow their previous one. To prevent unnecessary anxiety and discomfort for your pet, always be on the lookout as your dog grows for their crate getting to be too small.
What Goes in Your Dog’s Crate?
Although it can be tempting to make your dog’s crate an overly-cozy haven, crowding their crate can make your dog anxious and even resistant to crate training. When you are first starting out, a comfortable bed or blanket inside the crate is appropriate. As your dog continues with training and begins to spend more time in their crate while you are away, safe and durable toys are a great addition to alleviate boredom. A Peak City Puppy favorite is a toy containing a few treats so your dog sees their crate as an exciting place to go instead of an isolated spot. Our walkers are happy to refill treat toys after walks and make sure that your dog’s toys and bedding are intact before we leave.
Let’s Get Started
Crate training can be stressful for both the dog and the human that loves them, but a lot of the stress can be taken away by taking the time to introduce your dog to crate training gradually. Start slow with your puppy or adult dog, not only because they might not like the crate at first, but because bladder control during these first crucial days can be difficult for pups being introduced to crates. Here is our suggested process:
- Start by introducing your pup to their crate without leaving them alone in it. Place treats in the crate and encourage your dog to enter the crate on their own, offering lots of praise and treats along the way.
- Once your dog is comfortable going in and out of their crate, work on feeding your dog his meals inside the crate. For the first meal, place their food and water in the crate and let them eat with the door open. Gradually, over the next few feedings, close the door and sit with them while they eat, letting them out when they are finished. Associating their crate with food helps your dog develop a positive relationship with their crate.
- Once your dog can eat with the door closed a few times, you can have your dog enter the crate without food and close the door for a few minutes. Your puppy will likely cry or whine during this stage, but it is imperative to stay strong and not release your pup until they are quiet. If you let them out while they cry, your dog will think that the way to get out is to whine.
- Gradually increase the time that your dog remains inside the crate over the next few days or weeks. It helps to also crate your dog for short periods of time while you are still in the home, so your dog doesn’t associate the crate with being alone.
- After a few weeks, your pup will be able to comfortably stay in their crate for extended periods of time. However, you should never leave your dog alone in the crate all day, as they still need exercise time during the day, water and meal breaks and many potty breaks.
At Peak City Puppy, our mid-day walkers are well versed in crate training and can help make the process easier with our New Puppy Potty service. Visits range from $90-$150 weekly based on frequency of use and are timed well to ensure proper potty training with your new puppy. To learn more about these services, visit www.peakcitypuppy.com.
Lesley White is the owner of Peak City Puppy, a Triangle-based Dog Walking & New Puppy Potty service now in its thirteenth year serving clients in Apex, Cary, Holly Springs, Raleigh, Morrisville and New Hill, NC.