Dogs in the wild live in a den, which provides protection and a great deal of psychological satisfaction. All dogs have a strong natural tendency to seek out this type of shelter.
In your home, if your dog has no place to call his own, he will make feeble attempts to curl up under a table, a chair or some other choice location. When you use a crate, you give your puppy a place to feel secure, something to get his back up against. He won’t feel isolated because the crate provides visibility and ventilation. Just like a baby in a playpen. You will also be taking advantage of this natural instinct to keep his home clean, therefore, when he has to go he will try to hold it until you can take him outside to the proper area. This will teach him a schedule and help him eliminate accidents.
With a crate, your puppy will have fewer behavioral problems, like excessive barking and chewing. But most of all, by providing him a safe and secure home, he will be happier and more self-confident.
How to Crate Train
Step 1 – Acquaint your puppy with his new home
Encourage your puppy to go into his home on his own. If necessary place a little treat in the crate. Don’t force him. He may quickly back out or be shy, but that is normal. Just take it slowly. At first, don’t close the door on him, let him go in and out on his own.
Once he is happy and unafraid of his new home, simply restrain him at the door with your hand. Make him stay at the crate for a few minutes, then gradually increase the time and be sure to praise him.
Once he is comfortable with this (probably a few hours or days of short training sessions) simply retrain him at the door with the door – again praising him lavishly. Soon he will be secure in his crate with the door closed. Slowly you can get further and further away from him, always praising him for accepting behavior. Eventually the puppy will sit quietly and sleep in his new home, with the door closed.
Step 2 – Direct his Elimination
Understand that little puppies need to go potty every 2-4 hours; on a schedule, such as feeding, before bedtime, first thing in the morning, let your puppy out. Teach him the way to the door, praise him at the door and take him to the part of the yard you want him to use. Very quickly you will teach him a potty schedule that will stay with him for the rest of his life.
As your puppy gets older (4-6 months) you can gradually leave him in his crate for longer periods of time, because he can hold on longer.
Some Do’s and Don’ts of Crate Training
- Buy a crate large enough so it accommodates him as he grows. However, if the crate is too big when your puppy is small, he might pee in one corner, then go to the other corner to sleep.
- Get your puppy used to his new home gradually.
- Provide soft washable bedding in the crate so that it is comfortable and warm. Make the inside of the crate as cozy as you can. Keep all bedding clean.
- Supervise your puppy anytime he is free in your home. Supervision is what allows you to direct behavior. Chewing, potty training, barking, and all other behaviors are all dependent on your direction. If allowed to be unsupervised, he will begin to direct his own behavior and schedule.
- Leave your very young puppy in his crate all day. At 8 weeks, a puppy can hold his bladder about 5 hours, by 12 weeks 6 hours and by 5-6 months, a puppy should be able to hold on for an 8 hour work day.
- Put potty training pads or newspaper in your pup’s crate. We are trying to take advantage of the pup’s natural instinct NOT to go in his crate.
- Let your new puppy roam through your house unsupervised. Keep an eye on him so when he sniffs and circles, an indication he is about to go, you can quickly and gently guide him to the door and outside.
- Force your puppy into the crate for the first time. Plan on taking plenty of quality time with him the first few days, to get him accustomed to his new surroundings.
- Punish your puppy by putting or forcing him into his home. Your pup’s crate should be his secure place; it should not be associated with punishment, fear or anything negative.