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How To Crate Train Your Puppy: A Guide For First-Time Pet Parents

As a first-time pet parent, it’s completely understandable — and expected — for you to have questions. If you want to start crate training your puppy, you might be unsure of where to begin. But there’s no need to panic: at Pawp, their team and vets are experts at all things pet-related. 

That’s why the Pawp team, including veterinarian Dr. Laura Robinson, are here to help with this handy guide to crate training your young puppy. 

This article is going to walk you through how to crate train your new puppy. But that’s not all: it’ll also answer all of those other questions related to crate training you might have. It’ll begin by defining what exactly crate training is. Then, it’ll share some information about how large your puppy's crate should be. 

Then, be sure to dive into the step-by-step details of how to crate train your dog. Finally, everything will be wrapped up by sharing some information about the benefits of crate training when done properly and why it is so important.

What is crate training?

Dogs are descendants of wolves, and they continue to share some traits. For one, your canine companion likes to have their own personal space to inhabit, just like their wolf ancestors. This space can be used to rest, hide from thunderstorms, or even take a nap.

Sometimes humans mistake crate training as “imprisoning” dogs. This couldn’t be further from the truth (when it's done properly). The practice of crate training puts a dog’s natural instinct to find a safe, comfortable space. There are a myriad of benefits to crate training, which we will discuss in more detail shortly. The crate should have a pleasant association and never be used as punishment. 

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There’s a common belief that dogs are den animals; however, Pawp veterinarian Dr. Laura Robinson says that is a misconception. She explains that wild dogs and wolves “only use dens when they have litters, which is only about eight weeks of the year, and they are not trapped in, so there isn’t really a valid comparison between the two.”

Dogs are pack animals, not den animals. So, in light of this, keep in mind that “it can be a difficult adjustment in the beginning for (your puppy) to get used to spending time alone. It is especially hard for younger puppies who come from being around their mom and littermates 24/7 to now being by themselves a good chunk of the day,” Dr. Robinson says.

Therefore, it’s important that you follow the correct steps to ease them into it. That’s exactly what will be shared with you today. 

Before diving into the details, there are a few more things to note. First, it’s suggested that you use treats, chew toys, and games to create a positive association with the crate for your dog. Secondly, be patient — this training could take up to six months.

What crate should I get my dog?

It’s crucial that you choose the correct crate for your dog. This means taking your individual dog’s needs and behaviors into account and buying a crate that will create the best response for them. You should be sure to look for one that’s flexible, comfortable, and durable, too.

If your dog enjoys sleeping in the dark, you should either get a kennel or airline crate. These are more enclosed than other crates and, therefore, will help you create an environment that your dog will enjoy. These aren’t right for all dogs, however. Some dogs will prefer wire crates. 

It’s also important that you buy a crate that will fit your dog correctly. You should be cautious not to purchase one that’s too large for your dog. You should choose one based on how it would fit your adult-sized dog. 

Then, you can purchase a divider to be sure the space is just right for your puppy. As they grow into adult dogs, you can give them more space. You don’t want to give your dog a space that’s too large, and definitely not one that’s too small. Following this strategy will help you find a crate that’s perfect for your dog's age and breed.  

How do I crate train my dog?

Once you’ve found the right crate for your puppy, it’s time to start the crate training process. Remember: be patient. Crate training definitely doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth the time and effort to do this with your dog. There are even a variety of benefits associated with crate training, which will be shared in this article.

Introduce your new puppy to their crate

You should begin by placing your dog’s crate in an area of your house that your family spends a significant amount of time in. The family room is a great place to start. 

You should put a soft blanket or a towel in the crate. Ideally, it will have the scent of your home on it. This will help them feel more comfortable. 

Once you’ve done this, you can bring your dog to the crate in an enthusiastic way. Be sure to use a calm, happy tone of voice when you talk to them. The crate door should be opened securely. This is to ensure that it won’t accidentally hit your dog and scare him. 

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Next, you have to encourage your dog to enter their crate. To do this, you can place some small treats or a reward nearby, just inside the door and all the way inside of the crate too. If your dog won’t go all the way into the crate for the first time, that’s fine. 

Don’t force your pet to enter. Instead, continue to gently throw treats into the crate. Continue to do this until your dog walks all the way into the crate to retrieve the food. If treats don’t work, you can also try tossing their favorite toy inside. 

This step varies in the amount of time it will take. For some pups, it can even take a few days. Be persistent, but positive. 

Make sure that any toys in their crate can’t be easily swallowed if your puppy is left unattended. 

Give your dog their meals in the crate

Once your dog has successfully passed the first step, it’s time to begin giving your pup their meals inside of their crate. Remember: crate training is all about helping your dog form positive associations with their crate. 

Feed your pet their regular meals near the crate. This will start to form that positive association, which is so important. If your dog is advanced and readily going into the crate at the start of this step, you can actually put their food dish all the way in the back of the crate. 

If they still show signs of fear or hesitation to enter the crate, you can push it as far in as they’re willing to go without becoming anxious. Each time you feed them in their crate, you should push the dish back a bit further. 

Finally, when your dog is standing in the crate to eat their meal, you can start to close the door while they’re enjoying their food. To start, open the door once they finish eating. With each feeding, keep the door closed for a couple of minutes longer. Work your way to 10 minutes after eating in the crate.

Is your pup whining? You might have moved too quickly. Take a step back and leave them in the crate for short periods of time. If this continues, you must not let your dog out of the crate until they have stopped crying or whining. 

Practice longer periods of crate sessions

Now that your dog is eating their meals in their crate without appearing to be anxious, you can put them in there for a short amount of time — and be sure to do this while you’re home. Call them over and provide a treat. You can even give them a command to enter their home. Point to the crate and have a treat enclosed in your hand.

Once they’ve gone in the crate, you can give them the treat and close the door. Also, don’t forget to praise and relay excited behavior. 

Now, you have to sit near the crate for about five to 10 minutes. Then, you can move into another room for a couple of minutes. Return to the spot near the crate, sit again, and then let them out of the crate. You should do this a few times a day. 

Every time you repeat, you can increase the time you leave the dog inside of the crate. Once your dog is able to sit in the crate for 30 minutes without whining — and with you out of sight for most of the time — you can leave them in the crate at their bedtime or when you’re gone for a brief period. 

Why is crate training your dog important?

There are a variety of reasons why crate training your dog is productive. People love this method because it makes potty training easy. It’s typically considered a necessity for housebreaking a new puppy, and therefore, it’s quite important. 

Puppies won’t typically soil their sleeping area. This means that if a crate is set up as your pup’s resting space, they will wait until they exit to urinate or defecate. This means you’re in control of where your pup goes to the bathroom — and when, too.

With puppies, don't leave them in for very long periods because their bladders are still developing, and they will need to be let out for a potty break now and again. 

Crate training is good for more than just that, however. It’s helpful when you have a rambunctious puppy and have people over. It’s also good for traveling and ensuring that your dog is happy and safe while in bed at nighttime. 

Crate training can also help if there are certain parts of your home that your dog doesn’t have access to. It can help them learn valuable house rules, such as the importance of not chewing up furniture

Crate training can also help calm your dog's temperament and help stop separation anxiety from developing. 

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The crate is great when done properly

Crate training a puppy certainly requires patience, but there are few things quite as rewarding, especially for new dog parents. With some time and persistent effort, your dog will be effectively crate trained.

CRATE TRAINING A PUPPY SOURCES: 

How to Crate Train Your Dog in Nine Easy Steps | American Kennel Club  

Crate Training Puppies & Dogs | PetMD 

Crate training 101 | Humane Society  

Dog Crate Size Guide: How to Measure Your Dog for a Crate | Daily Paws 

What to put in a dog crate, where to put it, how to get it prepared | Labrador Training 

Positive reinforcement training | Humane Society

How to house-train your dog or puppy | Humane Society 

Study narrows origin of dogs | Cornell Chronicle

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