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The Ultimate Guide to Crate Training Your Puppy: Building a Happy Home Together

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

young puppy playing outside with ball gets exercise before crate training

Everyone loves puppies! Getting a puppy is a great experience but it can also have a few mishaps along the way. Your puppy will need your guidance for learning new things and how to behave in certain situations (ie. no jumping on guests). If you are a new pet parent, you may need to find professional support. We also have a blog on puppy training basics that may help you get started.

Below, we will we will discuss the benefits of crate training your puppy and best practices in training your puppy to love their crate. Crate training is a valuable tool that not only aids in housebreaking but also provides a safe and cozy haven for your four legged baby. Whether you're a first-time puppy owner or looking to enhance your training techniques, join us on this journey as we unlock the secrets to successful crate training and create a happy home for both you and your beloved pup.

Benefits of Crate Training

Crate training can offer several benefits for both you and your dog. We will discuss reasons why you might consider crate training your dog below.

Crate training puppies

Safety and Security

Crate training offers a multitude of benefits, one of the foremost being the safety and security it provides for your dog. When you're unable to supervise your furry friend, a crate becomes a haven, keeping them out of potentially hazardous areas in your home. It acts as a barrier, preventing access to spaces that may contain dangerous objects. By confining your dog to a crate, you can rest assured that they won't venture into areas like the kitchen where there might be sharp objects or chemicals. Additionally, it helps curb behaviors like rummaging through the trashcan, entering children's rooms with toys that could be harmful, or wreaking havoc in the bathroom by tearing up toilet paper.

Housebreaking and Potty Training

Another significant advantage of crate training lies in its contribution to housebreaking and potty training. Dogs inherently strive to keep their sleeping area clean, and a crate taps into this natural instinct. By using a crate, you encourage your dog to develop bladder and bowel control, teaching them to hold it until they are taken outside. This establishes a routine, making it easier for your pet to understand when and where it's appropriate to relieve themselves. Consequently, the likelihood of accidents within the house decreases, fostering a cleaner and more hygienic living environment.

Preventing Destructive Behavior

Dogs, particularly puppies, are notorious for their tendencies towards destructive behavior when left unsupervised. Crate training acts as a strategic intervention, creating a controlled environment that limits your dog's access to your belongings. This containment helps prevent destructive chewing and other mischievous activities. Furthermore, by offering a designated space, a crate assists in teaching your dog what items are appropriate for chewing. This not only safeguards your possessions but also encourages the development of appropriate chewing habits, steering them away from destructive tendencies and towards designated chew toys. In essence, crate training becomes a valuable tool in shaping your dog's behavior and fostering a harmonious coexistence within your home.

dog in crate for safety during traveling

Travel and Transport

Crate training facilitates seamless travel and transport for your dog, offering practical benefits in various situations. Whether you're headed to the veterinarian, embarking on a car journey, or taking a flight, a crate provides a secure and familiar space for your pet. Many airlines specifically mandate the use of crates during flights to ensure both the dog's safety and the well-being of other passengers. The confined space of the crate minimizes stress for your dog during travel, preventing unnecessary movement and offering a sense of security.

Transition and Adjustment

A crate becomes a valuable tool in helping your dog adapt to new environments. When staying in a hotel, visiting friends or family, or even moving to a new home, the familiar crate acts as a consistent and secure haven for your pet. In unfamiliar surroundings, the crate provides a sense of continuity and comfort. The dog can find solace in their familiar space, making the adjustment to new places smoother and less stressful. This not only benefits the dog's well-being but also contributes to a more positive experience for both the pet and the owner in diverse settings.

Rest and Relaxation

Every dog needs a space to unwind, rest, and enjoy some downtime, and a crate serves this purpose effectively. Acting as a cozy den-like retreat, the crate becomes a designated area where your dog can feel secure and comfortable. It provides a quiet refuge for moments of rest and relaxation, which is crucial for a dog's overall well-being. By having a dedicated space, your dog can retreat to the crate whenever they need a break from the hustle and bustle of household activities or simply seek a peaceful spot to nap. This promotes a healthy balance between activity and relaxation, contributing to your dog's mental and physical health.

Management and Training

Crate training serves as a valuable tool for effectively managing your dog's behavior and streamlining the training process. Here's a breakdown of how it aids in both aspects:

Behavior Management:

  • Controlled Access: The crate becomes a controlled environment where you can manage your dog's access to specific areas or activities. This is particularly useful when you need to limit their movement or prevent them from engaging in unwanted behaviors. For instance, if there are guests in the house, having your dog in the crate can prevent jumping or excessive excitement.

  • Preventing Unwanted Behaviors: Crates act as a physical barrier, discouraging dogs from engaging in destructive behaviors or getting into mischief when left unsupervised. This is especially beneficial for puppies who are prone to chewing on furniture or exploring areas that might pose risks.

Training Facilitation:

  • Command Training: Crate training is an excellent way to teach essential commands, such as "crate" or "bed." By associating the crate with positive experiences and rewards, you can create a positive association for your dog. This not only helps in getting them into the crate on command but also establishes a routine that makes them more receptive to training.

  • Establishing Routine: The structured environment of a crate contributes to the establishment of a daily routine. Dogs thrive on routine, and incorporating crate time into their schedule helps in creating predictability, making it easier for them to understand when it's time for activities like eating, playing, or resting.

Remember, crate training should always be done in a positive and humane manner. The crate should be a safe and comfortable space that your dog willingly goes into and views as their own den.

How to Choose the Right Crate for Your Puppy

The crate should be a comfortable and inviting space for your puppy, so introduce it gradually and associate positive experiences with it. Over time, with proper training and acclimation, your puppy will come to view the crate as their cozy den and safe haven. When choosing a crate, you should keep in mind of the size, material, safety features, and more. Below is a detailed list of more features to look for.

puppy enjoying crate time

Size of the Crate

Choose a crate that provides enough space for your puppy to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. However, avoid getting a crate that is excessively large, as it may encourage your puppy to eliminate in one corner.

If you choose a crate that fits your puppy now, you may need to buy another size down the road that will accommodate their new size. You can also opt for a crate with an adjustable divider panel to accommodate your growing puppy.

Crate Material

Crates are typically made from metal wire, plastic, or fabric. Metal wire crates offer good visibility, ventilation, and durability. Plastic crates provide a cozy and den-like environment, but make sure they have proper ventilation. Fabric crates are lightweight and portable, suitable for travel, but may not be as sturdy as other options.

Safety Features

Choosing the right type of crate for your puppy involves prioritizing safety features to ensure a secure and hazard-free environment. Look for crates with robust and secure latches or locks, especially if your puppy is particularly curious or energetic. The crate's construction should be sturdy to withstand your puppy's activity level, reducing the risk of accidents or escape attempts. Regularly inspect the crate for sharp edges or protrusions that could potentially harm your puppy, addressing any concerns promptly to maintain a safe space.

Easy to Clean

A practical consideration when selecting a crate is its ease of cleaning. Opt for a crate with a removable tray or bottom, facilitating convenient cleanup in the event of accidents or spills. Materials that are easy to wipe or wash not only simplify maintenance but also contribute to a hygienic environment, crucial during the puppy's house training phase.

Portability and Storage

If you anticipate frequent travel or the need to move the crate around, consider a design that prioritizes portability and storage. Crates that are foldable or collapsible offer convenience for transportation and can be easily stored when not in use, making them ideal for those with an on-the-go lifestyle.

puppy running outside before crate training

Consider Your Puppy's Temperament

Tailoring the choice of crate to your puppy's temperament is essential for their comfort. Observe your puppy's behavior to determine whether they prefer more coverage and privacy, which may lead you to opt for a plastic or fabric crate, or if they enjoy the visibility and airflow provided by a wire crate. Consider their comfort level and choose a crate that aligns with their preferences, creating a safe and reassuring space.

Consult with a Professional

If you're unsure about which crate would be most suitable for your puppy, consult with a veterinarian, professional dog trainer, or experienced pet store staff for guidance and recommendations based on your puppy's breed and size.

How to Crate Train Your Puppy

Crate training is an effective method for housebreaking and providing a safe and comfortable space for your puppy. Here are some best practices for crate training puppies:

puppy in crate with favorite bed for comfort

  • Introduce the Crate Gradually: Start by placing the crate in a common area of your home and leave the door open. Allow your puppy to explore the crate at their own pace without any pressure.

  • Make the Crate Inviting: Add soft bedding, toys, and treats inside the crate to create a positive association. You can use blankets or towels that have your scent on them to provide comfort.

  • Use Positive Reinforcement: Encourage your puppy to enter the crate by tossing treats or toys inside. Praise and reward them when they willingly go inside or show any signs of being comfortable near the crate.

puppy with kong toy will be entertained during crate time
  • Associate the Crate with Positive Experiences: Feed your puppy near the crate, gradually moving the food bowl closer to the crate's entrance. This helps your puppy develop a positive association with the crate. Eventually, you can feed your puppy in the crate. You can feed every meal in the crate because it's their safe, happy space. You can also add kong treats, lick mats and other puzzles to keep your puppy entertained in the crate. While they are busy with their snacks, you can get things done around the house knowing they are safe and happy.

  • Gradually Increase Crate Time: Start with short periods of time with the crate door closed while you're present. Slowly increase the duration as your puppy becomes more comfortable. Never leave your puppy alone in the crate for extended periods, especially when they are young.

  • Establish a Routine: Set a schedule for crate time, including meals, playtime, potty breaks, and naps. Consistency helps your puppy understand when it's crate time and reduces anxiety.

  • Don't Use the Crate for Punishment: The crate should be a positive and safe space for your puppy. Using it for punishment can create negative associations and hinder the training process.

puppy in crate whining while crate training
  • Ignore Whining or Barking: Your puppy should be comfortable enough in their crate and shouldn't need to whine and bark when the gate is closed. However, if your puppy whines or barks while in the crate, avoid giving them attention. Responding to their noise can reinforce the behavior. Instead, wait for a moment of silence and then reward and praise them for being calm. Be sure the barking and whining is not an emergency or they need to go to the bathroom. If you know that it is not these two things, you should continue to ignore them until they calm down. Do not punish them while they are in the crate. This will create a negative experience and aversion to the crate.

  • Provide Physical and Mental Stimulation: Make sure your puppy receives plenty of exercise, playtime, and mental stimulation outside the crate. A tired and mentally stimulated puppy is more likely to relax and settle in the crate.

puppy outside of the crate on a rug in the house
  • Gradual Transition to Free Roaming: As your puppy becomes more reliable and house-trained, you can gradually increase their freedom by allowing supervised free time outside the crate. However, always monitor their behavior and gradually increase the time to ensure they are ready for it.

Remember, crate training requires patience and consistency. Each puppy is unique, so adjust the training approach according to their individual needs. If you encounter any difficulties or concerns, consult with a professional dog trainer or a veterinarian for guidance.

Challenges You May Face When Crate Training

Crate training can present some challenges, especially in the early stages. Understanding these common challenges can help you prepare and address them effectively. Here are some challenges you may encounter during crate training:

Whining or Barking

One common challenge encountered during crate training is the manifestation of whining, barking, or scratching at the crate door by some puppies. This behavior often stems from anxiety or a desire for attention. It's crucial for dog owners to resist the inclination to give in to these demands or release the puppy from the crate when such behavior occurs. Succumbing to their protests may inadvertently reinforce the undesirable conduct, making it more challenging to instill positive crate habits. Instead, patience and consistency are key; waiting for moments of quiet and calmness before opening the crate can help establish the understanding that such behavior won't lead to immediate release.

dog not happy with crate training

Fear or Aversion to the Crate

Another challenge arises when puppies exhibit fear or resistance towards the crate, typically stemming from unfamiliarity or negative past experiences. To address this, gradual and positive crate introduction becomes paramount. Utilizing treats, toys, and praise helps create a positive association with the crate, transforming it from an unfamiliar or intimidating space into a welcoming and secure environment. Taking the time to allow the puppy to explore the crate at their own pace, without any pressure, helps build confidence and reduces aversion over time.

Accidents in the Crate

Accidents within the crate, particularly among young puppies still developing full bladder and bowel control, present a common challenge in crate training. The crate's size plays a significant role, with overly spacious crates allowing pups to eliminate in one corner. To address this, consistent potty training routines and frequent trips outside are essential. Ensuring the crate is appropriately sized for the puppy's age and providing positive reinforcement for outdoor elimination can significantly minimize accidents. Understanding that accidents are a normal part of the learning process and responding calmly and without reprimand contributes to a positive environment for successful crate training.

Difficulty With Alone Time

Some puppies may face challenges when it comes to spending time alone in the crate, particularly if they are prone to separation anxiety. This difficulty can manifest as heightened anxiety, vocalization, or even destructive behavior. To address this, a gradual approach to increasing the duration of crate time becomes essential. Techniques like desensitization, where the puppy is gradually exposed to being alone, and counterconditioning, which involves associating being in the crate with positive experiences, can be employed. This helps the puppy build confidence and comfort with the idea of being alone in the crate over time.

Crate Aversion or Escape Attempts

puppy crate training trying to get out

Occasionally, puppies may develop a strong aversion to the crate or attempt to escape through chewing or digging. Such behaviors can be indicative of stress or discomfort associated with the crate. To mitigate this, a thorough reassessment of the crate's size, comfort, and placement is necessary. Ensuring that the crate is appropriately sized and well-appointed with comfortable bedding can contribute to a more positive experience. Additionally, providing ample mental and physical stimulation outside the crate helps alleviate anxiety, reducing the likelihood of escape attempts.

Resistance to Entering the Crate

Resistance to entering the crate is a common challenge, especially during the initial stages of crate training. Puppies may hesitate or outright refuse to go into the crate. It is imperative to utilize positive reinforcement techniques to encourage voluntary entry. Employing treats, toys, or praise can create positive associations with the crate, making it a more inviting space. Importantly, avoid forcing or dragging the puppy into the crate, as this can lead to negative associations and potentially exacerbate resistance. Patience and positive reinforcement help build trust and comfort, fostering a positive attitude toward entering the crate willingly.

To overcome these challenges, patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement are key. It's also important to tailor your training approach to your puppy's individual needs and consult with a professional dog trainer or veterinarian if you encounter persistent difficulties.

Puppy Training and Acupressure

Training a puppy can be a rewarding yet challenging endeavor, requiring patience and effective techniques to enhance their ability to remember and stay focused. Acupressure, an ancient healing practice rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, can complement puppy training by promoting overall well-being and reducing stress. Here's how acupressure can be beneficial in the context of puppy training:

puppy enjoying acupressure session for crate training
  • Stress Reduction: Acupressure involves applying gentle pressure to specific points on the body. This can have a calming effect on the puppy, reducing stress and anxiety. Since a relaxed and focused state is conducive to effective learning, acupressure can create a positive environment for training sessions.

  • Improved Concentration: Certain acupressure points are believed to enhance concentration and mental clarity. By incorporating acupressure into your puppy's routine, you may help improve their ability to focus during training sessions. This can result in more effective learning and better retention of commands and behaviors.

  • Bonding and Trust Building: The tactile nature of acupressure involves gentle touch and interaction between the owner and the puppy. Consistent acupressure sessions can contribute to building trust and strengthening the bond between the two. A puppy that feels secure and connected to its owner is more likely to engage positively in training activities.

  • Pain and Discomfort Relief: Puppies, like humans, can experience physical discomfort or pain, especially during the teething phase or due to general growth. Acupressure, when applied appropriately, may help alleviate minor discomfort, contributing to a more positive association with training sessions. A more comfortable puppy is likely to be more receptive to learning.

  • Promotion of Relaxation: Acupressure can induce a state of relaxation by targeting specific points associated with calming responses. This relaxed state is conducive to effective training as it helps reduce distractions and encourages a more receptive mindset in the puppy.

  • Complement to Positive Reinforcement: Acupressure can serve as an additional tool in the positive reinforcement toolbox. When used alongside treats, praise, and toys, it adds a tactile dimension to the reward system, reinforcing positive behaviors during training.

It's important to note that while acupressure can be a valuable complement to puppy training, it should not replace fundamental training principles. Regular, positive, and consistent training methods, along with acupressure, contribute to a holistic approach to your puppy's well-being and development. You can read our blog about enhancing dog training with acupressure here.

We also teach acupressure classes in the Greater Charlotte area! If you are local, look for us at your local brewery or pet store! We offer themed classes so you can choose the class that fits your pup the best: anxiety, allergies, tummy upsets and more! Acupressure is preventative and all dogs can benefit! Even if your pup does not have allergies, you can take an allergies class to prevent them from developing allergies!

Or, you can book a session! Sessions are tailored to each animal and are roughly an hour long. Our Nationally Certified Canine Acupressure Practitioners will provide a relaxing, beneficial session for your pup! Remember, acupressure is preventative! So, all dogs can enjoy a session.

puppy enjoying crate time during crate training

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