Introduction to Crate Training




A crate is a great management tool for puppies and introduced correctly will become a space your puppy enjoys spending time in and actively seeks out when they want to rest or have some time away from the rest of the household. Crate training can help speed up the process of teaching your puppy where to go to the toilet, how to relax when you leave them and prevent them from chewing furniture, electric cables or other items if you need to leave the room to go to the bathroom, answer the door or make a coffee.

In this tutorial you are going to learn how to introduce a crate to your puppy and ensure that they LOVE going into it.

To prepare make sure that your puppy’s crate is lined with something cosy and soft, like non slip bedding so that it’s inviting and warm.

Step 1 is going to be to have the crate on the floor with you sitting on the floor close by. Allow your puppy to choose to come over and investigate. If your puppy sniffs it or moves to investigate, praise them and reward with some tasty treats too. If your puppy is hesitant don’t worry, give them time to go at their own pace and reward them where they are comfortable being. Play is a great way to boost confidence. Either play with their favourite toy nearby the crate or if they are more food motivated you can play with food too, by tossing it to one side for your puppy to go get and when they come back toss a treat to the other side of the crate. At this stage all movement is outside of the crate.

Step 2 is getting your puppy to happily step into the crate. You can either sprinkle some treats just inside of the crate and let your puppy approach to eat them, or an alternative if you’re playing with toys is to toss the toy so it lands partly in the crate and your pup gets to lean inside the crate a little to pick it up.

When your puppy is happy with this stage and is running towards the crate without hesitation you can move to getting your puppy to step further into the crate. Either sprinkle treats further back in the crate or throw their toy inside a bit more to encourage them to move further inside. If you are noticing your puppy leaning to try and get to their reward without stepping, it’s a sign that it’s too difficult for your pup right now. Move back to the previous step and keep practicing. You can step up and down the different steps at your puppy’s pace. Spending time getting this right now will help your puppy build a great association with their crate.

Step 3 is all about building up duration. As your puppy goes into the crate to get a treat they will turn around inside before coming out. At this point meet their nose at the entrance and feed them a bonus treat before they leave. This will extend the time they are in the crate by a second or two. Gradually you can start to feed a couple of treats, on after another in this way to increase duration further. You will find that your puppy chooses to hang out int eh crate for longer hoping more treats will be delivered. Continue to build duration in this way using up to 5 small treats each time. You can start to lengthen the time between delivering treats so your puppy remains happily in their crate for longer each time until your puppy is choosing to stay in their crate for 30 seconds.

Step 4 is all about getting your puppy used to the crate door being moved. To start with you’re not closing the door at this stage but simply moving it a little when your puppy is happily eating treats inside the crate. They’ll be aware of the sound, vibrations and sight of the crate door moving and should be relaxed throughout. You can then start to close the door over more and practice closing the catch or doing up the zip a little if you have a canvas crate. If your puppy starts to panic or tries to leave it just means you’re going too quickly. Drop back a step and help your puppy to build up their confidence more before proceeding.

Step 5 – Once you’ve build up to your puppy being happy to be in their crate whilst you close the door the next stage is building duration so your puppy is happy to relax with their crate door closed. Throughout this stage you are going to be right next to the crate to support your puppy. Set your puppy up with a long lasting chew to enjoy inside the crate, like a bully stick, yak milk chew or a stuffed Kong. Whilst they’re settled in their crate you can sit on the sofa next to the crate and either pop on the tv or read a book. You’ll want to practice this on several occasions before moving to the next stage.

Step 6 is all about you moving away from the crate whilst your puppy is relaxing with their chew and it not being a big deal. Whilst your puppy is busy chewing, start to get up and move around the room before sitting back down on the sofa again. Move to different areas of the room and back each time. You don’t need to say anything to your puppy as you do this. Pick up a magazine from the table, turn the lights on, switch the tv on or tidy away items. If your puppy watches you at first they will soon get used to things happening around them and go back to their chew instead.

Step 7 is where you can start to leave the room with your puppy settled in their crate with something to do. Start with short durations, like going to the bathroom, or taking a quick shower and then build up to longer durations. If your puppy can happily settle in their crate for a few minutes, move to 15 minutes, then 30 minutes. Practice increasing the duration gradually in 15 minute intervals and if you’re leaving your puppy for any length of time ensure that they have eaten, exercised, had a chance to toilet and are relaxed before you go. We will cover this more in the preventing separation anxiety module.

As always go at your puppy’s pace, have fun and enjoy the journey.

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