“Building a Positive Foundation, ensuring a Lifetime of Success, and Understanding the Benefits of Crate Training as a Zen Den-like Haven”.
Welcome to our comprehensive "Step-by-Step Guide to Crate Training for Puppies”:
www.bonnies.com.au . Crate training not only establishes routines and ensures a lifetime of success but also taps into the natural instincts and psychology of dogs. In this blog post, written by Master Dog and Puppy Trainer Peter Bonney, we'll delve into the benefits of crate training as a den-like haven for your puppy. By understanding their real need for a safe place and mimicking their instinctual behaviours in the wild, we can create a positive foundation and a harmonious living environment for our furry companions.
The Misconception of Crates as Cages:
Often, humans may perceive a crate as a 'cage,' leading to the belief that dogs should never be confined. However, this perception overlooks the potential use and benefits of crate training. When used appropriately, crates are not cages for puppies and dogs. Instead, they serve as their safe place and den-like havens. It is crucial to understand and utilise crates correctly, with love and knowledge of their benefits both for the dog and the family.
Using Crates in a Responsible Manner:
It is important to note that crates should never be used to confine your puppy for extended periods during the day, such as when you go to work. Puppies require socialisation, exercise, and interaction, so confining them for long durations goes against their well-being. However, brief intervals throughout the day, generally not exceeding one hour at a time, can be used to provide them with a calm space for rest and relaxation. This is particularly valuable if you are not using a playpen.
Managing Situations with Crate and Playpen:
There are instances when it is beneficial to restrict your puppy's movement using a crate or playpen. For example, when someone comes to the door or you have a bustling household with guests or workers, confining your puppy ensures their safety and helps manage their behaviour. When the puppy is let out of the crate or playpen, it's an opportunity to teach them proper behaviour while on a leash.
Crate training, when implemented correctly, offers numerous benefits for puppies. By understanding that crates are not cages but rather safe spaces that mimic their den-like instincts, we can provide our furry companions with a sense of security and establish a positive foundation for their behaviour and well-being. Remember to use crates responsibly, avoiding extended confinement periods, and instead incorporating regular socialization, exercise, and positive training techniques. With patience, knowledge, and love, crate training can foster a harmonious and rewarding relationship between you and your puppy.
Choosing the Right Crate Size and Type:
When selecting a crate for your puppy, it is essential to choose the right size. Opt for a crate that provides enough space for your puppy to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. If you plan to purchase a crate that fits a fully grown dog, make sure it comes with a divider. This divider allows you to adjust the crate's internal size as your puppy grows, creating a Zen Den-like space. Some crates already come with dividers, so be sure to check before making your purchase.
In terms of crate types, Bonnies Dog Obedience and Puppy School recommends using a collapsible metal crate for home use. This type of crate is more suitable for medium to larger breeds. Plastic carry crates, on the other hand, are primarily used for transporting puppies and dogs. The advantage of a collapsible metal crate is its versatility. You can easily fold it up and take it with you wherever you go, providing your puppy with a familiar and comfortable bedroom on the go. If you prefer a larger crate in plastic or not collapsible, they work too. They may get quite hot though at night – watch that air is circulating.
Step 1: Introducing the Crate as a Den-like Haven
A Gentle Approach:
When introducing a crate to a puppy or dog, it's important to take a gentle and patient approach. Avoid forcing them into the crate and immediately closing the door, as this can create feelings of fear or anxiety. Instead, focus on creating positive associations with the crate to make it a welcoming and safe space for your Best Mate.
Begin by allowing your puppy or dog to explore the crate at their own pace. Leave the crate door open and place enticing treats or toys inside to encourage them to investigate. Let them enter and exit the crate freely without any pressure or confinement. Place the crate in their Playpen if you are using one. This adds a layer of puppy management that many families don’t have, as they are often unaware of the real value of early management and training.
Gradually, you can start introducing short periods of time where the door is closed while your puppy or dog is inside. Start with just a few seconds or minutes and gradually increase the duration as they become more comfortable. Always use positive reinforcement, such as treats and praise, to reward them for calm and relaxed behaviour inside the crate.
By taking a gentle approach, you are giving your puppy or dog the opportunity to develop a positive association with the crate. They will learn that the crate is a safe and enjoyable space, and eventually, they will willingly enter the crate without any resistance. Remember, patience and positive reinforcement are key to successful crate training.
Creating a Welcoming Den-like Space:
To make the crate inviting and cosy, it's crucial to create a welcoming den-like environment. Along with placing soft bedding and a couple of toys, consider incorporating familiar and unfamiliar scents into the crate ASAP. To do this effectively each family member should wear a specific item of clothing, such as a polo shirt, for a day or two, and then place it in the crate - Don’t wash it. This allows the puppy to associate the scents in the crate with the family and creates a sense of familiarity. If you have other dogs or animals in your home, including their individual scents in the crate can also help the puppy feel more comfortable and secure.
When bringing a puppy home for the first time, they may feel scared and uncertain. To help ease their transition, ask the breeder to provide a towel or blanket from the puppy's pack. This item can be placed in the crate too, on the floor, alongside the other items with new scents. By doing so, you are allowing the puppy to learn and understand that the scents of cats, other dogs, chickens, birds, or any part of your home's menagerie are familiar and part of their new environment, their NEW pack.
These efforts not only make the crate more inviting but also help familiarise your puppy with the space. By mimicking the comfort and security of a den in the wild, you are turning the crate into a high-value location that your puppy will be eager to enter. The combination of soft bedding, familiar scents, and a cosy environment will help your puppy feel safe and at ease within their den-like haven.
Tapping into Natural Instincts:
Dogs have an inherent desire for Zen den-like environments. Crates serve as a safe and secure haven that fulfills this need for your puppy. By providing them with a crate that resembles a den, to them, you tap into their natural instincts and provide them with a space where they can feel secure, calm, and relaxed. Embracing these instincts and using crates as a positive tool can greatly benefit your puppy's overall well-being and development.
Remember, crates should always be associated with positive experiences. Avoid using the crate as a form of punishment or leaving your puppy confined for extended periods throughout the day. Instead, focus on creating a positive and inviting den-like haven that your puppy will willingly enter and view as their safe place. We recommend using a playpen throughout the day rather than a crate. (See our other Blog Posts on Playpens). https://www.bonnies.com.au/articles
Step 2: Making Crate Time Enjoyable and Night-time Considerations
Tending to Night-time Needs:
It's important to be mindful of your puppy's night-time needs, especially during the early stages of crate training. Puppies have developing bladder control and may need to relieve themselves during the night. If you notice your puppy whining or fussing in the middle of the night, they may be indicating their need to go to the toilet. This behaviour is typically seen until around 14-15 weeks of age. However, if your puppy continues having accidents during the night beyond this period, it's advisable to consult your vet to rule out any potential urinary tract infections (UTIs) or other medical issues.
To accommodate your puppy's night-time toileting needs, take them out for a brief bathroom break before bed – on lead. We don’t recommend waking them up every 2 hours – or in fact waking them up at all. Let sleeping dogs lay. If they wake, take them out – if not, then don’t get them up. By being attentive to their needs and providing appropriate bathroom opportunities, you can help your puppy feel more comfortable and reduce accidents inside the crate. Don’t engage the puppy when you take them out at night. Put on the lead, pick them up and take them to their toileting spot. After they go, bring them inside and put them back in the crate. Close the door and cover the crate with a sheet or blanket, a breathable one is suitable, particularly in hot homes or hot weather.
Remember, as your puppy grows older and develops better bladder control, their night-time toileting needs will decrease. Regular vet check-ups and communication with your veterinarian will ensure your puppy's overall health and well-being during the crate training process.
Crate Placement and Night-time Considerations:
During the initial months of crate training, it is common for many people to keep the crate in their bedroom. This close human proximity allows for easy monitoring and quick responses to the puppy's needs throughout the night. Being nearby can also provide a sense of comfort and security for your puppy during this important developmental phase.
As your puppy grows and becomes more comfortable with the crate, typically around 4 months of age, you can consider relocating the crate to a different room in your house. Choose a quiet and serene area where your puppy can have their own designated space and feel secure. This allows them to enjoy their crate as a cosy retreat throughout the day.
We suggest that clients should NOT treat their puppy like a human baby. There is NO need to be quiet around the dog or puppy. Run your home as it normally is, with all the noises which are a normal part of your family routine. They must learn to live with us – not the other way around.
When it comes to night-time crate use, it is recommended to cover the crate with a breathable blanket or sheet. This creates a den-like environment that promotes a sense of security for your puppy. However, it's essential to ensure proper airflow into the crate by leaving some openings or using a breathable cover. This way, your puppy can still enjoy fresh air while feeling sheltered and protected. The top and front as well as the sides should be covered. If you place a crate with a bedroom wall at the back, then the back of the crate does not need to be covered. Then, use a pedestal fan to direct air at the wall and therefore into the back of the crate.
It's important to note that covering the crate is primarily a night-time practice. During the day, refrain from covering the crate as it may deter some puppies from willingly entering it. The process of covering the crate should be associated with bedtime, signalling to your puppy that it's time to relax and sleep.
By understanding the appropriate timing and purpose of covering the crate, you can help your puppy establish a positive association with their crate as a cosy and secure space for restful nights.
Crates are not exclusively limited to indoor use. Families with dogs that spend their nights outdoors can still utilize crates. Outdoor crates provide a designated safe space for your dog, protecting them from potential hazards and ensuring their comfort during the night. It's important to ensure the outdoor crate is weatherproof and offers appropriate ventilation.
Yes, you can use a normal indoor metal crate, outside. As long as it is under a roof, out of the weather, and safe, then its ok to be outside.
Remember, the purpose of the crate is to provide a secure and cosy den-like space for your puppy or dog, regardless of its location within your home or outdoors. Adapt the crate's placement to suit your family's needs and the specific requirements of your furry companion.
Treats and Rewards:
Utilise treats and rewards to encourage your puppy to enter the crate willingly. This reinforces the idea that the crate is a rewarding and comforting space. Use tasty treats that your puppy loves and offer them when they go into the crate. Positive reinforcement creates a positive association with the crate, making it an enjoyable place for your puppy to be. When the puppy is near the door of the crate drop a treat ‘into the back of the crate’ through the roof of the crate and tell the puppy to “Find”. The puppy will go in an find it.
1 – Drop in a treat and say find. Don’t close the door bur partially close it.
2 – When the puppy turns around and is starting to come out, drop in another treat and say ‘Find’. When they turn to find it close the door.
3 – When they find it, and they turn around, partially open the door.
4 – Drop in one last treat and this time when they turn around you can open the door completely.
5 Exercise complete.
Engaging Toys and Chews:
To keep your puppy entertained and content in the crate, provide an engaging toy and long-lasting chews. Interactive toys, such as puzzle toys or treat-dispensing toys, can keep their minds stimulated while inside the crate. Additionally, offering durable chews, like Kong toys or bully sticks, gives them something to focus on and helps relieve any potential boredom or anxiety. These toys and chews not only keep them occupied but also enhance their positive associations with the crate. This is only done throughout the day. We don’t add these things to a crate at night.
By incorporating treats, rewards, and engaging toys into your puppy's daylight crate time, you create a pleasant and enjoyable experience for them. They will begin to associate the crate with positive feelings and look forward to spending time in their cosy den-like space.
Step 3: Gradual Increase of Crate Time and Establishing Routines
Start with short intervals: Close the crate door for short periods while you're nearby, gradually increasing the duration as your puppy becomes more comfortable and familiar with their den-like space.
Introduce overnight crating gradually, helping your puppy establish a consistent sleep routine and providing them with a secure and calming environment throughout the night.
Using a playpen in conjunction with the crate: In the initial stages, consider using a playpen around the crate to create a larger confinement area, gradually transitioning to using the crate alone as your puppy becomes more comfortable and confident.
Step 4: Covering the Crate for Peaceful Sleep at Night
Selecting a suitable cover: Choose a breathable cover, such as a lightweight blanket or a crate cover designed for proper ventilation.
Creating a coy den-like atmosphere: Covering the crate creates a sense of security and privacy, mimicking the den-like environment that dogs seek in the wild.
Bedtime routine: Establish a consistent bedtime routine. Generally, puppies can go into a crate by around 9pm. Yes, they will most likely be asleep on the floor in the lounge where the family is. We let them do that, so when we wake them up to take them out to the toilet, they then are put into the crate.
Step 5: Monitoring Progress and Adjustments
Observing your puppy's behaviour:
Pay close attention to your puppy's reactions to the crate and make necessary adjustments based on their comfort level, ensuring their den-like haven remains a positive space.
Recognize and celebrate your puppy's progress, rewarding them for calm and relaxed behaviour in the crate, reinforcing their understanding of the crate as their safe place.
Consistency and patience:
Crate training requires consistency and patience. Stay committed to the training process, providing reassurance and support to help your puppy adapt to their den-like haven.
Crate training serves as a powerful tool in establishing routines, ensuring a lifetime of success, and meeting your puppy's instinctual needs for a den-like haven. By understanding their natural instincts and mimicking their behaviours in the wild, we can create a positive foundation for our furry companions. The crate becomes their safe place, providing comfort, security, and a calm environment in the midst of our modern homes. With patience, consistency, and a deep understanding of dog psychology, crate training becomes an essential part of raising a happy and well-adjusted puppy.
About the Author:
Peter Bonney is Director of the Multi award winning ‘Brisbane Dog Training’ groups – Bonnies Dog Obedience and Puppy School. To find us on the web type in “Bonnies Dog Obedience”.
If you live in Brisbane Australia then come and join us for your puppy and dog training. If not then leave a comment and let me know what you would like me to Blog about in the future.
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