Part 1 of our series, “New Puppy 101: Starting Out Right.”
Crate training is the best way to start your puppy with house training, but a crate also gives your puppy a place to feel safe, and it prevents your rug, woodwork, remotes, wires—you name it—from being chewed. It’s not pretty what dogs can do unattended! (Even older dogs can be trained to go in a crate if these issues occur.)
The Case for Crates
For those who worry that a crate is unkind or punitive, think about it: You wouldn’t leave a child unattended. Practically every parent out there has taken advantage of gates, playpens, and other barriers to make it possible for a vulnerable young one to be protected as they play, or while mom or dad have their hands full. Crates serve that role for puppies. Along with providing lots of toys and proper things for your young pet to chew on, you need a safe place to put them when you can’t watch them. If you can keep your eyes on your puppy’s every move 24/7 and never leave the house, then maybe you can be successful without a crate. Otherwise, keep an open mind about crating.
The proper crate for puppies is one that is small enough for
them to feel safe and to not provide enough space to go to the bathroom on one
side and sleep on the other. It’s likely that you’ll need a larger crate as
puppy grows. Fortunately, you can almost always find offerings on Craigslist,
or through some networking with other dog owners.
I use plastic travel crates—Cari-kennel or Pet Mate are two brands—but I also use wire crates. I prefer the plastic type in the beginning because it gives puppies the secure feeling of an enclosed den. With the wire crates, I sometimes recommend covering them with a blanket to create the same cozy ambiance. However, if your puppy tends to pull the blanket inside, you need to get creative.
Introducing Your Puppy to a Crate
When you first introduce your puppy to a crate, you want to use treats. Also, for at least the first week or two you may even feed the dog in the crate to create a really positive experience which makes the puppy look forward to being inside. Placement of the crate sometimes requires experimentation. Begin with a quiet corner of a room you are frequently in. The idea is not to put your pup in solitary confinement but to give it a calm place to retreat and feel the security of your nearby presence.
If you are in the process of introducing a young dog to
crate training and nothing you have read is working, feel free to call me for a
phone consultation. I may also be able to help with my daycare program or an
in-home training session. I have turned around puppies that scream bloody murder
for over an hour or started pooping immediately upon being put in the crate.
Above all, don’t let a little bit of separation anxiety and
whining cause you to lose your resolve. As long as you know puppy just went out
to do its business, you have to ignore the crying. I remember how hard it was
with my first puppy but following through paid off!