|Madeline when I first brought her home from the breeder...what a sight!|
Why crate training you ask? Why not I say. Do you not want your beautiful young pup to start her new life out on the right paw? The benefits of 'proper' crate training for your puppy are enormous. Let me give you just a few of the benefits. And, if you do not agree that these are fantastic things for you and your puppy then I would suggest you should probably re-think getting yourself a puppy as your commitment to your new puppy's well being is well...simply not there yet. Perhaps consider volunteering at a shelter that will help you to begin to understand canine behaviour better (including the well-known fact that dogs are den creatures) and you will also come to understand where all the cute puppies end up (unwanted and surrendered at shelters or worse) when their owners who were only committed when the puppy was cute...and then it grew. OK...enough said.
Benefits of crate training for your puppy are as follows: safety and security for your puppy (the den thing), accurate potty training, prevents damage to your home and costly repairs, will make your puppy a great traveler. And, you and your new puppy will bond faster as you will become less frustrated with her and less likely to discipline her out of frustration.
So let's get started....
1. Head to your favourite pet supply store (and no not Pet Smart, Pet Land or any of the like that support puppy mills) and purchase a crate. Make sure you are happy with the return policy (in case you do not like the crate) and you find a sales person who knows what they are doing. In sizing a crate, a dog must be able to stand up and turn around. There are three types of crates: the metal crate, the plastic crate (both will break down for storage) and the soft-sided crate. I recommend the plastic crate to start as the soft-sided crate although excellent for travel may be too easy to chew or tear for puppy in the beginning.
2. Set your crate up somewhere central in your home and not in your garage or basement. Remember this is a training tool and not equipment to punish with. I recommend setting up your crate near your TV so that when you are out of the room the TV can play softly and may help to calm your puppy.
3. Introduce your puppy to the crate with kindness, toss some treats (use kibble) into the crate for her to have and she will run in and eat them. You can even make it into a fun game.
4. When you are ready for the actual training, do not make a big deal about it just do it. Start with a potty break and either a short walk or play and then entice her into the crate with a treat or kibble. Once she is inside the crate, just close the door. Again, do not say bye-bye or fuss or make a big deal. Simply leave the room and see how she does. Now she may just fall asleep or she may cry - every puppy is different. If you are really worried then stuff a kong and place inside her crate for added distraction. If puppy falls asleep - that is great. If she cries, YOU MUST LET HER CRY. Do not appease her behaviour or you will very quickly teach her to cry and bark for your attention and this is a behaviour you do not want in a puppy or a dog. Some amount of distress is acceptable and almost expected.
5. If the crying continues, try a spray bottle or making a startling noise outside of the crate. Either one of these should work. Avoid the temptation to yell at her or bang on her new crate. Asking her to 'quiet' or 'enough' is acceptable too. Make sure she has taken care of her business (if she is a young pup) so that she does not need to go potty before she even enters the crate. The last thing you want your new puppy to do is to learn to go potty in her crate - I have seen it and it is a terrible thing and there is simply no excuse for this. If this is happening, and no I don't mean a little tinkle or tiny wet spot from excitement - what I mean is a full bowel movement and urination. If this is happening, contact your veterinarian, your breeder or your trainer immediately as something is very very wrong!!!
6. Once your puppy has accepted her crate you can place some dog bedding or soft towels inside. Be very careful about chewing though as you do not want her to learn to chew in her crate. In the beginning, I suggest a kong inside her crate and put some padding under the crate on the outside so that the flooring is not too hard and yet she has no chew temptations.
7. Don't forget to never ever use a crate for punishment - it is not meant for that.
Happy crate training!
Lee, Madeline and Roman