If you have a puppy in your life, you NEED a crate. Puppies are cute for a reason - to make us forgive their potty training accidents, the chewed items, and the crazy over-tired puppy nipping. A crate is one item that can help you handle all of those problems, and more - so it’s extra important that we teach our puppies to love their crate time.
Why Use a Crate?
Dogs have a natural desire to keep small areas clean, so crates are a vital potty training tool. If your puppy can’t be supervised, crates are a perfect place for the puppy to be until you’re ready to be on potty watch duty. Crates also help teach our puppies that it’s OK to be alone, and makes their time at a vet clinic or groomer easier in the future. It’s also the easiest way to prevent puppies from chewing items they shouldn’t and to encourage them to take a nap when they turn into the equivalent of an over-tired toddler.
Choosing a Crate
There are a few varieties of crates, or kennels, to choose from. Regardless of which style you pick, the crate itself should be big enough for your puppy to stand up fully, turn around, sit, and lie down - without extra room for them to potty in a separate corner.
- Metal Wire Crates - these crates come in a wide variety of sizes for all breeds. They also often come with a divider that can change the size of the crate as your puppy grows. They are very open, so they make an ideal choice for puppies that want to see everything happening.
- Plastic Crates - Often not as open as a metal wire crate, they make good choices for dogs that do better when they have a cozy area where they can’t see everything happening on the other side. In comparison to the metal wire crates, plastic crates often don’t collapse, so consider if your crate will be traveling or just used at home when you make your decision.
- Fabric Collapsible Crates - These crates are often only used temporarily and at places like a dog show event or visiting a friend’s house. They can be chewed and ripped easier than plastic or metal, and are much harder to clean if a puppy has an accident.
Training Your Puppy to LOVE the Crate
One of the first and easiest ways to begin teaching your puppy to love their crate is to feed them their meals inside of it. Your puppy will begin to associate their crate with delicious and exciting meal times! If your puppy is worried about the crate, leave the door open and sit close by while your puppy eats their meals to start.
To teach your puppy to go into their crate on a cue, follow these steps:
- Toss a treat inside the crate. Close the door for a brief moment (don’t latch it shut at this step, just tapping it closed) and follow with a “good puppy!” and another treat before opening the door.
- Continue to toss the treat in the crate, while starting to actually latch the door shut behind your puppy. If they remain calm, you’re on the right track. Start asking your puppy to “kennel up!” as you toss a treat in the crate.
- Gradually increase the time your puppy is comfortable in their crate. Using a toy stuffed with food, such as a Kong, can help your puppy love their crate and keep them occupied for longer, too!