Crate training is something a lot of puppy parents use as a management solution and a toilet training method.
Right or wrong, whether you agree with it or not. Crates can be a hugely useful tool when applied correctly. By correctly? I do mean with limited time in there, with proper comfortable associations and such.
I only teach the correct application, so you’ll be safe working with me!
Through this post I’ll guide you on how to create a crate that is perfect for your pup to settle down in, and how to make them eager to hop into and comfortable in their crate.
Start With A Properly Sized Crate
Once toilet training is complete, ideally, you want a crate in which they can spread out, fidget, move and do whatever they need to do to feel comfortable. If they have pointy ears, make sure their ears have enough space too, it’s a small consideration, but it’s all about making a zone where your woof feels totally comfortable.
Whilst toilet training is still ongoing, a smaller space is advisable, but please remember to make sure there is enough room to fidget, move and lay out.
Then Make It As Comfortable As Possible!
Put in a bed, put in blankets. But this one is truly a case of knowing your dog? Knowing what they love is key here. For example, I’ll take Indie and Shelby.
Indie is a double-coated dog who gets Really Really Hot. He won’t like having a lot of bedding, but he does like a comfortable spot, and it’s good to consider that his breed is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, so I definitely need him to be up off of the floor. So a cot, or a mattress is perfect for him
Where as Shelby? Loves warmth, and she likes to nest too, so giving her a blanket to scuff around as well as a bed? Means she can nest and nuzzle into her blanket even at the hottest of times.
Comfort means different things to different dogs, so try and figure out what your puppy needs for this to be their comfortable quarters!
Cosy Is The Best!
This one can vary by meaning that if they have a blanket from their birth mother with her scent and their siblings? This one might be really valuable to them.
Next to that? Something like a Heartbeat toy may make them feel less alone and much more cosy.
Then – what about you? We learned when looking at socialization that your puppy will feel more comfortable with things if you’re there too? Leveraging his familiarity with you can be really powerful, so an old nightshirt, t-shirt or something in there as it may also help them settle down.
Then – what about the location of your pup’s crate? Is that appropriate? Luckily I have some more in depth guidance on this one so if you need help head to Where Is The Best Place For Puppy’s Crate?
Introducing The Den Wizard
This is something Steve Mann covers in Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy, and I love the name – it’s something I’ve done – but the name is so appropriate and I just love it.
When your puppy isn’t in their bed? Hide some treats in there.
Every time they’re out? They’ll come back and the first thing they’ll do is investigate that space.
Vary what you put in too, whether it’s a quick reward like a few cubes of cheese or chicken, or a longer reward like a kong, or a buffalo horn, or a yak cheese – or something in between. Like a dried trachea or rabbit ear!
These sort of things will make that crate become the most enticing spot in your home. This will ensure that this is where your puppy feels safe, secure, and so long as you follow the golden rules of crate training, then your puppy will feel safe and secure – because this is a happy place for them.
Tip! If Your Puppy (Or Older Dog) Has No Crate Experience
With puppies? I like for them to be introduced to their crate from the early socialization period with their breeder, this means that they just don’t have a fear of it. They tend to love it and accept it as a part of their world (and your breeder should discuss with you how you’re planning on keeping them at home!).
But, when my little perfect system doesn’t quite happen the way I want it to (gosh, one day i’ll have my puppy utopia, right?)
Essentially? Don’t lock them in too quick. Let them go in and explore, don’t close the door. Let them explore and come out, and go in and out in their own will. Praise them for going in and reward them as appropriate. Then try closing the door over. Reward heavily, keep it short too.
Then add in the closure mechanism, and undo it straight away. Praise and reward (calmly!).
As you go, you can phase it up to longer times, then leaving the room, so on and so forth until your pupper is comfortable chilling in there.
Make sure you Den Wizard too when you’re not doing your training sessions!!
Right, I am gonna get on my high horse for a jiffy…
What The Crate Is Not.
Please remember that a crate is not punishment, but it’s also not somewhere that your dog or puppy goes when you can’t be bothered to work with them.
A crate is not a place you can box your pup away and not think about them for long periods of time. It’s not a box for a toy, and it’s not an excuse to not train them to integrate into your household.
Remember, un-crate training is really important as a part of this process too.
Okay! That’s off my chest, sorry responsible paw-rents!
As With All Things Puppy (Not Just Crate Training!)
Be patient, be consistent, and your pup is gonna love their crate, and through the journey? Don’t forget to keep learning.
It’s a wonderful place for them to be, it’s a safe space, a space where they shouldn’t be disturbed, a space that is wholly theirs, where barriers and anxiety doesn’t have to exist. Talk about wonderful… The effort of getting it right is definitely worth it in the long run! You’ll have so much less howling and problems if you just lay the right foundations.
And those foundations? Are my speciality!
Does having a puppy feel like a game you’ve not got the rules to? What if I told you I could give you the rules, but how it would turn out, too? Then go sign up for pupdates, right now! Why’re you waiting?!
Need help? Book a bark day!
Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!