After all the excitement of getting a new puppy wanes, pet owners are faced with the one task they probably dread the most—crate training. It’s likely one reason you may have delayed making the decision to get a dog, especially if you work outside of the home. We also have a negative association with cages as something cruel.
However, it is the best way to housebreak your new puppy and the method most likely to succeed.
The Reason for Crate Training
It helps to know something about dog psychology to understand why crate training works. Canines and wolves share a common ancestor, before diverging up to 40,000 years ago. These animals sought the safety and comfort of confined spaces. Think of the dens that many wildlife species use to sleep and raise young, like foxes, wolves, and coyotes. Domestic dogs are no different.
1. Your Dog Feels Safe
The confined space means that they can relax without fear of being surprised by an enemy. Their backs are covered—literally! A holed-up canine has a view on the outside from the only entrance to his place of safety. A new puppy views a crate in the same way.
Think about it from the little guy’s perspective. He’s alone. His littermates and mother are nowhere to be seen. His instincts will kick in and lead him to the shelter that evolution has taught him to seek. Even if he fits it at first, your pup will learn that a crate isn’t a bad thing.
2. You Feel Safe
Now, look at it from your point-of-view.
A puppy is young in many ways, including how well he can hold his bladder. The growth of his baby teeth begs him to chew things as part of exploring his new world. You’re at work, and he’s having his way with your stuff. Not good.
Bear in mind that your home is also a minefield for him. There are electric cords, things that can topple over on him, and potentially poisonous things too, like your houseplants. Keeping him in a crate when you can’t watch him is the best way you can protect him. Don’t feel guilty about doing what’s right.
3. It Creates a Routine
Besides, puppies sleep a lot. It’s tough looking cute and entertaining everyone with their antics. A growing dog needs his shut-eye. Time in the crate helps to ensure he gets his downtime, even if he wants to keep playing. It’s also an excellent way to get everyone on a routine.
How Crate Training Works
Your work hours give you the basis for creating a regular schedule, which your puppy will need in the beginning. That’s a good thing. Remember that dogs are intelligent. They will figure it out and adjust.
The Right Crate and Furnishings
The concept behind the crate is that a dog will avoid soiling the place where he sleeps. It’s based on instinct. Remember that it is his safe place where he retreats for safety. Ideally, it’s unknown to potential enemies. Fouling it would signal his location. Instinct, therefore, drives him to refrain from doing so. That said, you should get a crate that will allow him to rest comfortably but not too large that he will sully it.
We understand if you don’t want to keep upgrading the crate if you have a large breed. Instead, get the big-boy size and block off a part of it or get one with dividers. You should also make it comfortable. After all, your pooch is going to spend long stretches inside of it. He needs a comfy place to curl up and sleep.
You’ll likely have to play this part of the game by ear. Until your puppy figures out the routine, he’ll probably get bored. If you’ve put a blanket inside of the crate, he will chew it. That’s the last thing you need since it could lead to bowel obstruction and surgery. Instead, look for an indestructible pad that is puppy-proof.
The Crate in Action
The first thing you must do is decide on a location for the crate. We’d suggest putting it someplace where it is quiet during the day and not a hub of activity at bedtime. Near the back door is a suitable place so that you can say good-bye on your way to work. Make sure to take your puppy outside to do his business before you leave.
If he whines—and he will—try to ignore him. Call it tough love. That’s why we suggest making it a positive experience. Give your pup a treat when you put him inside of it. Put some toys in it, too. We also recommend leaving the crate open when you’re home. Let your dog explore it on his terms. You may even find that he goes inside on his own to sleep.
Crate Training While on a Schedule
Hopefully, you gave housebreaking a lot of thought before you bought your puppy. A crate is not a set-it-and-forget-it solution. Bear in mind that his body is still growing and developing. He may not be able to hold it very long. If your pup is four months, he shouldn’t stay confined for more than three hours. That will mean you or someone else in your household letting him outside.
We urge you to get straight down to business when you come home. The goal is to teach your puppy to relieve himself right after you let him outside of his crate. Don’t play in the house and spend a lot of time greeting him. If you do, you’ll have a mess on your hands.
You can lengthen the time your puppy can stay in his crate as he gets older. You can also put a cover over it to encourage him to sleep during this downtime and reduce distractions that can wake him. That’s also a smart idea when it comes to bedtime. Again, he’ll learn to associate these actions with quiet time. It will get easier over time. We promise.
Final Thoughts About Crate Training
Crate training is an effective and humane way to housebreak a puppy, especially if you can’t be at home all day to teach him the ropes. It meshes well with his ancestral instincts to seek cover for safety. It may take him a few days to catch on, but once he does, you’ll know that you made the right choice. The essential thing is to make the crate a positive experience and never a punishment.
Featured Image: Julissa Helmuth from Pexels