If you’re a new dog or puppy owner, you might think crate training is unkind or unnecessary, but there are many positive benefits for both you and your dog.

With the right training, your dog will view his crate as a shelter or safe haven, similar to a den used by his wild ancestor. It will also serve as your safety net for training and housebreaking. Read on for reasons why and how you should crate train.

Why Crate Training Works
When your pup is trained to love his crate, he will:

  • Learn bladder and bowel control
  • Feel safe and secure while you’re away
  • Have a safe haven to go to during stressful situations
  • Limit his destructive tendencies to toys, not furniture
  • Travel with less stress

You’ll also get peace of mind knowing your dog is comfortable and safe while you’re away.

Here are a few tips on crate training your pup:

Buy the Right Crate
Crates are available in a variety of sizes and materials, including plastic and metal. You might be tempted to buy the largest crate possible to prepare for Fido’s adult size, but it’s best to give him enough room to eat, sleep, stand up and turn in a circle. If your puppy has too much room, he’ll feel he has enough space to eliminate in one corner. This will hinder your housebreaking efforts, so it’s best to either get a crate that fits his size now or to block off part of the area so he won’t soil it. You can upgrade to a larger, more permanent crate as he grows.

Make the Crate a Happy Place
You’ll want your pup to have positive associations with his crate, so use a happy tone of voice when encouraging him to use it and place his favorite toy or treat nearby. Over the next few days, gradually get him closer until he’s comfortable sitting inside.

It’s also important to place the crate in a central area, so he won’t feel isolated. Remember, this isn’t meant as a punishment. Your pup will want your companionship while he’s in the crate and you’ll want to spot any signs that he needs to go out as well.

Keep Crate Time Short at First
When your pup is comfortable with his crate, begin keeping him confined for short periods of time while you’re at home. Give him a treat, send him into the crate and stay nearby for five to ten minutes, then let him out. Gradually increase the time and leave his sight occasionally until he’s comfortable on his own for the night or while you’re away. Remember, puppies shouldn’t be crated for more than three or four hours as they’ll need to eliminate.

How Not to Use a Crate
Here’s what NOT to do with your crate:

  • Never use the crate as a punishment for doing something wrong. Your dog will eventually fear it and refuse to enter it.
  • Don’t leave your puppy in a crate for more than 3 or 4 hours or longer than he can wait to eliminate.
  • Don’t confine your dog for too long without an equal balance of non-crate time. Your dog won’t get enough exercise or social interaction with too much crate time.
  • Don’t let children pester or tease your dog while he’s in his crate.
  • Don’t use the crate to isolate him from the family.
  • Don’t disappear every time he is crated.

Help your puppy see his crate as a safe, enjoyable den, where he can take refuge and rest comfortably.

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