Crate training is one of the essential skills a dog can learn in its lifetime. Crate training, also known as kennel training, is the process of teaching your dog to remain calm in its crate. When you first bring a puppy home, kennel training is one of the fundamental skills you can begin training immediately to ensure a smooth transition into your home. Below are the answers to the most commonly asked questions about crate training.
Kennel time is invaluable for dog training, safety, and emergency response. Some of the top reasons to crate train your dog include:
No, it is not cruel to kennel train a dog. Observational studies on wolves have repeatedly shown that it is natural for canines to spend multiple hours per day in dens or caves. Like wolves, dogs need a space to feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed. When introduced appropriately, dogs enjoy spending time in their crate. Time in their kennel can prevent separation anxiety, a distressing condition for dogs and their owners. Be sure to provide enough mental and physical stimulation throughout the day and let your dog out to the bathroom as needed.
Choosing the correct crate size for your puppy ensures comfort and facilitates success when it comes to potty training. It is natural not to choose a kennel that is too small. However, crating your dog in a mansion-sized enclosure is also not recommended. Like wolves, dogs enjoy tight, den-like space to relax. Moreover, your puppy may have frequent accidents if a kennel is too large.
An adequately fitted crate just big enough for your dog to stand and turn around comfortably will best suit your pet. Your dog will likely nap or relax in the kennel, but you can leave a few chew toys with it to keep it company. While buying an adult-sized crate for your puppy might be tempting, the additional investment in puppy-sized crates will pay dividends during training.
While dog beds or mats are unnecessary, many owners place them inside their dog's crate for additional comfort. Before putting a bed in your dog's kennel, consider whether your dog is potty trained and if destructive behaviors are likely to happen. If your dog is having accidents in its crate, wait until you have consistent success with potty training before introducing a bed. When you decide to put a bed in the kennel under supervision, present it in small intervals to ensure that it does not get shredded. This approach will take time, but it will prevent the bad habit of destroying beds or mats.
Set up your puppy's crate in a quiet area in your house that you can easily hear from other rooms. We like to play a few luring games to get puppies comfortable with going in and out of the crate. Lure your puppy near its kennel by using high-value treats (we like Freshpet's Vital wet food rolls cut into cubes). Throw treats near the open door and work your way to the back of the crate. When your puppy goes in the kennel, you can keep throwing food inside to build duration or throw food outside the kennel to give your puppy a break. Once the puppy is comfortable going in and out, you can begin closing the door for a few seconds, then build duration. You can continue doing food sessions like these even when your puppy is used to the kennel to make a positive association and establish the "go to bed" command.
It is expected for your puppy to be loud for the first few nights, regardless of how many games you play or how tired it might be. Teaching your dog to enjoy its crate takes time and consistency, so don't be discouraged if there are a few bumps along the road.
You want to crate train the dog throughout the day to get him used to being in the kennel both when you are in the house and outside. Puppies can hold their bladder for an hour each month of age. Therefore, you should aim to crate your puppy for as many hours as months of age. Once your dog is potty trained, it can be crated for extended periods, but you should never leave him unattended for over 8 hours, at the most.
Depending on their age, activity level, and breed, young puppies must sleep between 17 and 20 hours per day. Most of the time they spend in the crate will be sleeping, and your dog will spend most of its wake hours in bathroom breaks and short play sessions. As your puppy ages, it will need less sleep and more mental and physical activity, but many people are surprised by the average number of hours dogs sleep. In general, it is safe to assume that your dog is sleeping or resting when he is in the crate.
Creating a positive association with your puppy's kennel is essential to make it a comfortable, relaxing space to rest. Start by feeding all of your puppy's meals in the crate. Slow feeding bowls, Kong toys, and treat dispensers will keep your puppy entertained and mentally stimulated. Our favorite feeding toys are Starmark's Bob-a-Lot treat dispenser for kibble meals and Kong chew toys for raw, rehydrated, or frozen meals.
The majority of your puppy's crate time will be spent sleeping. While food and toys will create a positive association with the kennel, they do not replace the necessary mental and physical stimulation. Adequate training and exercise levels will make your puppy tired and thus make it more likely to fall asleep right away in its crate.
Accidents are a normal part of the potty training process. If you notice that your puppy had an accident, stay calm and take it to the bathroom immediately. Once your puppy has pottied, clean up the accident with a pet-friendly, ammonia-free cleaner. Adjust your water, feeding times, and potty break schedules to prevent further accidents.
Because crate training requires time and consistency (especially in the early stages), many pet owners leave this process to a professional dog trainer. In Denver, Chomps Dog Training's puppy boot camp covers all of the early stages of training, including crate training, to save you time and the potential stress that may come with kennel training. Contact us today if you have any questions about crate training your puppy.