Crate training relies on teaching a dog to treat a cage, crate or box as their “den”. This approach is used for toilet-training and for giving your puppy some routine. Many owners say that it helps prevent separation anxiety by providing their puppy with a safe haven and slowly introducing them to the idea of being left alone. It’s a way of making sure that they are comfortable in their own company and have a place of their own where they feel secure.
First thing’s first you need to decide what sort of crate suits your dog and your lifestyle. Ideally you’ll want to use the same crate throughout their lifetime but at the same time the crate shouldn’t be too large as this could encourage them to go to the toilet in the crate. It should be big enough to be comfortable but small enough to be cosy as, that way, they will associate the crate with comfort and will not want to wee (or worse) in it. If you would like to use the crate while travelling there are designs that accommodate this but they are generally hard-shelled and dark inside so there is a chance that your puppy would prefer a wire mesh cage. They are less portable, unless you have a large car, but they’re easier to see through.
Once you’ve selected your crate you’ll need to place it somewhere in your house that gets a lot of traffic through from the family. This way the puppy won’t associate the crate with being left alone. You also need to make sure the crate is comfy and cosy by putting in a towel or blanket for the dog to nest in, and some toys so they are more likely to enter. Whenever the puppy goes in there of their own accord be sure to praise them and reward them as that way they will begin to view the crate as something positive.
If possible, in the beginning, you should try and keep the puppy in the crate in your bedroom overnight. This will help the puppy acclimatise to your sleeping patterns and will also make sure they don’t feel like they’ve been left alone. If they make a fuss for any reason other than needing to go to the toilet or being in pain then you shouldn’t bring them out. If you do this then they will learn to make a fuss and noise to be let out. If they do ask to be let out (by whimpering etc.) so they can go outside to wee or poo then give them lots of praise and encouragement because this is one of the aims of crate training. If they have an accident in the crate then clean it up immediately with a cleaner that is ammonia-free or they will start to think of the crate as a place where they wee.
Over time you can build up the hours the puppy will be happy to spend in the crate. Initially you should try and leave them in the crate for short periods when you are about the house so they will start to see it as their special den rather than a place they go when they are being left behind. When you do start leaving your puppy at home alone they will be comforted by the crate. They certainly shouldn’t be fearful of it or anxious when inside.
As with any training method it is not suitable for every household or every dog. It’s always worth speaking to the breeder or rescue where your dog is from and they will be able to advise which kind of training will be best for your new friend.
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