Behaviour & training

How to crate train a puppy

Date updated: 15 08 2017

Welcome to the ultimate puppy chill-out zone. The perfect space for some downtime, an awesome travel carriage, and a great way to help your buddy get their head around toilet training. Here’s the lowdown on crate training…

Most of the time, your best buddy’s up for pretty much anything. But when you’re only a few months old, having fun can really take it out of you. And being so small during the morning breakfast rush in the middle of a playdate can be pretty hectic!

Your buddy’s distant ancestors could just head off to their den when they were feeling sleepy or stressed. The den was safe, familiar and quiet - and it was their space, so they knew instinctively to keep it clean.

Truth is, we all need a bit of me time occasionally. So the den vibe is exactly what you’re trying to recreate with crate training. It’s your buddy’s familiar place; it comes in handy for teaching him right from wrong; and if he’s happy in his crate, chances are he’ll feel at home riding in it on the next family road trip.

So how do you get your puppy to fall in love with his new crib? Here are our tips…

Step 1. Pick the right size crate

Sadly, they won’t be this tiny forever - so think about how big they’re eventually going to get. Your crate should be big enough for your pooch to stand up, turn around, stretch and lie down. But you’re aiming for a cozy vibe - so don’t make it too big.

Stick to the one-crate-per-dog rule: if there are two or more of your furry friends in there together, it might be fun for a while, but pretty soon they’ll end up annoying and distracting each other. Remember: downtime is the aim of the game.

Step 2. Make it cosy

So first things first: make the crate appealing. Put it in a quiet corner of quite a busy room (like the living room). That way, when your buddy heads inside, they’ll get some downtime but won’t feel like they’ve been banished. Make sure the crate is out of direct sunlight and there’s no draught.

Next, get decorating! Do it when your buddy’s out of the room. Throw in some soft bedding and a handful of squeaky chew toys - along with a couple of tasty treats.

Step 3. Grabbing his attention (play it cool)

Make sure the crate door is fixed open - and bring your buddy into the room. At first they’ll be curious and confused. Don’t make a fuss. Chill. Let them explore it for themselves.

If they don’t seem interested, try putting a couple of treats or favourite toys near the crate. With this approach, get progressively closer so you’re eventually placing items in there - and your buddy’s happy going inside to get them.

This familiarisation process can sometimes take a few days - so be patient.

Step 4. Ramp up the crate time

They’re happy going in and out of the crate. Now you want them to actually stay in there for a while.

So, how about a meal? At dinner time, put the food bowl inside the crate. If they’re happy to eat in there, nice work! If they’re still not sure, put the bowl just outside the crate. For the next meal, move it closer - and then try it inside again.

A day later, let them have their dinner in there - but close over the door while they’re eating. Open it as soon as they’ve finished, and be on hand to open it if they seem stressed.

Next (if they seem cool with it) leave the door closed for a while after they’ve finished eating.

Step 5. Taking a step back

So you’re gradually increasing the length of time your pup’s in the cage with the door closed.

For the next step, try leaving the room while they’re inside. Just for a few minutes at first. If it goes well, try it for a bit longer next time. By the end, your buddy should be pretty chilled being on their own in there for up to half an hour.

Step 6. Home from home...

Learning to love a crate doesn’t happen overnight. For some dogs it will take days, for others a lot longer. But eventually, instinct has a habit of kicking in: your buddy will come to realise this is my space and I’m happy to be here.

You know you’ve got it right when your buddy starts thinking along these lines:

- This place has everything I need to kick back and relax

- I’m gonna come here whenever I’m stressed or tired

- There’s better stuff to chew on in here than tearing up the sofa

- If my human tells me to chill out in here for a while, I’m cool with it

- Think I’ll hold it in till’ later, don’t want to mess up my new pad


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