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Crate Training Your Puppy
Using a crate to house train a puppy has been around for many years but has recently become well recognized. The principle involves introducing a puppy to a crate as his den (or bedroom). Two important attributes of the den are helpful to the pup and owner. First, dogs feel comfortable and safe in their den. Second, dogs have a natural desire to keep the area in which they sleep clean. With a small amount of training, this crate becomes a place the puppy likes to return to and feels safe. He will not defecate in his “den” unless he has no choice.
Getting Started—The Basics
Crate size should be large enough for the pup to stand and turn unimpeded but no larger. If you have a dog that is to grow dramatically (large breed dog), then buy a large crate and block off access to part of it with a small piece of wood, cardboard box or wire rack. If the crate is too large, it goes from being a “den” to being the house. The pup will not mind eliminating in one side of his crate and sleeping in the opposite side.
Where to Keep It
Locating the crate in a bedroom or within hearing distance of the owner is recommended. Preferably in the same room as the owner—dogs like to sleep with the pack. If kept far away, such as in the basement, it is possible for the pup to feel separated and isolated resulting in an aversion to the crate.
When and How Long
Puppies can stay in a crate for about one additional hour compared to their age in months. When young, a pup should get out every two to three hours due to their need to eliminate and maintain normal puppy activity levels. It is essential that they get outside to eliminate and exercise. For overnight, elimination every eight hours is usually adequate. In bed by 11 p.m., up by 7 a.m.
The First Night and the Separation Reflex
Initial introduction to the crate may result in whining, barking, or howling. This is a normal separation reflex. Remember, dogs are social animals and vocalize when separated from the pack. With just a little bit of practice pups will not think of being placed in the crate as being separated from the pack but rather going to their own place—their “den”. This can be fixed by some extra work on the first night to overcome the separation reflex.
It generally does not take long for a pup to settle into the crate and become comfortable. Common uses for the crate include sleeping overnight or resting for short periods of time. Crate training also facilitates house training. The pup will not eliminate while in the crate. After being in the crate for a period of time, he will probably need to go when you first take him out. So take him where you want him to eliminate and don’t forget to praise him afterwards. This is your best chance to house train him.
Common Mistakes With Crate Training
If done properly, a pup will prefer resting in its “den” and will seek it out later in life. While inside the crate, the dog will be quiet and comfortable. Good Luck!