Inga MacKellar - MSc

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How can I crate train my puppy?

Inga MacKellar - MSc
Reading time: 3 minutes

Many owners feel worried about persuading their new puppy to sleep in a dog crate as they think of it as a ‘cage’.  However, crates can actually help a young dog to feel more secure as they come to see it not only as a bed of their own, but as their den and their place of safety.

As crates are moveable and transportable, your dog will feel secure in it wherever you go – whether you’re away on holiday, moving home, or in the car, it is your dog’s familiar ‘home from home’. A crate can also give you peace of mind that your puppy is safe, especially as young dogs are likely to get into mischief as soon as you turn your head!

Here are six top tips for crate training your puppy:

1. Invest in the right crate

Try to buy a crate before your puppy arrives home with you, so that he or she is accustomed to the sight and smell of it right from the start. Some crates have just one opening end but I recommend a crate that opens on two sides, as it is more adaptable.

I also advise using a robust metal crate for young pups as this should last for many years. Be sure to choose a crate that is going to be the right size for your puppy once they’ve grown to full size. As an adult, your dog must to be able to stand up easily and turn around comfortably in it.

2. Pick the right spot

Puppies are sociable creatures and usually like to be near you. I recommend placing the crate somewhere where your pup can still see and hear you, such as a quiet corner in the kitchen. Under a kitchen table usually works well.

Your puppy will be more relaxed and likely to nap in his crate if he doesn’t feel isolated and you can also see when he has woken up and needs to come out for a wee.

3. Make it comfortable

Make sure you have comfy bedding in the crate. If your pup is a chewer, buying second-hand blankets can be a good interim measure until you invest in a proper dog bed. By draping a blanket over half the crate, your puppy will have some privacy and feel safe and snug. Place some of their favourite chew toys inside to entice them in. A soft teddy to cuddle up to is useful (as long as it’s chew-proof!).

4. Safe and secure

Leave the crate door open at all times when your puppy is not in it – he may well choose to go into the crate on his own. When it’s time for a nap place him inside the crate as soon he seems sleepy– which will be often for a young puppy.

Close the door when he is asleep or if you have to go out briefly so that he is safe and secure when unsupervised. Never use the crate as a punishment. It needs to be your puppy’s safe den that they associates with quiet and rest. It is important to teach children and visitors to leave your puppy alone when he is in his crate. It should be their private and quiet space.

5. Regular routines

You can link your puppy’s sleep times in the crate with house training by making sure that he has a wee before going into his crate and straight after he wakes up. Puppies will often quickly fall asleep after playtimes and excitement, so as soon as you see that they are getting sleepy, place them in their crate. If they are scrabbling to be let out, wait until they are calm before doing so.

At six months old, most dogs can happily last all night before needing the toilet but don’t forget to take him out last thing at night and first thing in the morning. As your young dog matures you may find that you no longer need to shut the crate door overnight.

6. Alone time

By following the steps above, a puppy will quickly learn that their crate is somewhere safe and quiet to go. You can also be confident that your pup will be secure and cannot cause damage if you need to leave them alone for a short period of time.

The crate is also a useful tool to teach your puppy that they will sometimes be left alone. However, young puppies should never be left alone at home for longer than an hour or so in a closed crate.

Inga MacKellar - MSc

Inga was one of the first pet behaviourists in the UK accredited as a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist for both dogs and cats. She is a Full Member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), an organisation recommended by the RSPCA.

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