The Den: Your Pup’s Happy Place
Crate training offers both your dog and you two distinct advantages. First, dogs are denning animals by nature so a crate becomes home. It’s their safe space for comfort and solitude. For you, a crate offers the peace-of-mind knowing your little buddy is protected and secure—especially when you’re not there. A crate can also speed up a new dog’s housebreaking training, and that can’t happen soon enough, right?
In this brief guide, we’ll walk you through the how’s, why’s, do’s and don’ts of creating a happy place for your dog, regardless of their age.
If you have more questions, just contact us. As always, we’re here to help.
For tips on how to choose the right crate, follow our 3 Step Handy Guide.
The Early Years: Crate Training A Puppy
Above all, avoid beginning the process too soon in your new dog’s life. The early weeks are for building trust and showering them with cuddles. Start introducing them to the crate around 2 ½ to 3 months. That’s also enough developmental time for your puppy to maintain control of their bladder and bum. Once you’ve reached that point, it’s the perfect time to give them a grown-up room of their own.
1. Think pillows. Blankets. More pillows.
You’ll want to make move-in day a happy time, so consider lining their new home with all the soft stuff they love. Pillows. Blankets. A sheet over the top. Even a t-shirt or two with your scent goes a long way to helping a puppy feel safe in there. Of course, a treat or three never hurts either.
2. Praise and reinforcement.
Their new den is a happy place, not where you send a puppy when they’ve misbehaved. Avoid associating their den with a jail for bad dogs. Reprimand the dog well outside of the crate and let things calm down. Then, give them praise when they enter and pets through the door when they stay.
3. Mind the clock.
Whereas a mature dog can handle longer periods in a crate, puppies need a bathroom break every few hours. That’s also a great chance to play with your new pup and continue bonding.
The keys to success are consistency and patience.
Older Dog, New Tricks: Crate Training An Adult Dog
Maybe your dog is a rescue that had never been properly house-trained. Maybe it’s tearing the house up when you’re away. No matter, a crate is a fantastic way to teach an adult dog to act more responsibly while giving them a space of their own. The key is introducing them to it slowly, then helping them to avoid panic mode once inside. Consider intervals of 15 minutes, at first with the door open. Let them get used to their new den, then gently close the door. Sit with them so they know they’re safe, slowly increasing the time they’re inside. It takes time, but the following tactics certainly can help make the transition to their new room easier:
1. The trail of treats.
Create a short string of their favorite snacks leading up to the crate, then toss a few inside. That way, they’ll associate the den with playtime and treats. Once in, shower them with praise and pets.
2. The fun factor.
If your dog is on the no-treats diet, play with them for a moment then toss a toy inside. Same goes for their favorite blanket or pillow. Toys or items they like go a long way toward the crate being a positive, happy place.
3. ‘Kennel Up’ commands or signals.
Many pups—bird dogs, for instance—thrive on voice commands and/or signal training. A crate is a great excuse to train them in on a new command that tells them it’s time to get inside. Praise helps a lot during this stage, and as we all know, dogs absolutely love it when you’re happy.
A Few Final Thoughts
As with anything training related, know the process of getting your dog crate-comfortable will take time and patience. They may bark once inside. That’s ok, just don’t run to them. Attention is exactly why they’re barking. Ignore them and reward your dog once they stop. If they’re chewing on blankets or bars, give them a toy to play with or consider applying anti-chewing spray to the wiring. Above all else, keep the crate their happy place, not a jail time for bad dogs. It’s their new home, so we’d encourage you to make that home a place of secure comfort. They’ll love you even more for it in the long run.
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