Crate Training – Part 2
In the first installment we chose a crate, picked a good location, and started getting pup comfortable in it. Once you’ve completed those steps, you should be able to leave a tired puppy in his crate – with the aim he’ll fall asleep and then be in there for a few hours.
What if it doesn’t go quite so smoothly?
One of the most common complaints is that puppy doesn’t want to go in the crate at all. Don’t force him. Try leading him to the crate by laying a really tasty trail of treats. If he goes in, praise him and deliver some more treats while he is inside the crate. Repeat. If he doesn’t want to follow the treat trail, could you try different treats? Also take a look at the ledge over which puppy has to climb to get into the crate. This can sometimes be too high, the wiring can be intimidating, or he finds it off-putting when his identification tag hits the entrance. Taping over the edge of the crate can help or perhaps you need to help pup with a bit of “front stoop”. If puppy has already had an unhappy time in this particular crate, then we may need to start afresh with a new one or a new design.
A little crying or whining in the crate is fairly normal, especially the first time puppy is put in it for the night. The more tired pup is when you put him in, the more likely he is to fall asleep fairly quickly. We also love these Snuggle Puppies (paid link) mimicking the heartbeat and warmth of pup’s mother and litter mates. Listen carefully to the tone of the whining. A little loneliness whimpering should come to an end within a short time. If the whining/crying gets more panicked, the tone changes and you hear pup scratching at the crate sides or door, try and wait for just a few seconds of calm before letting pup out. If pup knows “sit” or “down”, ask him for this behavior before opening the crate door. Then try and go out for a short bathroom break before returning to the crate. We don’t want puppy to be afraid of the crate so it’s important we try and keep it a really positive and happy place but at the same time we have to be incredibly careful that pup doesn’t learn that if he makes a lot of noise he gets let out of the crate.
If pup is really struggling you could try having the crate next to your bed. Far better to try keeping puppy in the crate, even if it has to be in the bedroom to start, then to welcome puppy into your bed. Being closer to you may be sufficient comfort for pup. We can then build on the distance between you and the crate overnight.
If puppy really dislikes the crate and will not settle down, then the next best step is to have a small “safe zone” for puppy in front of the crate – just enough for puppy to come in and out of the crate. Not so much space that he has a lot of room for play. Ex-pens can be attached to crates to provide this additional room. You will likely need some sort of protection for the floor as more space is probably going to result in puppy using it for the bathroom. Newspaper or potty pads can be used but you’ll need to keep in mind that they’ll also have to be phased out of the toilet training which can make the process longer.
Very young puppies are unlikely to make it all the way through the night without having to eliminate so be ready to get them out of their crate and to the designated potty spot as quickly as possible. Afterwards it’s back in the crate. Maybe leave pup with a longer lasting puppy safe treat like a bully stick.
These tips should help get you off to a great start with the crate. If puppy is really struggling then further work may be required to ensure time in the crate is a positive experience for pup. Girl Friday ACK will be happy to provide additional assistance.
This post was written by Als