A dog’s crate is his or her den. If you have children, do not allow them to play in the crate or bother the dog while he/she is inside. The crate's purpose is to mimic the role of the den in the wild. The crate is the place where your dog feels safe and secure. In terms of housetraining, the crate's primary purpose is to create a place where your dog will NOT want to eliminate (urinate or defecate) because, as you already learned, the dog's natural instinct is to eliminate AWAY from the den. You should NEVER use the crate as punishment.
How To Choose A Crate
You should choose a crate that has an appropriate size for your dog. It is important not to get one too big or too small. You do not want it so big that your dog can mess at one end and sleep on the other. You also do not want it so small and cramped that your dog is uncomfortable. Crates vary in price but you should get a quality crate with the bars close together so your dog cannot squeeze her head through the bars. The rule of thumb in determining crate size is to get a crate just big enough for your dog to stand and comfortably turn around in.
In terms of lining the crate, I do not recommend using shredded newspapers. Many dogs will eat newspaper and become sick. Either use commercial pads that you can buy in most pet stores or online, or put old towels or a blanket bunched up in a corner. It is a good idea to buy a crate with a stainless steel bottom that can slide out easily for wiping and cleaning up those inevitable accidents.
Keep in mind that the first night you put your puppy in the crate your dog will probably cry and whimper like a baby (because he/she is still a baby!) But whatever you do, don't give in and take the dog out. If you do, you'll be inadvertently giving the dog positive feedback: "I cry, I get taken out of the crate".
I suggest that you start crate training on a night when you don't have to get up early the next day for work (e.g. during the weekend), because you are probably not going to get much sleep. But there is good news! This should only last a night or two. But the sooner you get past this and your dog gets used to the idea, the faster your dog will be able to sleep inside the house and the better off you will all be.
If for some reason you still do not want or are unable to crate your dog, you can block off a corner of a room or hallway. Just make sure you choose an area with a tile floor that you can easily wipe clean. While I don't recommend newspaper for the confines of a crate, you can tape down newspapers on the floor for this. For even better protection, open up a plastic garbage bag or place a sheet of plastic on the floor and tape down the edges with masking tape. Then, tape several layers of newspaper over the plastic. As you change the paper you can just wipe the plastic clean if it soaks through.
Confine To A Crate
Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament, and past experiences. There are two important things that you should keep in mind
- Your dog should always associate his/her crate with something positive.
- Training should be done in a series of small steps. Do not go too fast.
Your dog should be confined to the crate whenever he or she is not doing one of the following things:
- Eating and drinking
- Supervised playtime
- Learning housebreaking
Remember that the crate is not a punishment. Its short-term purpose is to force the dog to think of the crate as his/her den. It is a safe and protective hideaway where your dog can sleep and rest. In the long term, you can continue to use the crate as your dog's sleeping area for the rest of her life if you choose, or as a safe way to transport your dog. If you decide not to use a crate, a blocked off section of a room or hallway (preferably with a tile floor for easy wiping) will serve the same purpose.
Once your puppy is familiarized with the crate, which can be a little difficult. Your goal is to help him/her get comfortable with entering the crate and staying there calmed and quiet. A good way of doing this is by offering some food so that the puppy will enter the crate willingly (do not force him/her in). I also recommend that you fill up a bowl with a small amount of puppy food while you let him/her watch. Then, let him/her sniff the food and then slowly place the bowl of food inside the crate.
Once the puppy is inside the crate, close the door slowly (try not to startle the puppy) and let him/her eat. He/she will likely finish the food inside and only begin to whine or bark after he/she is done with his/her meal. When he/she starts to bark and whine, tap the door of the crate and say “No” using a strong, commanding voice (but do not yell at him/her). With repetition, this will make him/her stop crying and eventually train him/her not to whine when he/she is placed inside that crate.
Increase the time that your puppy spends inside the crate gradually. If he/she whines, wait for him/her to quiet down (or wait for five minutes, whichever comes first) before you open the door to let him/her out. Praise your puppy when he/she comes out, and take him/her to the designated elimination area to relieve him/herself immediately. Repeat this a few times a day. Remember that consistency is the key to achieve success in training.
About the author
Dr. Stephanie Flansburg-Cruz practices mixed animal veterinary medicine and she has a special interest in shelter medicine and animal welfare. Stephanie enjoys volunteering at local animal shelters, reading, writing and traveling.
- The Humane Society Of the United States. Crate Training. Retrieved on April 10, 2106 from: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/crate_training.html?referrer=https://www.google.com.mx/