As we've talked about before, crate training your puppy has many benefits. But how do you go about crate training in the best way? Here are our top tips, simplified for easy reading and remembering!
1. Get the right type of crate.
We suggest a wire type with a plastic or metal tray rather than something your puppy can't see out of. By seeing what's going on around them, they'll be no chance of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and your pup will be much happier. These are also easy to clean and transport if needed.
2. Get the right size of crate.
As a general rule of thumb the crate should be large enough that your puppy can stand up, sit down, turn around, and generally be comfortable in it. However you don't want it too big either, as you want to encourage your dog to relax in it. It's not a play pen! (If you have a puppy who's going to grow into a large dog you may want to consider buying a bigger crate with a removable divider).
3. Make it a happy place.
Your dog's crate should be somewhere they want to go. Never use it as a punishment. Although we said above it's not a play pen, you can put some of dog's favourite toys in there to help them associate it with good things. Choose toys that can't be easily chewed up.
4. Use food!
We all know the way to (most) dog's hearts is through their stomachs. Try feeding your dog their normal food inside their crate. Don't force it, just place the bowl inside and leave the door open for your dog to go in and eat by themselves and come back out when they're ready. This will help create a positive association to the crate.
5. Leave the crate door open when you're at home.
Leaving the door open will let your dog know that it's somewhere they can go whenever they want to, not only when they have to. This all helps towards helping them see it as their safe space.
6. Make it cosy.
Unless your dog is one who is likely to chew up their bedding, put a nice soft blanket in there. Nobody wants to sleep on cold, hard plastic or metal. If they are a chewer, you can purchase crate mats that have been designed to be more hard-wearing.
7. Make it interesting.
Crates can be places where it's easy for an energetic pup to get bored. There are some great tools you can use to keep your dog's mind off the boredom which will also help with making being in there a positive experience. We love Kongs stuffed with food, and your dog will love the challenge and reward of trying to get it out! Kongs can be stuffed with cream cheese, peanut butter (make sure it's the natural stuff that doesn't contain Xylitol, which can be lethal to dogs), small pieces of apple and banana.... just make sure whatever you're putting in their is safe for dogs to eat. Stick it in the freezer for a few hours beforehand to make it even more of a challenge!
8. Go slowly!
Don't leave your pup in their crate for too long. Remember their bladders are small and they haven't quite learnt how to hold it. A small accident could set your toilet training back and could contribute to your dog making a negative association with their crate - the opposite to what we're looking for! Start with short periods - maybe 15 minutes while you take a shower, or half an hour while you do the school pick-up. Remember that with any kind of training we should be helping our dogs to learn by taking little steps and making it easy for them.