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Essential Guide to Crate Training a Puppy

Essential Guide to Crate Training a Puppy

Many pet parents feel guilty about crate training their fur babies because placing them in a crate feels like confining them to a restricted area. But the crate can be your pup’s happy place and a secret weapon to a calmer, more manageable dog with the right approach. 

When done right, crate training is a great way to teach your pup that they have a safe space they can call their own. Think of it as a cozy castle where they can relax and unwind. 

In this guide, we will teach you how to crate train a puppy to create a comfortable and safe space for your pup.

Why Is Crate Training a Puppy Important?

Bringing a new puppy home, even for experienced pet parents, can be overwhelming. You have this bundle of energy in need of guidance to learn new things and how to behave in certain situations. When introduced well, a crate can offer many benefits in raising a confident and well-behaved pup. 

  • Safety and Security: Dogs have a denning instinct and now and then require a safe place to retreat when scared or anxious. A crate can be that safe space. 
  • Housebreaking and Potty Training: Naturally, dogs don't tend to soil where they sleep, and puppy crate training can help tap into that instinct. Using a crate encourages your pup to control their bladder and bowel, helping develop a regular bathroom routine.  
  • Emergency Evacuation: Emergencies can strike at any moment, which can be scary for your dog (and you). Consider crate training to ensure your pet remains calm and safe during such times. Also, many shelters are open to taking in pets, but only if your furry friend is crate trained. 
  • Makes Traveling Smoother: Whether taking a flight, embarking on a road trip, or going to the vet, a crate provides a safe and secure space for your pup. Many airlines require that dogs be in crates during travel to ensure the safety of the dog and the well-being of other passengers. Practicing getting in and out of a crate from a young age can make the experience much smoother. 

Choosing a Crate

Crates come in all sizes and materials, from wood to hard plastic and metal. You also have the choice of collapsible and foldable crates. For that reason, choosing the right dog crate for crate training can feel overwhelming. 

Before you pick a crate, the following are factors to consider:

  • Crate size - Consider a crate your dog can use into adulthood. 
  • Intended use - Are you looking for a crate for potty training, transporting your pup, or crate training at home? 
  • Dog's temperament - the underlying nature of your pup will help determine what type of crate you use. Is your dog naturally willing to be trained? Are they a super chewer, in which case you may need a sturdier crate? 
  • Budget - How much are you willing to spend? 
  • Home décor - Do you want a dog crate that matches the general décor of your home?

In the grand scheme of things, the most important thing to consider is the size of the crate. Your dog crate should be large enough for your pup to stand, lie down, and turn comfortably when inside. 

You might be tempted to purchase an oversized crate to give your dog more room, but this can have some drawbacks. If the crate is too big, your pup may use the non-sleeping side as a toilet. Purchasing a crate divider and adjusting it as your dog grows will prevent you from having to purchase multiple crate sizes. 

Features That Make a Good Crate

What are the features of a good dog training crate?

  • Strong and Durable: Dogs usually get restless when they spend too much time in their crates. If that happens, they might claw and bite on the bars. Opt for a strong, durable, and rust-resistant crate. 
  • Multiple Doors: A crate with multiple doors is ideal, especially if you have a large dog. Multiple doors on different sides of the crate also make placing it more flexible when traveling or moving homes. 
  • Easy to Clean: Whether you're at home or traveling, accidents happen, and the crate can get dirty quickly. Plastic and metal crates are easier to clean than fabric ones. Some crates also come with a bottom pan, which you can remove for easier cleaning. 
  • Safe: The crate will serve as your dog's comfortable space; therefore, you must ensure your pet is always safe. So, consider dog crates with rounded corners and edges and snag-free doors. This helps prevent injuries to your pup and yourself when moving the crate. 
  • Easy to Transport: If you’re taking a flight, make sure your dog crate is travel-friendly. Crates that fold or collapse are easier to transport. Also, a crate with wheels will make it easy to roll around if you have a big dog. 

If you’re looking for a sturdy, durable, easy-to-clean, and beautiful crate with a comfy bed that fits perfectly inside, the Rest Set from Fable is a Jinx favorite!  

The Crate Training Process

Crate training a puppy can take a few weeks to several months. The best way to crate train a puppy is to help your pup associate the crate with comfort, safety, and security. 

Crates should not be used to tame unwanted behavior or punish a dog. When you begin puppy or dog crate training, take it slow and follow these steps:

Step 1: Introduce Your Pup to Their Crate

Place the crate in a quiet place or where your family spends the most time, like the living room. Some dogs are curious and will go into the crate immediately, while others need a little more convincing. 

Small training treats can be a powerful tool in creating a positive connection with the crate. At this stage, treats are ideal for luring and encouraging your puppy strategically closer to the crate. Our low-calorie beef training treats are made from real ingredients, so they are full of flavor to keep your pup motivated and healthy. 

To start crate training a puppy or dog, bring your dog to the crate and allow them to sniff and venture inside. Drop small treats near the crate, then inside the door. If your dog doesn't go inside, don't force them.

Continue tossing treats until your pup walks into the crate. During these early stages, you also need to let your dog know that they can come out of the crate anytime, which will help create that positive feeling you want them to associate with it. 

You can start using a verbal cue pretty early on in the process with words like “bed” or “crate” while rewarding good behavior. 

Step 2: Serve Your Dog Meals in Their Crate

Once your dog can comfortably enter the crate, start bringing their meals to the crate area. Place a food bowl near the crate at first. If they go inside readily, move the bowl inside. An interactive puzzle toy stuffed with puppy kibble will also help encourage your pup into the crate while nurturing a positive connection with the crate. 

Place the bowl as far as they are willing to go and move it further inside each time they feed until they are comfortable enough to go all the way in, then close the door. With each feed, increase the time you leave the door closed until they're comfortable being left inside for a while longer. 

Step 3: Gradually Practice Longer Crating Periods

Once your puppy is finally going into the crate readily and feeding, start to increase the time you leave them inside. The best way to do that is to call them to the crate, give them their favorite treat, and encourage them to go in. 

When your dog goes inside, give them a treat and close the door. Then, sit near the crate for about five minutes, then go to another room. Stay there for a few minutes, then open the door to let them out. Repeat this process as often as possible until they can sit in the crate for about 30 minutes without whining. 

Step 4: Crate Your Pup When You Leave

When your pup gets comfortable staying in the crate, try leaving them inside when running short errands. Give your dog treats before going into the crate and leave silently. When you come back, keep your arrival low-key, even when they're excited to see you.

Think of treats as your secret weapon. Small and delicious rewards are key to developing a positive connection with the crate. We know that weight management is important, so you don’t have to worry about overdoing it with our training treats. Our chicken treats are low-calorie but packed with flavor to keep your pup engaged in training while supporting a healthy weight.  

Step 5: Crate Your Dog At Night

You can start crate training your dog at night using the same reward and command you use during the day. Puppies will need to relieve themselves a lot, so it’s a good idea to keep the crate near or in your bedroom in the beginning. 

In the case of a more senior dog, make sure the crate is nearby, or they may feel isolated. If your dog can sleep comfortably in the crate all night, gradually move them away from your bedroom if desired. Over time, your dog should be able to go inside the crate willingly for bedtime. 

Extra Tips for Successful Crate Training

So, you know how to crate train a puppy; what else can you do to support the process? Here are our top tips to set yourself up for success: 

  • Placing the crate in your bedroom or nearby hallway will help your pup feel more comfortable. 
  • During the day, keep the crate in the room where your family spends the most time. 
  • Don't rush the process; crate training takes time. 
  • Crate training should involve positive reinforcements, like training treats, cuddles, and lots of praise. 
  • Never use the crate as a punishment when your pup has misbehaved. 
  • Consider placing a soft blanket or dog bed inside the crate to make it comfortable for them. 
  • Place a breathable sheet over the crate when your dog sleeps. 
  • Play calming music or noise to create a relaxing environment. 
  • Be consistent and celebrate the small wins. 

How Do I Manage Whining?

Crate training is a journey, and the beginning can sound like a symphony of whining. Puppies whine for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, it's because they need to go to the bathroom, maybe they’re anxious, and other times, they want to be let out, and they've learned the easiest way to accomplish that is by whining. 

Resist the urge to surrender and take a deep breath. If the whining is to test if you'll let them out, they will stop after some time. If they don't stop, check to see if they need a bathroom break. 

If you're convinced your pup doesn’t need a bathroom break and doesn't stop after several minutes, consider revisiting the previous steps on how to crate train a dog. Be patient and keep trying to make the crate a happy place for your pup using treats, toys, and comfy bedding. 

Learning how to crate train your puppy has its ups and downs. Crate training can offer several benefits for you and your pup. The most important thing to remember is to be calm and patient during the process. Stay positive and stock up on training treats!


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