A crate is a terrific investment for a number of reasons. A crate can help you with:
House-training: Teaches your puppy to keep the home clean.
Chew training: Stops your puppy from chewing anything except legitimate chew toys.
Settling: Encourages your puppy to settle down when they’re alone.
Kenneling: Your puppy may need to stay in a crate during travel or a hospital visit.
Get a crate large enough for your puppy to stand up, lie down, and turn around in—but no larger. Otherwise, they might be tempted to use one end as a bathroom and the other as a bed.
Before you start using the crate, give your puppy a chance to get used to it. Don’t just throw them in there and hope they adjust; that would be traumatic. The crate needs to be a comfy, safe place your puppy loves to spend time in. Here’s how to get them used to it:
Phase 1: The first day
- Throw tiny, yummy treats into the crate. When your puppy goes in to get them, praise them.
- When your puppy is happily venturing into the crate, begin practicing closing the door for a few seconds while treating them through the opening. Then let them right back out. Repeat the exercise many times, building up to 10 seconds.
Phase 2: The next few days
- Repeat exercise two from above. Then stuff a puppy KONG® with extra-special goodies. Put the KONG in the crate and close the door behind your puppy as they go to eat it. Go about your business in the house, then let your puppy back out after five minutes. Do this without any fanfare whatsoever.
- Repeat the exercise several times in the next couple of days using a yummy chew bone. Vary the absences from one to 20 minutes. Ignore your puppy if they whine or bark; always wait to let them out until they have been quiet for at least a few seconds.
Phase 3: leaving the house
- Leave your puppy in the crate with something gourmet in their KONG®, and then leave the house for brief errands such as collecting your mail or watering the garden.
- Over the next few sessions, gradually extend the duration of your absences. Go from one minute to five minutes to 10, 15, or 30 minutes, depending on your puppy’s age (see below). Don’t just build your absences upward, though; also throw in some shorter ones.
A time guide to crating puppies:
8–10 weeks up to one hour
11–12 weeks up to two hours
13–16 weeks up to three hours
Over four months up to four hours
- Never leave dogs at any age in the crate longer than three to four hours at a time, except for bedtime.