Crate Training 101 (Puppy Post Pt. 3)
**If your dog is an escape artist, broken out of crates, or has severe crate anxiety please reach out to a balanced trainer who can give you the tools to help! These tips are geared toward puppies, dogs who haven’t been crate trained and don’t have crate issues, or dogs who are being reintroduced to the crate.**
Whenever we’ve gotten a new puppy or have seen others get their pup, we always hear comments such as “good luck sleeping!”, “the first night is always the hardest!” Anyone who has raised a puppy knows this to be true, the barking, whining, and sometimes screaming. Generally with very young puppies, their first night in the crate is hard and we just ignore them, we don’t talk to them to comfort them or take them out so they’re stop - we don’t want him to think screaming will equal freedom. It also helps to keep your crate in a separate room. Ticking clocks, and warm water bottles help comfort your puppy and Amazon even sells a toy specifically for this. It’s very hard, we know, but keeping the crate in another room will help your puppy learn to self soothe.
If your puppy has a hard time settling in their crate, time it after they’ve been the most active. Do a training session working for their kibble, playing with a toy, doing puzzle games, and when you see your puppy wanting to doze off try and keep them awake until it’s time for bed. Lure them into their crate and if they go in easily give the command you choose “kennel”, “crate” etc. and over time get rid of the lure and only reward when they’ve gone in on their own (this is a great training exercise to do throughout the day too!).
Feed your puppy and give chews in their crate, make all the best things happen in there. Have him hang out in there even during the day when you’re home so he learns he will be ok if he isn’t glued to your side. This is major to prevent separation anxiety. What I’m about to say next has been the most difficult thing for owners to work through: ignore your puppy 20-30 mins before you leave and after you’ve come home (I know, I know, I’m a monster). But think about it this way, if you make a big deal out of leaving (Ok baby I’ll be back, I’ll miss you!) or returning home (hi sweetie! Did you miss me?) your puppy is going to have a really hard time calming themselves down or dealing with the fact that you left. This is how you get a twirling Taz of a dog in the crate and a dog that is much more lightly to try and break out. Instead, make it a non issue and not a farewell or welcome home party. When you DO go to let your puppy out, if they are going nuts (and they don’t have to potty), walk away and re-approach. Don’t let them out until they’re calm, if they try to rush out, close the door back on them and have them wait politely.
When you have your puppy in for bed or just hanging in there during the day any nonsense like barking, whining, or scratching at the crate should be addressed (if your puppy doesn’t have to potty) you can tap the top of the crate firmly with your hand saying “quiet”. If this isn’t addressed, it could lead to a puppy hurting himself biting at the crate or barking for hours.
Same rule applies for older dogs, the first sign of whining should be addressed immediately to avoid escalation. To introduce your older dog to the crate it’s best if your dog is familiar with the concept of pressure-release. Use the leash to apply steady directional pressure toward the open crate door using food as a lure or if your dog is very food motivated you can toss it in and let him go after it. Rinse and repeat until your dog goes in with minimal pressure or luring. When your dog is inside, close the door and open it again. If your dog goes to bolt or run out, close it swiftly back on them, this is another example of thresholds, they need to be polite going in and out. Rinse and repeat.
Then, close the crate door and go about your chores at home. We don’t think it’s very fair to expect owners to raise the duration of crate time minute by minute or second by second, 10mins, 12mins, 15mins, 2 seconds, 5 seconds over the course of a week or month or more. We just expect the dog to be polite and we address any whining or nonsense right off the bat and we’ve found over and over that the dog will relax.
Remember guys - patience, and consistency. Puppyhood doesn’t last as long as you think so enjoy it while you can;)