Getting a new puppy is an exciting time. Your little bundle of fur is going to become a lifelong friend, who will love you unconditionally for years to come. However, it is important to recognize that puppies, just like young children, are also a lot of work! Full of boundless energy, if you don't have a plan for their arrival at your home, your new puppy will be quite a handful.
If left to his own devices, your puppy will get himslef into trouble, fast – one moment he'll be chewing your favorite shoes, the next there'll be a mess on the carpet. No matter how adorable they are, your pup will need a lot of training before he understands the rules of his new home – and one of the best ways to do this is by using a crate.
Crate training your puppy is an effective way to keep your puppy safe in the home, get him used to a daily routine, and teach him where they are allowed to go to the bathroom. Like any training method, crate training will require time and effort, but with the right techniques and dedication, you can teach your pup to love his crate!
Choose The Right Crate
The best type of crate to use when training your puppy is a wire crate. This will enable your pup to see what is going on around him, which helps him to feel more comfortable inside. We also recommend opting for a crate that has an adjustable interior panel, so you can easily increase the space available to your puppy as he grows.
Concerning the size of crate, your puppy only needs enough space to lie down, stand up and turn around comfortably without spilling his water bowl. You should avoid giving your puppy access to so much space that he can go to the toilet without being affected by it. This is why getting a large enough crate with a separator panel is so importnat.
Just like humans, most puppies dislike being dirty. If they do not have somewhere separate to go to the toilet, they will try to hold it until they can eliminate elsewhere – which is exactly what you want to teach them!
You should make the crate as comfortable as possible before bringing your puppy home. You want your puppy to view his crate as a pleasant and safe place to spend time, which is unlikely to be the case if he feels uncomfortable when inside. We recommend folding some soft, easily washable blankets or towels and placing them in the bottom of the crate for your pup to lie on.
You should also add some chew toys to help keep your little furball occupied. ‘Kong' chew toys are a particularly good choice, especially the puzzle-shaped ones that can be stuffed with a bit of food or some healthy treats. Alternatively, antlers are great for young puppies, but they do have the potential to crack adult teeth – so be sure to remove these from the crate as your pup gets older.
Lastly, always make sure that your puppy has access to water in the crate during the day.
Once you bring your new pup home, it's time to introduce him to the crate and get him used to being inside it.
Place the crate in a busy room where you and your family spend the most time. This way, you can keep an eye on your puppy and he can also see what you're up to. Bring him over to the crate and put him down on the floor next to it. Tie the crate door open at first, so there's no chance of it swinging and accidentally hitting your puppy. We want their first experience to be a good one!
Most puppies will be naturally curious and will enter the crate on their own, especially if there are treats and toys inside. But if they're a little unsure, you just need to give them some encouragement. Never force your pup to go inside the crate. Instead, talk to them in a reassuring tone of voice and let them investigate in their own time. Placing a little trail of treats into the crate is a great place to start.
Once your pup is happy walking in and out of the crate, you can close the door for a little while. Stay close by and talk to them calmly. Keep the door closed for a couple of minutes and then open it up and give them lots of praise. You should repeat this many times throughout the day, gradually extending the time that the door is closed so that your puppy becomes accustomed to spending time inside.
Food = Happy Place
When it comes to mealtimes, it's important that you feed your puppy all of his meals inside his crate. This will help your puppy to develop a positive association with the crate – in other words, it becomes his ‘happy place'!
However, one of the most common mistakes people make when crate training is leaving food in the crate at all times – this is known as ‘free-feeding'. Allowing your pup to have access to food whenever he likes is not recommended. It will disrupt your puppy's routine and make it very difficult for you to potty train him.
To effectively crate train your puppy, you must enforce a strict feeding schedule and stick to it as closely as possible. Young puppies that have just been weaned will need to be fed three meals a day for the first month. After this time has passed, you can reduce meal frequency to twice a day, and then perhaps once per day thereafter. The amount that you feed will ultimately depend on the breed and their activity level.
At mealtimes, place your puppy's food in the crate and allow him 15-30 minutes to eat. For an 8-10 week old puppy, 15 minutes should be long enough, gradually increasing to a 30 minute feeding time as he gets older. If he has left some food in his bowl after this time has passed, you should remove it.
Lastly, don't feed and then leave your puppy in the crate! Once you have removed their food bowl, take your pup outside to let him go to the bathroom and have some playtime.
Importance of Bedtime Routine
To avoid toilet troubles, you should remove food and water from the crate at around 6 pm. This will give your pup plenty of time to empty his bladder and bowels outside before settling down for the night. If your puppy is younger than four months, he will most likely need to go for a bathroom break at least one time during the night and he will let you know when it's time.
We recommend keeping the crate next to your bed overnight. Your puppy will be able to see where you are and is less likely to feel alone and get stressed as a result. If he is crying and whining, try placing a blanket over the crate. Your pup will still be able to smell you, but covering the crate often has a calming effect, which may help to settle him down within a few minutes.
However, if the blanket doesn't work, and your little furball is still whining, your last resort is to move the crate to another room in the house to allow you to get some sleep. Whatever you do, don't take him out of the crate – this will simply teach your puppy that he'll get what he wants if he cries for long enough! They learn quickly.
Using a crate is the best way to potty train your pup and teach them house rules, but it is crucial to recognize that you cannot just leave your puppy in the crate for hours on end. Puppies have LOTS of energy and will need to be let out of the crate and taken outside frequently to exercise, play, and go to the bathroom.
During the day, your pup should never be left in his crate for longer than an hour or two without being taken outside. Even if you work full time, it is unacceptable to leave a puppy in his crate for 8 hours while you're at work.
Aside from becoming stressed, your puppy cannot hold his bladder and bowels for this long, so he will mess in the crate and be hyperactive when you get home. If possible, you should come home for an hour at lunchtime to feed him, take him to the toilet, and play with him to burn off some of his energy.
If you simply cannot get away from work, get a friend, family member, or dog walker to come over and see to your puppy, ideally 2-3 times during the day. If this isn't possible, find a doggy daycare center in your local area. No matter what, do not leave your puppy shut in the crate for long periods.
Furthermore, unless it is extremely difficult to take your puppy outside to go to the bathroom, we do not recommend using puppy pads. The use of puppy pads often leads to soiling issues later on, as your pup will have become accustomed to toileting in the house. Always take your pup outside to go to the bathroom if you can. It will save you lots of hassle in the long run!
Lastly, Be Patient!
Crate training your pup won't be an overnight success. Just like a baby, when you bring a new puppy home, your life will undoubtedly change. You should expect to experience some broken sleep and bathroom accidents until your pup learns the rules and routines of your household, but you mustn't give up!
With a lot of love and patience, our crate training advice will help you teach your pup to not only love his crate, but also how he's expected to behave in his new home.
Kelly Rowett is an animal lover and experienced full-time writer who’s passionate about creating high-quality content. When she’s not typing away at her laptop, you’ll find her hiking the coast path or playing endless seaside fetch with a pair of energetic Spaniels.