Crate Training, Back to Basics
I am so embarrassed.
I have been a dog trainer for over 20 years and I recently got a phone call from my neice.
She has acquired a long haired Chihuahua and she was in need of some potty training advice.
Potty training is one of those subjects that I have written most, well not most, but MANY articles on so if you need help I will add some links but here is one now if you need it click here.
But along with regular potty training advice, I recommended crate training.
I think I almost had a stroke when she asked what crate training was, and how to do it…
I guess I just take certain things for granted and assume they are common knowledge.
Leave it to family to take the wind out of your sails, knock you down a couple of rungs and teach you a little humility.
So, I figured if my niece didn’t know anything about crate training, there are probably other’s out there with some of the same questions!
Why Use a Crate?
Crates keep dogs and your things safe!
- Crated dogs can’t chew electric cords, get into your medication, chew batteries or anything else that might kill them.
- Crates also keep your expensive and sentimental things safe.
- When your dog is crated he can’t chew your lap top, or your Channel purse.
Crates also help with potty training.
- Provided that the crate you got for him is not too big crates making going potty uncomfortable.
- If you pee or poop in your crate; you are going to have to lay in it until someone comes along and lets you out.
- And, let’s face it as long as you keep your dog clean, chances are he is going to desire to be clean.
- Almost no dog wants to sit in his own urine or excrement.
- And, once he has an accident in his crate he realizes this; and it gives him motivation and teaches him to hold his bladder etc.
- Please note that he has to be old enough to hold his bladder etc. It is unfair to crate young puppies for long durations because they are incapable of being potty trained when they are little infants.
- And, if you crate young puppies until they poop or pee on themselves… it simply desensitizes them to being clean. They learn that being dirty and stinky is just part of life!
- Be sure to get puppies out often! And, it is recommended that puppies only be crated however many months of age they are plus one.
- So if you have an 8 week old puppy (2 months old) he should only be crated a maximum of 3 hours.
What to Purchase
When you are thinking about crate training and purchasing a crate I recommend getting a crate that will be big enough for your adult dog.
Unless you have oodles of money laying around, I would not necessarily get a crate the size of your puppy and then continue to get bigger crates as he ages.
And, don’t think you aren’t going to need a crate when your dog is full grown, because crate training has its benefits throughout the lifetime of your dog!
Instead I would recommend getting a crate big enough for your adult dog and partitioning it off to be smaller depending on the size of your puppy.
If the crate is TOOOO big, chances are your puppy can have an accident at one end of the crate and lay at the other end, which mostly defeats the purpose of crate training.
Unless you have a small dog or young puppy and you need to be gone for many hours at a time. In which case, your dog or puppy will need somewhere to go potty and then be able to lay down somewhere else.
I don’t always like using a big room, like the bathroom or a laundry room because it teaches the dog to go potty in the house.
There are times I would rather use a very large crate, which when your dog gains bladder control will help with the potty training process and is not developing the habit of going potty in the house.
So if I had an 8 week old Chihuahua puppy and I was going to be gone for 3 hours or more at a time and I couldn’t get someone to come and let him out, and I couldn’t take him to daycare somewhere… I would get a large or XL crate so that he could potty at one end (on a puppy pad) and lay at the other.
I would prefer this to having my puppy think it is okay to potty in the bathroom, or laundry room which is likely to carry over to when I am home.
It is unlikely that he would run to his crate to potty when you are home.
Wire or Plastic is up to you… however most of the time I like plastic crates because they feel more like a den and most dogs seem to like them better because they are less visually stimulating. However each dog is different!
Acclimation to His Crate
You want to get your puppy use to his crate before you leave him for 3 hours or more.
The best way to do that is to provide him with a hefty amount of exercise prior to crating him so he will be too tired to care that he is in a crate.
If he has just woke up from a nap and you slide him into a crate he is much more likely to have a terrible fit and a bad experience; which will make crating him next time more traumatic.
When he is exhausted, he might have a small puppy fit; but then he is probably going to take a nap which will help make his experience more pleasurable.
I also usually start crate training, the first night they come home, (after I exercise them) and I put that crate next to the side of my bed. This way I can hear the puppy if he stirs at night and he can also hear me breathing.
Remember that if he is a puppy, he has probably come from an environment where he is used to hearing his littermates at night and going into a totally sterile environment with no noise at all is going to be a bit terrifying for him!
I have found that putting him next to the bed, helps us both sleep and helps with potty training!
During the day I play crate games with my puppies or new dogs. I believe all dog training should revolve around games.
I toss treats inside, I throw their toys in and encourage them to run inside and get whatever I have tossed in.
I also never put them into their crates without giving them a substantial treat.
If you get a piece of chicken every time you get into your crate, you are much more likely to enjoy running and putting yourself into your crate and this keeps owners from having to grab and shove dogs in crates; or try and catch them to crate them.
I want my dogs to enjoy their crates!
So I play games and the longer you (the dog) choose to stay in your crate the better and more treats you get.
If you sit at the back of your crate, with the door open… I will dispense treats to you through the bars to reward calm behavior. This is also crucial when I open the door for helping teach my dogs not to charge straight out!
Whenever I leave my dog, or puppy for the first time I want to make it as pleasurable as possible.
So I stuff a large Kong (never leave anything that your dog could choke on in his crate) with peanut butter or liverwurst, freeze it and only give it to my dog/puppy when I leave him in his crate for a substantial period of time.
I also make sure to leave some kind of music, TV, or other noise on while I am gone so my pup doesn’t panic.
Very few of us live in an environment of “quiet” most of the time.
We have the TV or our music, or chatter amongst ourselves going on for our dogs to hear.
So it is no surprise that it causes some panic when we leave and our dogs/puppies have no back ground noise that they are use to.
Instead they hear the neighbors, or the sounds outside, the mailman and other noises that may scare them and cause them to bark.
To avoid this, I leave the TV or my IPOD playing quite loudly so that my dog can relax without hearing outside stimulation.
Remember crate training is like any other kind of dog training, you must teach them through good experiences!
Practice makes perfect! So I crate train my dogs even when I am home.
I don’t want them to associate my leaving with crate training or spending time in their crate, or this can create fears or bad feelings with my leaving.
Instead, I crate my dogs before I train with them (so that crating is associated with something positive) and I also crate them periodically during the day.
This way I can hear what they are doing, and I can reward good quiet behavior and just get them used to it on a consistent basis.
It keeps your dog safe, your things safe and it gives your dog (who is a den animal) a safe place when you travel or no matter where you go!
And, if you do it right, you will find your dog crating himself throughout the day and night!
For more on Potty Training click these articles
For indoor potty training, The Grass is Always Greener INSIDE the House
What Other Questions about Dog Training or Health do You want Answered?
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.