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I wanted to share with you some of my recommendations for crate training a puppy. Many people have an aversion to using a crate with their dog because they think it's cruel to put him in a "cage." The first thing you have to wrap your head around is that dogs are den animals, and a crate for a dog is analogous to a bedroom for a human. Try searching Google images of "wolf den" and you will see that they often hang out in little dirt holes. It is safe, it is comforting, and it is their home. Instead of thinking of the crate as a cage for an animal, you can see that it is the perfect place for your dog to hang out when he needs a nap or a safe place to chill.
So my first tip is to get a plastic crate, or one with solid walls. I never put my dogs in wire crates, because they're not very den-like. In addition, to make the crate even cozier, I sometimes put a sheet or blanket over the top to partially cover some of the sidewall openings. Make sure if it is hot in your home that you do not fully cover the crate, as this could make it a bit stuffy and too warm for your dog. If you don't have central air conditioning, you may need to place a fan in front of the crate on warm days. The crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up in and turn around in. For bedding you can simply use a wool or cotton blanket, something easy to wash and dry.
Now you've got your crate and bedding, but where to place the crate? I've read some articles that say you should place the crate in a busy part of your home, so your puppy doesn't get lonely or associate the crate with being alone. I think it's better to place the crate in a quiet part of the home where your puppy will not be stimulated with the goings-on of the house. With a very small puppy who will need a lot of potty breaks, I usually put the crate in my bedroom so at night I can hear when he needs to go out and we avoid having accidents in the crate. During the day, he's also in the bedroom, which is generally a quiet and peaceful place. If you can put your dog in a room where it's easy to let him outside, then that's great too. For example, put the crate in front of a sliding door, so when you open the puppy's crate he's released directly to the outdoors. This is an ideal set up for potty training.
Now it's time to actually use the crate! When you have a very young puppy, gently place your puppy inside his crate after he has eaten, gone to the bathroom, and had some playtime. He is ready for a nap! He may whimper or cry for a few minutes, but if he is truly tuckered out, he should settle himself shortly. If you have a very young dog, make sure you are able to let him out as soon as he wakes up since he will have to potty and we don't want him to eliminate inside the crate. Puppies grow very quickly and you will soon be able to increase the amount of time he is able to spend in his crate while also being able to hold his urine.
Another great way to acclimate your puppy to his crate is to have a second crate in the car, and when he is ready for a nap, take him for a ride in the car inside his crate. He may complain at first, but after a few minutes will probably settle down for a snooze. Much like taking an infant for a car ride to soothe them to sleep, the movement and vibration of the car will make your young puppy very sleepy. Now he associates the crate with the soothing movement of the car, and he associates the car with being calm and relaxed inside his den! (But please, if the weather is warm, DO NOT leave your dog in the car.)
It's important that you feel good about placing your puppy in his crate, knowing that it is the safest place for him to be when you can't keep an eye on him or when you have to leave him at home. He will soon learn to love his crate and use it for safety and comfort. As your dog gets older, don't forget to leave the door to his crate open so he can go to his "room" whenever he wants a nap.
Here's a quick summary of these tips:
1. Get your dog or puppy a plastic crate or one with solid walls.
2. Place a soft blanket inside for bedding.
3. Put the crate in a place that is ideally quiet, but also convenient to the outdoors.
4. Place your young puppy in his crate when he's very tired and ready to sleep.
5. Have a second crate in the car to train him to the crate and also to the car. It is much safer for your dog to ride in a crate rather than loose in the car.
I personally recommend using a Gunner Kennels because they are Houdini-proof! These work great both for teething puppies and also for dogs with separation anxiety. They are expensive but crash-tested and the safest kennel on the market for your dogs.
If you're not ready to invest in a Gunner Kennel, try something like this:
(If you purchase through these links I will earn a small commission.)