Gone are the days when people and their dogs stay together all the time working side by side. People now need to leave their pups alone at home when they go to work, to school or run errands. As a result, many dog owners have turned to crate training to keep their pups and their belongings safe. However, just because crate training is common place, it doesn’t mean that it is easy to teach your pup to like being in their crate. To help you with this we have created a list of 10 mistakes people make as they learn how to crate train a puppy.
How to Crate Train a Puppy – The 10 Mistakes You Want to Avoid
1. Lack of Patience
It takes a lot of patience to properly crate train a puppy. However, if done right you will be rewarded with a dog that willingly goes in and out of their crate whenever they need a quiet place to rest. You will even be able to teach your pup to enter their crate on your command. A lack of patience can result in a puppy that is afraid of their crate. A puppy that is afraid of their crate will take much longer crate train and may never become comfortable in their crate.
What does being patient with crate training mean?
We will go into more detail on some of these items later in this post but for now it includes:
- Not forcing your puppy to go into their crate before they are comfortable with it.
- Taking the time to make the crate a happy place for your pup to be.
- Not yelling at them or banging on the cage when they cry or whine in the crate.
- Not giving into their crying and whining by letting them out of the crate.
2. Forcing Them into Their Crate
Never force your puppy into their crate. In order for your puppy to be comfortable with their crate they need to feel safe and in control. Think about it. How you would feel if you were in a new home and someone pushed you into a small closet and closed the door. Would you feel comfortable in that situation? Probably not and neither does your puppy. Once you force your puppy into the crate they will view it as a bad place to be and will not want to go near it, let alone in it. This is where a lot of patience is needed on your part. You want to take the process of introducing the crate to your pup very slowly.
How to Introduce the Crate
Make An Inviting Place
Start the process by making the crate an inviting place to be. This can be done by adding a few soft blankets and toys. If possible try to include a blanket or toy that has the scent of where your puppy came from. This scent will help make the crate feel like a familiar place to your pup.
Midwest Homes for Pets offers machine washable beds that fit in their crates. Here is their Plush Bolster bed that features ultra soft synthetic fur & comfortable padded polyester bolster cushion around the perimeter for dogs to lay their head on. Just make sure the bed will fit in your washing machine in case of an accident.
Time to Discover
Once the crate is ready, give your pup some time to explore the crate on their own. Make sure to leave the gate propped open. This will ensure your puppy can go in without the gate closing. With some luck your pup wil take to the crate right away. If not, you will need to start the process of luring your pup into the crate. You can do this by using either toys or treats. For recommendations on how to do this please read Crate Training Made Easy – 5 Simple Steps.
3. Not Being Consistent
Consistency is the key to all puppy training. Your puppy learns through repetition. Puppies do not learn the meaning of words they simply learn cause and effect. If you make a certain sound and the same thing happens each time, they learn to associate the two actions.
Let me give you an example. In our home we use the ‘Go to Bed’ command, to direct our pup into her crate. It can be any word as long as you are consistent with it. As a puppy we taught her this command by saying it and then throwing a treat into the back of her crate. She would always go into the crate to get the treat. After some time she learned that if we gave her the command and she went into the crate she would be rewarded with a treat. As an adult dog she will now go into her crate on command because she understands that is what we want her to do, even if there is no reward.
If we used different commands every time we wanted her to go in her crate, the only time she would listen is if we threw in the treat first, because that would be the only consistent part of the request.
Having a daily routine is also an important part of consistent training. If you walk your dog every morning and then put them in their crate for a nap, your pup will soon learn that they are expected to nap in their crate after their morning walk. However, if some days after your walk you play in the yard and other days you expect them to nap in their crate they will surely protest that they want to play with you instead of napping.
4. Respond to Crying
If your puppy is in their crate and they want out, it is common for them to whine or bark. It is important that your do not respond to their protests. This includes taking them out of the crate, scolding them, banging on the crate or talking to them. Do your best not to give them any type of attention until they are quiet.
If you give into their demands or give them positive attention they will learn that making a fuss gets them what they want. If you react in a negative way like yelling, they will associate the crate with something bad. Remember you want your puppy to like being in their crate. To encourage the proper behavior you need to wait until they have stopped making a fuss. You can only let them out of the crate when they are quiet.
5. Too Much Crate Time
Puppies are very social animals. It is important to their mental and physical development that they are able to be active while also being close to us. This means that they should be out of their crates for as much time as possible.
How much is too much depends on the puppy and their age. The general guidelines stated by the Humane Society of the US is “a puppy can control their bladder one hour for every month of age”. This means that a two month old puppy needs to go out at a minimum of every two hours. However this does not mean your puppy can stay in crate all day as long as you let them out every two hours. Your puppy will potty train much faster if they are only in their crates for short periods of time.
Of course if you can’t keep an eye on your puppy you need to keep them in a safe place where they cannot hurt themselves. Instead of keeping them in a crate, use safety gates to enclose them in the same area you are in. When we brought home Bella I moved my work area to the kitchen and blocked the doorways with gates. This allowed me to keep watch over her but she still had room to move around and play. Plus she wasn’t alone.
If you live in a home with an open concept gates may not work well. In this case I would recommend an Exercise Pen. An exercise pen will give your pup more space to play but still provide a safe environment. Midwest Homes for Pets offers a Foldable Metal Exercise Pen that can be used independently or connected to their popular Midwest crate. This combination creates a safe place for your puppy to play and sleep when you can’t watch them. Just remember to place the exercise pen near where you spend most of your time.
Puppies need time outside of their crate to play and explore their surrounding. Therefore you need to puppy proof your home. In Puppy Proofing Your Home – 10 Silent Dangers we go over many of the common household hazards you need to watch out for.
6. Use the Crate as Punishment
As I mentioned above you want your puppy to feel that the crate is a safe place to be. If you force them into the crate when they are bad they will associate the crate with negative attention.
Instead setup a space in your home that is only used for time outs. Preferable somewhere near where you are. In our case we set up a space in the corner of the room we were in using safety gates. Bella was only placed in there a few times, but she learned that if she became too out of control play time would end and she would be separated from the family. An Exercise Pen not attached to the crate will also work for time outs.
7. Not Enough Exercise
Just like children your puppy is full of energy that needs to be burned off before they can settle down for a nap or focus on training. If you place your puppy in their crate before they are ready for quiet time you will have a very uncooperative, unhappy dog. It is best if you spend some time being active with your puppy before trying to convince them they should spend time in their crate. Being active could take the form of a walk or a game of chase. All puppies love to chase balls or their favorite toy. Playing chase also allows you to see when they are become tired enough to take a nap. As your puppy starts to get tired their pace will slow down. Some puppies might even decide to take a break by lying down in the middle of the game. This is a great time to lure them into the crate with either a treat or a favorite toy for a short nap. Just make sure to take them outside for a bathroom break before placing them in the crate.
8. Crate in another room
Dogs are very social animals. They need to be with their family at all times. This includes even when they are in their crate. Your puppy will have an easier time being in their crate if the crate is close to where the family is. This may mean that you need to have two crates or that you move the crate around with you. We kept our crate in our bedroom so she was close to us at night and blocked off space in the kitchen for her to be near us during the daytime.
9. Crate is Not an Inviting Place
When setting up your puppy’s crate you want to make sure it is a warm and inviting place for them to hang out. To do this, place towels or a machine washable bed in the crate to give them a soft place to lie down. When our dog was a puppy we used old towels in her crate. The towels worked great because they could be easily washed if soiled and she could move them around as she wanted. A third benefit was that if she decided to chew on them they were cheaper to replace than a dog bed.
If you don’t have old plush towels a washable blanket works just as well.
As long as you are able to keep a watch on your puppy you can also give them a toy or something to chew. We always gave our pup her favorite toy to sleep with.
10. Not Taking Off Their Collar
So this last one really isn’t a crate training mistake, but it is a mistake people make when using a crate. You should never leave your puppy or dog alone with their collar on in a crate. The reason for this is that if the collar becomes caught on the grating it can be a strangulation hazard. Many people would advise that you never leave a dog alone with their collar on regardless of where they are for this same reason. We once had a scare with our springer spaniel puppy when we came home to find that she managed to slip her collar into her month causing her jaw to be pulled open. She was clearly in pain and we have no idea how long she was like that.
How to Crate Train a Puppy
To discover more tips and tricks on how to crate train a puppy please read our post How to Crate Train a Puppy – 5 Simple Steps