Crate Training Your Puppy: A Quick Guide

Updated on January 1, 2020
Michael-Duncan profile image

Michael is an avid content writer, blogger and researcher on topical themes related to pet care, having himself raised a number of pets.

Crate Training Your Puppy

It is important to train your puppy early because dogs find life much easier the sooner they can begin to associate expected outcomes with specific actions. In this way, they become more cooperative during the training process.

Training your puppy when it is young is a process that establishes you as the "leader" of his or her pack. In this article, we will cover some of the key points you need to bear in mind when it comes to crate training your puppy. This is important because crate training is a way for your puppy to feel safe and secure. They love to have their own personal haven where they can escape to.

When left by itself in unfamiliar places, a puppy can develop separation anxiety and this can lead to coping behaviour patterns in an attempt to achieve self-comfort, like digging, chewing or relieving itself. When inside the crate, the puppy tends to feel safe and sheltered from outside influences and danger. If you are absent, it will be content to quietly wait there for your return.

The problem is that if your puppy is not crate-trained, it will become hysterical and whine when you leave it in unaccustomed environments, for example, at the veterinary. Discomfort will set in due to the feelings of loneliness and abandonment. If you have crate-trained it properly, the puppy will instead rest assured even in the unfamiliar environment, because it is convinced that you will come back, no matter what.

Animals do not have the same concept of time that we do, therefore as long as the training has been provided properly, what the puppy knows is that there is a specific outcome that is guaranteed. This assurance enables the puppy to be unaffected by the fact that the present environment (like the vet's office) is strange or unfamiliar. Without the conditioning that comes through crate training, the puppy may oscillate from fear to terror when locked or kept confined elsewhere.

Bear in mind the propensity of dogs toward conditioning. They understand the language of action and consequences.

1. Obtain the Right Crate

This may sound obvious, but to begin with, having the wrong type of crate may prove to be expensive later on and it could also curb or set back the puppy training process. Not all crates can serve the purpose. So before you start training, ensure you have a strong crate, preferably a wire crate with a lock. This crate should be spacious enough for the puppy to stand, lie down and turn around.

It should however not be so spacious that it allows the puppy to roam freely. If the crate is too big, it will be counterproductive to house-breaking. Having too much space in the crate will encourage the puppy to use it as both a resting place and a toilet. When the crate is the correct size, it will be easier for the puppy to understand and identify this is its personal nest. As long as you do not convert it into a cell, the puppy will learn to control itself and not relieve itself there.

Whether you choose to purchase a ready-made crate from a pet store or design the crate yourself, it is preferable to have a wire crate that has partitions. In this way, you will be able to use one section when the puppy is small, and then expand the partition as the puppy grows. It will make your work easier as the owner, as you will be able to determine and allocate the space that the puppy needs at a given time. The crate should also have a tray that can be extracted from below and washed.

Also, ensure the crate is positioned in the house where there are no busy activities or movements. The ideal spot should be a place where the puppy can be able to rest and relax without disturbance.

2. Master the Basics

You could kick off the puppy training process by following the following steps:

  • Insert a comfortable pad in the crate and place a bone
  • Encourage and reward the puppy whenever it goes in
  • Put in a tasty treat for the puppy to attract the puppy
  • Once the puppy is busy with its treat, shut the door
  • Allow the puppy to move in and out freely for one hour without shutting the crate

It is good to constantly communicate with the puppy to make it accustomed to your voice and help it differentiate between the meaning of different expressions. For example, once the puppy has gone into the crate, congratulate it: "Good puppy! Well done, boy!". Again, after about 20 seconds, let the puppy out of the crate with a pat.

Over time, increase the intervals involved in the routine. During the first day, you can repeat this several times. Ensure however that during this exercise, the puppy does not become upset. End each exercise on a pleasant and encouraging note. Eventually, the puppy will become accustomed to viewing the crate as his own personal nest. It will learn to enter there on his own without coercion, expecting to receive your attention and some treats.

Begin to leave the room while he has been there for longer than 2 minutes. When you come back, move over and open the crate door. If this process continues, there is a good chance that the puppy will be crate-trained within three days and will start getting used to being left on his own. At the beginning, don't leave the puppy for longer than one hour. Start with this and then gradually increase the duration.

The breeding and initial rearing stage forms the foundation for the training of the dog and as well as its responsiveness to the conditioning process.

3. Leverage Conditioning

Ensure that the crate does not become something you use in order to punish the puppy when it does something wrong. Turning the crate into a prison amounts to misuse. Some parents instruct their children to go to their room or to sit facing the far corner when they do something wrong. We cannot apply the same treatment to the puppy and use the crate as a place of banishment.

Avoid leaving the puppy in the crate for a period of more than two hours in one stretch. It should be only for a nap, to relax or for taking some snacks. Further, always bear in mind the propensity of dogs toward conditioning. The language they really understand is not the human way of communication, but rather the language of action and consequences.

For instance, if you remove the puppy from the crate after it has started crying or whining, then it understands that it has to whine to be let out of the crate. Therefore, regardless of what happens, ensure that the puppy is in a favourable state when you reach in to open the door of the crate. In this way, the puppy will learn that it has to be well-behaved and does not need to create a fuss in order to be allowed out.

Also, avoid making a fuss yourself when opening the crate and leading out the puppy to go and relieve itself. Remember to congratulate the puppy when it uses the crate in the right way and also follows the proper potty training procedure. More details on how you can reward the puppy in order to reinforce the right conditioning are discussed below.

4. Encourage Proper Usage

Though this does not often occur, dogs can sometimes relieve themselves in the same spot where they repose. Do not punish the puppy when this happens. Instead, purposely refrain from being so amicable when you clean the crate. One of the goals of the conditioning process is to help the puppy understand the changes in your mood and recognize when it has done something wrong. Ensure that you remove the puppy away from the crate as soon as you realize that it has used it as a toilet.

If you have a puppy that often relieves itself inside the crate, it is likely because of the way the breeder confines their animals. This is an indication that they are most likely confined in an area where they are allowed to sleep and conduct their activities next to their own waste for extended periods of time.

Some breeders build kennels with slats or openings on the floor, through which the waste is supposed to pass through. Others simply have enclosures that allow the waste to be drained away from the kennel so that the puppies do not get accustomed to having their own urine near them. This is one reason why it is much easier to housebreak and crate train puppies which have been obtained from breeders with experience. This process can take as little as a few days.

The breeding and initial rearing stage forms the foundation for the training of the dog and as well as its responsiveness to the conditioning process. The more experience the breeder has and the more effective their breeding style, the less the difficulty and time spent in training the puppy. Still, even puppies with the habit of relieving themselves in undesirable places can be trained in the correct procedure.

One way to deal with this problem is to construct an extra enclosure, for example in your backyard. Ensure that the enclosure has what the puppy needs, including water, food and shade. Allow the puppy to spend much time in the enclosure. In this way, you will be conditioning the puppy to always relieve itself in the compound, rather than in the crate.

5. Consider Key Points

The reason why crate training is so effective is that it applies the principle of action and outcome. This is the conditioning that achieves results because it is behavioural instruction that a dog can relate to by natural instinct.

Once the meaning of the crate has been clarified and a clear distinction has been made between the crate and other areas, this distinction needs to be reinforced perpetually. The dog will cease perceiving it as a prison or a toilet but as its own den which needs to be cherished and taken good care of. This is also why a proper routine is so important during this training. A routine enables the puppy to grow in its understanding of the expectations that you have for it.

Remember that from a young age, a dog learns the difference between what is expected of it in terms of good behaviour and what it should shun or avoid based on your actions and reactions. In effect, you lay the foundation and provide the guidelines on what is good and proper behaviour and what is not.

Avoid expressing anger or frustration when it slips up and does something wrong. Communicate your appreciation for the puppy whenever it follows protocol and does something in the proper manner, with praise, treats or toys. Other rewarding ways of displaying affection would be to play with it or take it out for extended walks.

If you provide the puppy with such treatment for example, whenever it relieves itself in the compound instead of the crate, then it will instinctively associate them as direct outcomes of acceptable behaviour.

Do not allow the puppy to remain in the crate for too long because it will begin to adopt the wrong view and arrive at the wrong conclusions concerning the meaning of the crate. This has the potential of setting back the training process by several weeks or months. If your puppy is less than two months old, limit the time spent in the crate to the one-hour maximum. The puppy will not be able to hold it in for a long time and will eventually relieve itself in the crate.

Accustom the dog with the toilet area that you have made for it. During the day, ensure that you allow the puppy to go out of the crate frequently in order to relieve itself. If you take the dog out for some minutes and it does not relieve itself, return it immediately back to the crate.

When you are in the process of crate-training the puppy, monitor the process by keeping a record or a journal of the times when the puppy relieves itself in a day. If your feeding program follows a fixed schedule, the puppy should also be consistent in the times it eliminates. The knowledge of when the puppy is expected to relieve itself during the day will be very helpful for house training.

As stated before, avoid punishing the dog when it makes a mistake or causes an accident during the process of crate training. Refrain from any behavioural changes on your part that may confuse or upset the action-outcome conditioning and create a new set of expectations in the consciousness of the puppy. This will only lead to complicating the crate-training process.

Do not allow the dog to move around in the house without supervision until the time when you know that you can trust the puppy to control its bladder and bowels. Dogs are not perfect creatures, so even after the puppy has been refined in this training, it is possible that it will still make mistakes. Whenever a slip-up occurs, don't give in to discouragement and abandon the routine. Simply take the puppy back to the crate training process. Exercise patience and perseverance.

Don't be in a rush to get through the training but instead gradually allow the lessons to solidify in the puppy's consciousness as much as possible during the early stages of its development. This is irrespective of whether or not you need to backtrack every once in a while due to some mistakes the puppy makes.

It is always best to get the entire process properly understood when the puppy is still young because the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to reverse tendencies and habits after they have crystallized in its behaviour.

I hope you have found the details covered here useful. For more information on how to take care of your four-legged friend, check out my article, "How to Socialize and Train Your Puppy for Beginners."

The reason why crate training is so effective is that it applies the principle of action and outcome. This is the conditioning that achieves results because it is behavioural instruction that a dog can relate to by natural instinct.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • Michael-Duncan profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Duncan 

      7 months ago from Germany

      Much appreciated. Thanks for dropping by!

    • profile image


      7 months ago

      Great article!


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