Before you cuddled your warm, snuggly new Doodle puppy to take her home forever, we started her on crate training.
What? Yes, it’s true. Contrary to what you might have heard, your puppy’s crate is not jail. Helping baby Juliet to accept short stays in that little box is not cruel. In fact, it may very well be the second-best training you can give her (number one is housebreaking, of course).
It’s a Good Idea to Crate Train
Dogs in general are den animals. True, they’re usually very social, but they also need their own snug space. A den is where wolves, foxes and coyotes curl up, to sleep, shelter from storms, or just feel secure. Little Juliet is already familiar with a crate as a place to rest and snuggle, with her mama and/or littermates. So, it’s where she feels safe and loved.
If a comfy crate isn’t available, a puppy will find her own den. Under a bed, behind a chair, in the laundry basket… all of those places are subject to regular changes. And Juliet could even get stepped on. Not a good outcome.
Since your puppy already knows that her crate is a nice place, it’s best to provide one at your home that’s as close as possible to her baby den. That’s one reason that we send along a blanket with her mama’s scent. She can snuggle up with it when she feels lonesome, especially during those first few nights with her forever family. Also, we recommend a Snuggle Puppy to be in her crate. It’s warm and has a regular ‘heartbeat’, very calming for a little fuzz ball away from home for the first time.
Crate Training Pluses
There are a variety of reasons to crate train, and all of them will help to make life easier for everyone.
Housebreaking. Part of being a den animal is the tendency to avoid going to the bathroom in the bed or den. Set up the crate to be a resting space, and Juliet will wait to take care of her business until you let her out. But be careful not to leave her in the crate too long, or all your good training will be set back. Read more about housebreaking your puppy elsewhere in our blog.
Traveling. Babies travel safest in a car seat, right? So, it stands to reason that your puppy should ride in her crate. She’ll have enough room to stand up and turn around for a little exercise to stretch her legs. She can curl up and have a nap along the journey. And no one will sit on her while taking their own back seat naps. Further, you can roll down the car windows without fear that Juliet will take a flying leap. But don’t leave her in a hot car. It takes less than 5 minutes to reach lethal temperatures.
Sleeping. While you’re tucked in and having sweet dreams, what is Juliet getting into during the night? Teaching her that the crate is her bedroom will avoid a lot of stress for both of you. Juliet won’t be chewing the furniture, investigating the trash, or leaving little ‘presents’ on the floor for you. Instead, she’ll be cuddled with her Snuggle Puppy and her blankie, snoozing blissfully.
Socializing. It may seem like an odd concept, to talk about socializing a puppy while keeping her in her crate. But realize that when Juliet first comes home with you, everything is new to her and she wants to experience all of it. She’ll want to be with you. Well, that’s cool, because of course you understand that.
But what happens when your neighbor comes to visit, the one who’s a cat person at heart? He may not appreciate Juliet leaping into his lap right away. For now, she’ll need to be crated, in the same room with you and your visitors, so she can see you and know that she isn’t being punished. When the visit is over, chances are that Juliet will need to potty. So, let her out of the crate and take her outside, quickly. Be ready with praise and a treat when she’s a good girl. See how this training thing works?
Setting boundaries. A crate is a much better alternative than continually telling your new puppy, ‘No!’ If there’s a room in your house that you’d prefer to be off limits, let Juliet wander in there a few times while you pretend to be occupied. Follow her and gently pick her up or get her to follow you out. Put her in her crate and let her see you go back into that room. She might make a fuss at first, because she wants to be with you.
Don’t stay in the off limits room too long, though, or you may set up a nice case of separation anxiety. When you come out, close the door if possible. Come straight to the crate and let Juliet out. Give her some loving and tell her what a good girl she is. A treat will help, too.
Keep Crate Training Positive
When training your puppy, whether using the crate or housebreaking, above all stay positive. The idea is to create a loving bond between you and Juliet, not to make her afraid of you. Here are some crate training tips from Whole Dog Journal.
The crate should never be a place of punishment.
Your dog may adjust more easily to stays at the vet hospital when she can have her portable bedroom along.
Crates should be just large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
Start with the door open and just toss a treat inside at the front where Juliet can easily get it. Gradually toss the treats further and further until she is stepping in to get them.
At this point you can use verbal cues, such as “go to bed”.
When your dog is staying in the crate with the door closed for at least 10 seconds without any signs of anxiety, close the door and latch it. Then step away from the crate, but not too far. Come back, and give her a treat. Step away again, twice as far this time. Repeat a third time.
With a puppy, only train for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, then let her do something else. Take her outside, perhaps, or she may need a snuggle and a nap. Puppy training should be much less intense than teaching an adult dog.
When you are not actively training, leave the crate door open.
In the next post, we’ll further explain how to crate train your puppy, with some useful links to help you along. Click on the button below for the Puppy Supplies we recommend. Not all are required, but every product is designed for convenience and best care of your puppy.