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Crate Training

By: wetnosesfb | July 23rd, 2009 11:02 am

Hello puppy owners,

Puppies are fun aren’t they? But are you really up to the task and commitment? Are you ready to put in the extra work for the next few months? Will you give your pup a hug when he wakes you up crying to get out of the crate and go out to eliminate or will this drive you nuts? If it does, do yourself and the pup a favor, DO NOT GET ONE!!!

But if you can wake up with a loving smile on your face twice a night, a puppy is for you and I am sure you will have a lot of fun making a new life time friend who will pay you back ten folds for all the love you have invested.

Ready to get started?

Let’s crate train:

The crate – My personal preference is a plastic crate with front metal grid door and air grills on the upper sides and the back. This kind of crate gives the dog the feeling of being in a den where he can hide and have his privacy and it is easier to black out the front with a blanket.

I would advise buying a crate that will fit the dog at fully grown size so you don’t have to invest in a crate twice and also have the pup get used to the same one from the start.

Puppies will not soil their bedding providing that the initial space you are giving them fits the size of their body fully stretched and at the height they can comfortably sit. So, if you have purchased a full size crate you will have to put in a partition which you can later move and change the space as the dog grows.

I have recently got a lovely Lagotto Romagnolo puppy (imported from Slovakia, will tell you about him in my next blog) and I am using a full size crate and an old stove grid as a partition fastened with metal tie downs. It works great and the puppy is getting used to the full volume of the crate yet, he can’t really use it all but he can see, smell and feel it and it will not be a whole new crate to get used to as he grows.

Bedding – I have found in many cases that people suggest not to put any bedding into the crate to make it really uncomfortable for the puppy if he does his business inside. I must say that I find this ridiculous and inhumane. If your dog has had an accident in the crate the only one to blame is yourself!!!. You have failed to either get up early enough and let him out or you have locked him up in the crate without proper preparations and adjustment or you have locked him up and walked out of the house without training him for separation – it is not the dog’s fault, you might have done something wrong. A dog eliminating in the crate can very quickly become a serious behavior issue.

Also, dogs that lie on hard surfaces for many hours can develop Hygromas, these are hard to get rid of pressure growths around the hocks or elbows. Trust me, you don’t want to be there.

OK, so lets do it:

1. Please make sure you get a solid yet, cushy bedding, one that will not be easy to chew and take a part and put it in the crate. make sure the dog can lie down there fully stretched out and sit tall. Many puppies love to sleep with their legs fully stretched 🙂

2. Get rid of any alternative pillows and block ways to carpets. Ideally keep the dog confined in a tiled territory.

3. Leave the door open and throw few treats into the crate. Make sure the puppy sees them. Then just wait for the pup to go get them on his own. repeat several times during the day and hide the treats under the bedding to encourage play. You can feed the dog two to three times in the crate but do not make it a habit. The point is to make the crate a fun place to be and avoid scare. Feeding the dog in the crate too many times will associate feeding times with going in the crate and this should be avoided.

4. Throw a few chewable toys into the crate and let the puppy play inside. YOU ARE STILL WITH OPEN DOOR.

5. If the dog is busy chewing in the crate, start closing the door in a very slow motion to the point that the dog will get up and jump out. let him out, DO NOT FORCE HIM IN.

6. Repeat this drill several times a day. You will find that every time you will be Able to close the door a little further to the point that the puppy will feel confident to let you lock him in but will be let out the moment he is asking to. DO NOT LET HIM CRY HIS LOUNGS OUT begging to get out. Just let him out!!!

Remember! You are building trust and if the dog will not trust you he will give you hell.

7. Once you managed to lock him in and keep him quiet playing or sleeping, you are on the right track.

DO NOT GO OUT OF HIS SIGHT. If you must leave, open the door.

8. Wait for night time. Avoid water an hour before bed time. Throw an old T shirt of yours that you have just worn for 15 minutes into the crate. This will give the puppy the impression that you are still there (an awesome trick).

9. Turn on the radio tuned to non-stop classic music station (99.5 FM in Boston region is great). Dogs love music and it is very relaxing for them. Funny, but they love Mozart :-).

Take the puppy for last elimination before bed time.

10. If your puppy has fallen asleep in the crate this is great but, if he has fallen asleep anywhere out of the crate, very gently pick him up and put him in there and very slowly close the door on him while petting softly and soothingly along his body (just like his mom used to lick him all over) say “good boy/girl” and quietly lock the door.

11. Cover the door with a black light weight sheet (prepared ahead of time). If the puppy cries put you fingers through the door grid and let him sense you are still around.

12. Sit there at the crate till it is completely quiet and start pulling back very slowly. Do not be surprised if the puppy will sense you are backing off, dogs smell and hearing senses are so sensitive that they can easily tell when you are close or going far.

I have just done this, sitting at the crate and very slowly sliding off and back closer several times. It may take 15 to 20 minutes till you find your self 10-15 feet away from the crate then get up and walk away quietly.

13. Stay in the area and listen. You may hear the dog wining quietly. This is normal and is a process of self relaxation. If the dog cries loudly, let him out and take him out to eliminate. Praise and treat when done and put him back in the crate.

Yes, you will have to repeat the whole process all over again, tough life…

You may consider spending the 1st night sleeping next to the crate, at least you will get some sleep that night. I have done this and it worked. I did not have to do it the night after.

After the puppy has fallen asleep you can set you alarm clock to the maximum hours your dog can hold. The rule of thumb is the age of the pup in months +1 = number of hours he can hold. So if the puppy is 3 months old he should be able to hold it for 4 hours Max.

If for some reason your puppy can’t hold for that long and needs to go more frequently during night, get him checked by a Vet.

During the day make sure to remind your puppy to go out to eliminate frequently. Puppies are like children, they get busy and forget to go out. If the dog is very active he will drink more and pee more – that is fine. Dogs in training will need to go more frequently too, training is an excitement for them which provokes elimination needs.

NEVER EVER STICK YOUR DOG’S NOSE INTO HIS STUFF even if he had an accident. DO NOT YELL OR HIT THE DOG FOR SOILING!!! if you catch him doing it just pick him up say:”AH- AH” firmly (no shouting, no yelling) and take him out.

If you have not caught him while doing it, there is no point at doing anything, he will nor remember it after 30 seconds, just clean it up and make sure to spray the place with enzyme odor eliminator otherwise, the dog will get back to the same spot and do it again. It is an instinct and he will not be able to avoid it.

Please remember, dogs DO NOT do anything on purpose nor they do it as a revenge or anger or try to boss you. If they do it wrong it is because we are not doing it right.

Enjoy your pup

Your trainer Gil

Posted In Dogs Behavior