McNeil Labradors

Crate Training 

“Crating a puppy is so cruel – I would never do that to my puppy”.  Amazement washes over me when I hear potential adoptive puppy parents express their general dislike for crating a puppy.  Dogs are den animals like their ancestors, the wolves.  Dogs feel secure when they have a place to go to rest or when they feel stressed.  A crate is a place of confinement.  Fortunately, the idea of a crate works on the primitive “den” principle in dogs, and therefore, they don’t mind being in one. 

One of the first things owners want to teach their puppy is not to eliminate in the house.  The crate as a house training tool, is relatively simple.  Puppies normally will not soil their sleeping area if they can possibly help it. 

Choose a wire or plastic crate that will be large enough for an adult dog to lie down, stand up, and turn around in without difficulty, and large enough to provide a comfortable, spacious, bed.  The size I most often use is 36”x21”x24” which travels well in most vehicles, and usually large enough for airline travel. 

Remove the puppy’s collar before introducing him to the crate.  Begin by tossing a treat or a favorite toy inside the crate, to get the puppy’s attention.  If he is hesitant about going in the crate, physically place him in the crate and then reward him with a toy or treat and praise him profusely. 

Avoid the traditional favorites such as shoes or knotted-up socks as chew toys.  I also don’t recommend rawhides or squeak toys as these are too easy to destroy and can be dangerous.  A good choice for a chew toy is a nylabone.  Be sure to use a command when you are teaching the puppy to go in the crate.  Eventually the puppy will learn to go in the crate on command.  Some suggestions are:  kennel, pen, crate, bed, or place.  Choose the command you feel comfortable using and use it only for this purpose – be consistent! 

Make a game of going in and out of the crate.  Never force a puppy in, shut the door, and leave during the initial training sessions.  The puppy needs time to explore.  When the puppy is comfortable going in the crate for a toy or treats, put the puppy inside with a treat and close the door.  Leave the room, but remain close by.  At the first sign of separation response such as howling, barking or whining, intervene with a  “NO” or "QUIET".  This may take a few times until the puppy begins to associate the reprimand with his actions, and he’ll eventually settle down.  After he is quiet for about 20-30 minutes, release him, and take him outside to eliminate.  When he has accomplished his task, take him back inside and play with him for 15-20 minutes, then put him back in the crate while tossing a treat or toy as you give your command. 

Feeding in the crate is recommended as well, as they quickly associate a pleasant experience with going in the crate. 

Gradually increase the time the puppy spends in the crate until he is able to last several hours.  Do a test run by leaving the puppy in the crate while you run errands.  Rub the Nylabone between your palms so your scent is on it then present it to the puppy before you close the crate door.  Remember, as a general rule, a puppy can hold his bladder one hour for each month of age.  Most puppies can hold their bladder longer, but this is a good rule to follow. 

Your puppy will need to go outside to eliminate immediately upon waking and shortly after eating or playing.  Take him outside as soon as you let him out of the crate, whether you carry him or put him on a leash, rush him to the door.  Don’t allow him too much time in between the crate and outdoors, otherwise his trip outside won’t be successful.  He’ll most likely have an accident before he gets to the door. 

After you feel certain that your puppy isn’t wetting his crate, you may use a towel or blanket in the crate for bedding.  This is also a test of whether or not the puppy is inclined to chew, so, no expensive crate pads until he proves himself. 

When the puppy begins to show progress by associating the crate with periods of rest,  you can gradually increase his playtime outside the crate. 

NEVER make a big deal about putting your puppy in the crate, or taking him out of the crate.  No long good-byes or joyous reunions.  Of course, don’t turn the crate into a prison by constantly keeping the puppy in it.  Your puppy should not live in the crate - he should live with you.  Don’t isolate a crated puppy.  They need to feel they are included in the action, so simply move the crate into a room such as a den or kitchen where they can see and hear everything.  With scent capacities estimated conservatively as being one hundred times greater than those of humans, we can realize the role scent plays in a puppy’s understanding of the world around him.  At night, put the crate in your bedroom for the puppy to sleep in and you will find that even a very young puppy will settle down and go to sleep much more quickly when he can be near you and smell your scent. 

By the time your puppy is 8 months to a year of age, he should be able to walk around the house for most of the day once he has been taken outside to relieve himself.  He should be able to be trusted all night in the house.  Leave the crate door open when the puppy is out and you may be thrilled to find that the crate is where he chooses to take his naps. 

Crate training makes your puppy easier to travel with, easier to board, and easier to handle when you have guests who don’t welcome your puppy’s attention.  Motels are more apt to accept a puppy or dog in a crate.  If you plan to show, a crate will be a necessity.  Finally, housebreaking can be accomplished more quickly with the use of a crate.

McNeil Labradors
Statesville, NC 28677

Return To Home Page

Last Updated:  January 29, 2008

© Copyright 2001 - 2008 by Margo Carter, McNeil Labradors, All Rights Reserved.
Page Created By:  Margo Carter, McNeil Labradors

  Thought For The Day:

"We give dogs time we can spare, space we can
spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's
the best deal man has ever made." - M. Facklam