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How to Introduce a Puppy to the Crate

Your goal when introducing the puppy to the crate for the first time is to make it a positive experience for your puppy. There are a number of ways that you can do this and I am going to give you a few of my top tricks that aid in building a positive association to going inside and being calm in the crate.

Training Exercise #1- First Experience in the crate
Once you have your crate set up, you will need your puppy and some small food treats. To begin, show your puppy a piece of food and toss it inside the crate. Let the puppy run into the crate to pick up the food. Now, encourage your puppy to come out of the crate to you. Show the puppy another piece of food and toss it in the crate again. Repeat this exercise ten times and then end the game. Congratulations, you just completed your first crate training session and your puppy now learned how rewarding it was to run into the crate. You will want to repeat this exercise daily in the next few weeks.

Exercise #2
Now you are ready for another exercise to incorporate along with the food tossing game. The first thing you will need to do is take the puppy out for a potty break and then have a short play session to burn some energy off.

Next, you will need an appropriate chew toy that your puppy really likes. I recommend an antler, bully stick, buffalo horn, stuffed kong toy, or anything else your puppy will want to spend some time chewing on. This works best if it is a brand new chew toy. Feel free to dab a little peanut butter or chicken broth on it to make it even more appealing.

Place your puppy inside the crate with the chew toy and close the door and latch it. Your puppy will probably do one of two things. They will either calmly start chewing on the toy or they will begin throwing a fit whining and barking as soon as they figure out there is no escape out of the crate. Both of these behaviors are completely normal for a puppy to participate in when locked up for the first time.

The chew bone that you place in the crate with your puppy must be interesting to them. Many puppies will whine and bark for a few minutes and then begin chewing on the toy. It is imperative that you do not let your puppy out of the crate if they begin whining in this scenario. They need to learn that there are going to be times when they will be inside the crate away from you and the sooner they learn how to cope, the better. The only exception to letting the puppy out of the crate during this exercise is if the puppy loses controls of its bowels or begins trembling. Although, this behavior is very rare, it does occur and should be handled differently as this may be a case of severe separation anxiety.

Once your puppy calms down and begins chewing on the item, give them a little time. You should be observing your puppy from across the room while they chew. After several minutes, go over to the crate and let the puppy out before they are done chewing on the object so that you avoid them finishing first and begin whining in an attempt to be let out.

Alternate Crate Introduction
Depending on the age of your puppy, they will only be able to restrain going to the bathroom for only so long. The younger the puppy, the less muscle control they have. If you have to be away from the home for more than a few hours with a puppy between the ages of 8-16 weeks, you should not leave them inside the crate unless you have a pet sitter or dog walker that can come by and take out your puppy for you.

My protocol for dog owners that have to be away from the puppy for long hours due to work or other circumstances is to incorporate a play pen to contain the puppy. Place the crate inside the playpen with the crate door open to allow free access to the crate.

The playpen should be placed on a non-porous surface such as tile, laminate, or hardwood floor. If you home is full carpeted, you should go to a hardware store and purchase an inexpensive piece of laminate or rubber floor to place underneath the playpen.

As the puppy matures and develops muscle control, you will be able to leave them inside the crate for longer periods of time. As a general rule, a puppy should not be left in the crate for more than 4-5 hours at one time except at night.

Return to Crate Training Guide

Published on July 23, 2017

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