Crate Training a puppy

During our discussion with pet parents on crate training, we have realised that a lot of them think crate for puppies is a cruel idea. Sometimes when we have some guests over and they spot Moose’s crate, they give us a bewildered look. But in reality, it has more benefits in short term as well as long term.
Dogs are den animals and if crate training is done the right way at an early stage, he associates it as his den – a place to relax, sleep and feel safe in. The key benefits of crate training are:
  1. Housetraining
  2. Limiting his movement in the house thereby exposing him to the risk of chewing things which can be harmful to him or even damaging your belongings and furniture
  3. Since a dog would never soil their den, at some level it also teaches them to hold on as a puppy
  4. Sometimes if you are relocating or traveling to another destination in a car, train or flight, it will be easier for your dog to travel in one if he is familiar with it
Size chart for Collapsible Wire Frame Crates
There are broad ranges of crates which are available in the market.
1. Collapsible Wire Frame Crates
These can be folded for storage and provide ventilation for your dog as it has welded wire units on all sides. While purchasing, do check the quality of the wire mesh to ensure it is sturdy enough. While these might not be permitted in a flight, I find these most comfortable for training and can be taken along during road trips
2. Solid Plastic Crates
Made of sturdy plastic, these are more appropriate for flight travel. However, you must check with the airline on the approved specifications beforehand. For housetraining, I feel wire frame ones are better as you can also monitor the activity of your dog from a distance, which won’t be the case here as they are covered. Also these are cannot be folded and hence for bigger dogs, these can be really heavy to carry.
Solid Plastic Crates – Heavy in weight, but mandatory while transporting dogs in flight
These are two types which are easily available on pet stores in India. In addition, you also have soft sided crates, wood crates (can be made to order) and aluminium crates (used mainly at animal labs and not advisable). We got XL size crate for Moose from Dogspot.
Soft Sided Crates
Wood Crates
Aluminium Crates
But what you must also be conscious of is that if you misuse the crate to punish your dog or do not introduce the concept to him in the right manner; he could soon start detesting the crate and never get used to it. Also since they are puppies and can’t hold their bladder for too long, you should not leave them inside the crate for more than 2-3 hours at one time. Please remember that they still need their share of human interaction, play, stretching and chasing their favourite toys, hence don’t put them in crate for too long. Once you have the confidence that his behaviour is getting contained, you can get away with the crate. Though for winters, we tend to make it like a warm cozy for him with blankets covered from three sides and keep the door open. That helps him decide when he wants to go inside and take a nap and when he wants to step out.
The approach that you must take while crate training your pup:
1. Introducing the pup to the crate
The idea is to make him familiar with the crate. Place his bed, blanket and few toys inside the crate to make the setup familiar. Place the crate in an area where you spend maximum time. We started it with the dining hall and then moved it from one bed room to the other to make him comfortable. Throw a few treats inside and keep the door open to allow free movement. Every time he enters inside, use the word which you want him to start associating with the crate. We used to say “bed” every time he walked him. Gradually you can also start feeding him a few meals inside the crate.
Moose exploring the crate and getting comfortable with the setup. Notice the toys and cushions we have placed inside to make the envrionment familiar for him
2. Staying inside the crate
While feeding him meals, try to close the door slowly and see his comfort level. Gradually get him used to staying inside for a few seconds to a few minutes. We used to call out “bed” and wait for him to go inside the crate and every time he did, we rewarded him with treats. Slowly we started making him stay inside the crate, then start walking away and then return back in a few seconds. The idea is that he should be rewarded if he begins to stay inside the crate when you move out of sight. Slowly start increasing the stay period.
Eventually he started sleeping inside the crate and got comfortable to staying in it for longer period
3. Crate him for longer period
Start increasing the length of his stay inside the crate. Also you can start putting him crate before stepping out of the house. Start with a few minutes before you leave to say around 10-15 minutes. Reward him once he goes inside the crate and also reward him once you return. Leave him with a few interactive toys to keep him busy. Ensure that when you return, you don’t encourage him hyper excitement, keep the act of entering back inside the house like any casual affair. This worked for us and over a period of time, he would just wag his tail when we would return but not get hyper when we would open the crate. We also started putting him inside the crate in the night when used to sleep. The advantage we had was this happened during the winter period and he was more than happy to rush inside for a cozy sleep.