A crate is a wire box appropriately sized for each pup or dog. It can help with housebreaking, calming down, and providing a nice place for them to play with their toys!
Crating a puppy is an individual choice for each family. If you think you want to crate train your puppy, examine the reasons. Will you be able to let your puppy out of the crate every few hours? If not, then an exercise pen with wee wee pads or appropriate elimination area is a better choice. If you can let your puppy out every few hours during work hours, etc., and can provide mental stimulation and adequate exercise, then crating might be for you!
Another consideration you may need to make is introducing the crate to your puppy correctly. Not all puppies are well-suited for crate time right away. The introduction needs to be slow, and fun!
Why does crate training work? Crates are similar to 'dens', an area in which animals like to sleep. Because of this, they are less likely to soil the area. If the area is large, though, the pup or dog may eliminate (bathroom) in a different area than they sleep in. So, the crate needs to be an appropriate size.
What is the right crate size for my puppy? The crate needs to be small enough that a puppy won't find a corner to bathroom in. So, buy a crate with a 'divider' to make the crate small enough. Not too small that the puppy can't lie down though! They need to be able to get up, turn around, and lie down.
Where should I put my puppy's crate? Place the crate in a common room during the day. At night, your puppy might benefit from being in the bedroom.
How do I introduce my puppy to the crate?
For safety, remove collar/tags when crated
Play crate games!
Crate games help your puppy make a good/pleasant association with the new crate. We don't want them to feel scared when inside of it! Dr. Patricia McConnell describes the crate game as follows: Toss treats for your dog into the crate. After your dog will willingly run into the crate to get the treats you've tossed inside, begin to shut the door, but only for a second or two, then open it again. As soon as your dog seems comfortable with this, shut the door a little longer as you feed more treats through the crate door, then release. If your dog is still comfortable, lure your dog into the crate as before with a treat toss, but also have a special surprise waiting in the crate—a Kong stuffed with some of your dogs favorite treats or a sterile beef bone (if he likes these). As soon as your dog gets busy with the Kong or bone, walk away for about 30 seconds. When you return, open the door and remove the Kong or bone. The strategy here is to teach your dog to welcome your temporary absence since your return means the end of munch time. Now gradually begin to increase the time you leave your dog crated with his Kong or bone.
Make sure it is comfortable
Add comfy items like your old T-shirt (that smells like you) or blanket and bed. Your pup should be able to stay in the crate while you sleep (anywhere between 5-8 hours for an 8.5 week old puppy), while you are in the same room doing something else, and while you are not at home. You can also leave toys and chew items inside as long as they cannot choke on the item.
Gradually lengthen the time your pup stays in the crate and gradually begin leaving the room for a few minutes at a time.
When your pup is not inside the crate, leave exciting items inside and shut the door-he can have it when he goes inside!
How to crate train my puppy with a clicker
Training your puppy with treats should take place when your puppy is a little hungry, but not starving. Start tossing treats or toys inside the crate. Or, slowly toss things closer and closer to the crate. Every time your dog runs to eat the treat, Click and toss another treat, each time bringing your dog closer and closer to the whole body being inside the crate. If your puppy gets scared, make treat tosses closer together. And, speedily tossing will work much better than giving breaks. When your puppy finally enters the crate, feed them there for as long as possible encouraging them to stay put. You don't need to click during this (we can call it speed feeding). As soon as your dog expects more treats and looks up at you, Click and treat for longer and longer gaps time. When your dog calmly waits for the click, slightly close but don't latch the door. Continue to Click and treat as the door slowly closes. If your dog can stay inside for around 10 seconds while waiting for a click then close the door. Take one step away, click, walk back and treat. Repeat this step but begin to vary the distance and time that you leave the crate. Don't click and treat if your dog is whining, just wait until they are quiet again.
How to housebreak my puppy with a crate
Make sure your puppy has enough walks, 3 meals a day (after confirming with your veterinarian or breeder), and water throughout each day. It is a good idea to crate your puppy before and after a walk for the first few walks, until the puppy understand to eliminate outside. After your dog gets the idea, always give them free time after they eliminate. This can be around 15-20 minutes for a puppy, and 45 minutes to an hour if older. Then crate them again until their next walk (unless they are napping).
What if my dog doesn't go the bathroom on a walk?
This means you have to put your dog back into the crate for about 15 minutes. Then try again until your dog eliminates. Carry your puppy to and from the crate until you get outside.
As your puppy gets better at going to the bathroom outside, lengthen the amount of free time they get in between crating.
How can a crate help with chewing?
Your crate may help stop your dog's chewing while you aren't around by letting them be in a safe area where they cannot be destructive. And, you can travel with it to help in other homes and hotels, and even cars.
How often should I crate my puppy?
The general rule for crating is (number of months old the puppy is) + 1. So, 2 months = 3 hours. 3 hours is the general maximum for a young puppy. No adult dog should be crated more than 5 hours at a time during the day. At night when you are sleeping they can be crated while they sleep. Don't use the crate punish your puppy, but you can use the crate to calm them if they are acting "overtired" and rambunctious and haven't napped in a few hours.
My dog has separation anxiety. Will crating work?
Some older dogs or dogs with separation anxiety do not respond well to confinement and it can make the problem worse. Don't force them if they seem to experience the same amount or more anxiety.