As I sit to write this article, I am surrounded with nine crying and barking puppies in their crates getting ready for a night of crate training. Needless to say, crate training is not for the faint of heart. Before you let this discouraging visual convince you otherwise, let’s take a look at some of the positives of crate training.
- Crate training a puppy can help potty train them! True story; a puppy does not naturally want to urinate in their sleeping area, so they learn to hold it while in their crates.
- It creates a safe place for your dog. Dogs naturally like dark den-like areas. This dates back to their ancestors that may have stayed in dark caves. It also helps them feel safe, and it is a place they can call their own where even the owner will not go.
- If you do not feel comfortable leaving your pet to roam the house while you are away, then a crate is a great solution. If your dog is left with a toy, you may be able to leave for several hours at a time.
As hard as it may be to believe, with careful training your dog will learn to love his crate! Anyone that has had a puppy will understand the difficulty with crate training. Many times a puppy with cry, whine and bark when first left in their crate. The best way to prepare for this is to understand why the behavior is happening. When a puppy first arrives at your home, you must understand that this is the first time they are away from their mother and littermates. They are also in a unfamiliar area with new owners. They puppy might have also had to endure a long flight or drive to get to their new home. This is a HUGE transition for your puppy. Once you look at the situation in this perspective, their crying is much more understanding.
There are many things that can be done the first several nights to make your puppy feel more safe and comfortable. Many trainers suggest that you leave the crate in your room where the puppy can see that you have not abandoned him. However, this is an area of preference. I have never left a crate in my room simply because I do not enjoy a crying puppy right next to my bedside. Here are some other popular tips: place a warm water bottle in the crate with the puppy to mimic a warm body of a littermate or mother, place a ticking clock or a low volume static radio next to the crate to sooth him, and keep an article of your clothing with him so he feels comforted with your scent. One of my favorite ideas is to play white noise. This can be anything from a fan blowing to the sound of rain. Although every puppy is different, I have found this to be a successful practice.
Here is the bad news, sometimes the best tool for crate training a puppy is to simply, let-them-cry. This is just as awful as it sounds. Here is my reasoning, many times a puppy is crying for your attention. If you constantly get up to sooth the puppy, you are teaching a terrible habit; the puppy learns that he can always get your attention if he cries. This will result in little to no sleep on your part. However, sometimes a puppy might be crying because they are hurt or because they need to go potty. Keep close attention to ensure your puppy is not hurt or in pain. There are a couple things to help with them needing a potty break. I like to cut off any source of water or food after about 7pm (depending on your bedtime). If your puppy has participated in a lot of activity, they should have access water. This ensures that your puppy will not have a full bladder at bedtime. A brand new puppy in a new and stressful environment (their crate) should have two-three breaks during the night for the first couple days. Here is a tool I have found helpful: Take the puppies age in months, and add one. This equals the amount of time that they generally can hold it.
Although the beginning of this training seems intimidating and can be difficult, both you and your dog will reap the many benefits that come from crate training. Now it is time for me to shut off the light and hope for a quiet night with these puppies. Best of luck with your training!