As we welcome our new Christmas puppies we may have noticed that training can be harder than it seems. Here is a tip to help you on your way. One of the most useful things to teach your new pup is to become comfortable with his/her crate. Crate training your puppy can be extremely beneficial for both you and them, although it is often difficult to know when and how to start. Puppies that are recently adopted from a shelter or bought from a pet store/breeder are usually accustomed to spending time in a pen or crate of some kind. It is best to start crate training your puppy the first night you bring them home.
Your puppy’s crate should be big enough for her/him to stand up and turn around in, but not so big that they have enough room to eliminate on one side and sleep on the other. This will make house training much easier. Metal/wire crates with a removable tray tend to work well and be easy to clean. Make sure there are no shape edges or rough corners. The crate should be placed in a social area of the home such as the kitchen or living room and not the basement or garage. Isolating the puppy away from the rest of the family can create anxiety and separation issues in some cases. For quiet times a thin sheet can be placed on top of the crate.
It is best to leave the crate door open and place comfortable bedding, treats, and water inside the crate for your puppy. Training your new puppy to accept the crate is best done in several short training sessions each day. Make sure that your puppy has been exercised and has had the chance to urinate and defecate before going in. Place them in the crate with their favorite toys (make sure it’s not something can tear and swallow like a kong toy) and bedding so they can either play or nap. Begin by leaving them in the crate for 5-10 minutes or until they wake up from their nap and then slowly increase the length of time they are crated for.
It is normal for your puppy to vocalize or attempt to escape from their crate over the first several training periods. It is important to never remove your new puppy from their crate while they are crying or whining. This reinforces the crying behavior and teaches them that all they need to do is bark and whine to be let out of their crate. Remove your puppy from the crate only after they have been quiet for several minutes. If your puppy does not quiet down for long enough to remove them from the crate negative reinforcement techniques such as a spray bottle or shaking a can of pennies can be an effective deterrent. This teaches the puppy to associate these negative experiences with barking and vocalizing in their crate. If you need to use negative reinforcement to quiet your puppy remember to stay out of their line of sight so they do not associate the negative experiences with you. Never leave your dog in a crate for longer than she can control her eliminations. A general rule of thumb for how many hours to leave your dog in a crate for is their age in months plus one. Remember puppies usually need to void after taking a nap, so its best to take them out to potty after taking a nap in their crate.
When you confine your dog to a crate for the night make sure that they have been exercised and has eliminated. Puppies over the age of 12 weeks can generally hold their eliminations overnight. It is especially important to not let your puppy out of their crate if they are barking at night. Allowing them to leave their crate and sleep in bed will make it very difficult to crate train them all the way through the night in the future.
If you are crate training your new puppy it is important that you let them out of the crate as much as possible when you are home and able to supervise them. If they are not allowed to spend sufficient time with you they will not learn which behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not. Additionally, a crate should never be used as punishment, it should always feel like a safe, comfortable space. Feeding your puppy in his/her crate can help to facilitate this feeling. Giving them treats each time they enter their crate can also help in this area. Eventually, after sufficient training, you will be able to leave the door open (or even off completely) and you may find your puppy going in and out on their own.
If you have any questions about how to start crate training your puppy please do not hesitate to call us at Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital at 1-201-646-2008 or visit us at www.meadowlandsvethospital.com