First off, adjust your own thinking so that you do not view a crate as “puppy jail” and feel sorry for the puppy being in a crate. Part of learning how to train a puppy is understanding her point of view: she feels protected in the crate, it is her own special place. It’s essential that you understand that a crate is not “cruel” – do not think of the crate as a punishment.
Most puppies, once familiarized with their crates, accept them as safe and cozy places to nap and hang out—sort of like the caves that were lairs for their wolf ancestors. And think of the stress that the puppy is spared by being safely in her crate – she will have no confusion in distinguishing where and when she can relieve herself and will make training a puppy a simple routine of crate, walk, play, walk, crate, walk, feed, walk, crate. (My book The Dog Bible needs only a couple of pages to take the mystery out of house training a puppy and shows you how easy it can be by using a crate.)
What a crate effectively means to your puppy is: fewer scolding’s, more biscuits (all the varieties of Halo biscuits – with real chicken, beef and liver, chicken and cheese)!
Five tips to preparing the crate before you bring your little one home.
Your preparation of the crate and your positive attitude towards it will make all the difference in it becoming a happy, safe place for her – and the foundation of successful house- training.
• Put the crate somewhere that’s part of the household activity, not tucked away in a quiet dark room or corner. The Little One should feel part of things while she’s in her “den,” not as though she’s been banished. It also gets her used to noises and activities in the human household without feeling vulnerable or overwhelmed.
• Secure the crate to the floor. You don’t want the crate to slip and slide on the floor, possibly frightening the pup. Put a big towel underneath the crate so it doesn’t slip or rattle around when the puppy gets in or moves around in it.
• Make the crate inviting and unthreatening by keeping the crate door propped open when the puppy isn’t in it so that she feels free to come and go when she is out and being supervised. Keep some toys and a chew in there. It should be an inviting place, a safe haven for the pup to come and go to.
• Sneak a treat into the open crate when the puppy isn’t looking so that when she goes in there to investigate, she’ll sometimes find hidden treasure! You can pop a few Halo Healthsome Cat Treats into the back of the crate for her to find- they are small little nuggets that make a great surprise for a young puppy to find in her den! Y
• Do not put any bedding in the crate at first – at least until you have established a regular routine of feeding and walking so that the puppy has no need to relieve herself inside the crate. With some puppies, if you put bedding in the crate (shredded newspapers, a towel or a blanket) it can cancel out the natural instinct that “this is my den to keep clean” and the bedding can encourage the pup to relieve herself on it.
Seven Tips to Make the Crate More Welcoming
• Wrap a hot-water bottle with a big towel. Warmth can feel cozy and like the litter she recently left.
• When you first get your puppy, make sure you ask for a piece of bedding she as on with her Mom and littermates so you can put the comforting smell into the crate.
• Plug in a pheromone diffuser next to the crate, which creates a signal of comfort in your puppy’s brain because it is a chemical version of the odor of her mother suckling the litter (called Adaptil at your vet’s, also known as ComfortZone in pet stores).
• Put a shirt that you’ve worn in the crate to keep her company and soothe her.
• Put in a teddy bear or other stuffed toy that you’ve rubbed all over with your hands.
• Put on some quiet music or the television so she doesn’t feel too alone in the silence.
• Keep aside a special toy that she has shown a preference for and give it to her in the crate right before you close the door. This gives her a reward you know she loves when she goes into the crate.
Six Ways to Create Positive Associations with the Crate
• Put a Halo Liv-a-Little treat into the middle of the crate and say “In your house” in a high cheery voice to train her to go in happily.
• Give the puppy lots of praise for going in the crate. Never put the pup in the crate as a form of punishment. Being put in there when you are cross or frustrated doesn’t teach her anything, and it turns the crate into something negative.
• Feed the puppy her Halo Puppy Spot’s Stew in the crate because food gives the crate a positive association. If she won’t go all the way in to eat, put the dish inside the opening of the crate so the puppy has to at least put her head inside to eat! Once she will go all the way in to eat, close the door while she’s eating but stay right there with her.
Remember that she’ll need to go outside immediately to eliminate after eating so get ready to take her right out (and whens he does her business outside, grab the container of Liv-a-Little protein treats (chicken, salmon or beef) on your way out so you can lavishly praise and treat her right away once she eliminates.
• Ignore crying. If the puppy cries or whines, ignore it completely. Most puppies will quit within ten minutes, as long as they get no reaction from their people, negative or positive.
• If a dog or puppy doesn’t bark when first put in the crate, give her lots of praise and even a couple of pieces of tiny Healthsome Cat Treats to reinforce her quietness.
• Wait until the puppy is tired to put the puppy into the crate. Doing it after she’s tuckered out from playing and ready to crash makes her welcome her den, not resent it.
Tracie Hotchner is the author of THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is also a renowned pet radio host and producer, having spent 7 years on the Martha Stewart Channel of Sirius/XM with CAT CHAT® and even longer with her award-winning NPR radio show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) that continues to broadcast in the Hamptons and the Berkshires. Her most recent accomplishment is the pet talk radio network she has created on the Internet called The Radio Pet Lady Network.