Before we get into crate training, please understand that this is a great tool to keep your puppy safe and out of trouble while providing him with a comfortable space of his own. Please don’t let it become a prison or babysitter. DO NOT stick your puppy in a dog crate for 8 or 9 hours while you go to work. If that is what awaits your new puppy please reconsider getting one in the first place. There is no substitute for contact and interaction with your new four-legged friend….
You can teach your puppy to love the dog crate.
It's not that difficult to learn how to crate train a puppy but there are a couple of things to bear in mind before you begin. Young puppies have very little bladder control so don’t confine them to the crate for long periods of time. If you have purchased a puppy that’s been stuck in a cage such as in a pet store, or God forbid, at a puppy mill, be patient as they may have already learned to hate a crate. It will take longer, but be patient and you should be able to overcome this as your pup learns to associate only positive things with his new crate.
Secondly, puppies have a very short attention span so in the beginning keep the lessons short. When your young pupil starts losing interest, end the lesson. Short upbeat lessons with positive reinforcement work best. Always praise your young buddy when you get the desired behavior and only then.
Before you begin, make sure your new best friend has been outside and relieved himself. O.k. let's get started. While leaving the dog crate door open, get a small dog treat, let your puppy smell it, and let him follow your hand just inside the crate as you drop it near the entrance. (Find a treat he's really fond of) You should say “crate” or “bed” or "kennel" to begin associating a command as your puppy enters the crate. Pick one command and stick with it.
As he picks up the treat praise him. Repeat this process in short sessions several times throughout the day. If he’s going in the crate with no problem, keep dropping the treat farther inside. If he's reluctant to enter the crate, drop the treats just outside the door and eventually move to the inside. You don’t have to always use something edible. You can also use his favorite safe dog toy . You can also feed him right outside or just inside the crate.
After several short lessons, when he's comfortable going in and out of the crate, I’ll feed him in the back of the crate or if it's not mealtime I will use a size appropriate Kong with a little peanut butter inside. This will keep him occupied much longer in the crate than a small treat. Close the door but don’t latch it. If your puppy opens the door and comes out, that’s o.k. If he doesn't open it, you can open it. You don’t want to begin by having him feel trapped. Stay close by so he feels secure.
When he seems comfortable with the door being closed, leave the puppy and his toy in the crate and leave the room for a few seconds so you’re out of sight, again closing the door but leaving it unlatched. Then return. If he has remained in the crate without a fuss, and while he’s still in there, praise him verbally. Then open the door and let him come out if he wants to. Don’t praise as he’s coming out of the crate. We want to associate the praise with him staying quietly in the crate.
Keep increasing the amount of time you leave the room and as long as you get the desired behavior, give a lot of praise. Soon your puppy will learn that nothing bad happens when you leave and he gets a lot of praise if he's quiet, when you return. Once you are successful with this part of the training you can move on to the next.
Now begin leaving the room with the door latched, slowly increasing the time away as your success dictates. If your puppy makes a big fuss when you’re out of sight, don’t give praise or freedom when you return until he's quiet. It's very important not to give in and let him out of the crate if he's fussing. That will just teach him when he fusses he get his way.
Wait until he's quiet, (that's the hard part), and then praise him and let him out. Timing is important here. The praise and release must be when he's quiet. He’ll soon learn which behavior gets the response he wants and which one doesn’t. Again, it's a good idea to make sure your guy has been out, well exercised and tired out before you attempt this part of the training, so if he does fuss you can be pretty certain it's not because he has to go out.
Here's a tip. If you find that your puppy has a favorite toy, save that for the dog crate only. That gives him a special treat when he's in the crate.
Puppies play hard and then sleep. Take that opportunity to place your sleeping puppy inside the crate. Leave the door open and when he wakes up, take him right outside to do his business. Associate a command with this activity also, such as "out" or "go out". Puppies always have to go when they wake up so whether they are in their crate or on the floor or in your lap, making sure they get right outside to their designated area will help house train them quickly. This is also true after they eat. Praise them when they do their duty outside. If your puppy starts sniffing around that's another indication it's time to go outside. Be quick, scooping him up and getting outside before he stops sniffing and starts going. Always use your command of "out" or "go out". Repetition, consistency and praise are the keys that teach good behavior to your puppy.
As I mentioned earlier, dogs don’t like to “go” where they sleep, so they will hold it longer when they are in their crate. Again, you can use this to your advantage by getting them outside as soon as possible once they wake up.
The crate should be the proper size. If it's too large your pup will mess in one end and move to the other end. His crate should be big enough for him to stand up and turn around in but not much larger than that. Using his crate like this can enhance your housebreaking efforts. But this will only act to reinforce the housebreaking training. They should be successfully housebroken by the time they are comfortable with their crate.
As your buddy matures his ability to control his bladder will increase and he'll be able to be in the crate for longer periods without having an accident. If they do have an accident in the crate or out, don’t make a federal case out of it. Just take them out and clean up the mess. Don’t forget to praise them if they go again outside. If you use these techniques and pay attention to the puppy's behavior before he goes, he should be housebroken in a week or less.
You can set him up for success by being observant and diligent in getting him outside at the proper time. If you don't react to the signs he gives when he needs to go or take him out when they normally need to go then an accident is on you, not the puppy.
Remember, puppies always need to go when they first wake up in the morning or after a nap, always after they eat, always before bedtime, and several times in between. The more you can anticipate when your puppy needs to go out and you keep reinforcing his or her successes with praise, the sooner he’ll “get it.” The more you take him out during the day, the more he’ll get used to doing his duty outside. Be consistent with the command you use, the door you go out and giving praise when successful. Also, it shouldn't take long to have the dog crate become a comfortable place for your puppy. Just keep at it.
Advice: The technique of reward and praise for desired behavior has worked very well for me no matter what you are trying to teach. Anger has no place in dog training and rewarding undesirable behavior is counter productive. I’m not implying that you ignore bad behavior. On the contrary, you have to be the leader and be stern when called for, but sternness and anger are two different things. It’s important to develop the trust of your dog and doing anything in anger hurts that trust.
In my experience, house training is a simple process if you do the things I've suggested. As for chewing, I’ve found that given the opportunity, a puppy will continue to chew on things they shouldn’t chew on until about 6 months to a year old, especially if they have pent up energy, so I use the crate when leaving the house until I’m confident there are no more chewing issues. A lot of outdoor activity and exercise helps because it burns off that energy and helps keep your dog from being bored, especially in high energy breeds. Once they're over any chewing issues I never have to close the crate door again. You have to determine if your dog is over chewing or not. You can do this by leaving him or her out of the crate and leaving the house for very short intervals. Increase intervals as your dog’s success dictates. If there is a setback, just close the crate again when you go out and repeat this process at a later date.
Crate training adult dogs – Crate training an older dog is the same patient process of slowly introducing the pleasures, (treats, toys, soft bed), found inside the crate. You can even feed him in there leaving the door open for now. If you tried earlier and were unsuccessful, it will take longer, sometimes much longer before your dog realizes that his crate always brings good things and it's up to you to convey that message by being extremely patient and always positive. Good Luck!