One of the biggest mistakes new puppy owners make is not crate training. Teaching your puppy to sleep happily in a crate while you're in bed or while you're away for the day can make or break your house-training journey and save your favorite couch from sharp little puppy teeth!
Choose the Right "Den"
Dogs are den animals, holding onto this evolutionary instinct from their wild predecessors. To your domesticated dog, his den is the place he will go when he's tired, frightened, or just wants to escape to "his" place. With a puppy, don't give him a huge crate. He needs something that's big enough to stand up, sit down, and turn around in. Any bigger will encourage him to potty in his kennel. You need to choose immediately if you want your dog to be an inside or an outside dog. Building a chain link kennel outside would provide ease in this process and will teach your puppy more self dependence.
Introduce the Crate
Leave the crate in the most frequented room of your house. If the family congregates mostly in the kitchen, then leave his crate there with the door open. Add a comfortable bed or even an old t-shirt that smells like his favorite family member. Leave the door off at first so he can go in and out unencumbered. Some dogs will immediately go in and get comfortable; if yours isn't one of them, entice him in by dropping tasty food treats in front of the crate and gradually just inside the door.
Let Him Eat in the Crate
Dogs won't soil where they eat so by feeding his meals inside the kennel, you're teaching him two things: this isn't where he's supposed to relieve himself and this is a safe, happy place. If he's willingly going in and out of the kennel, put the food bowl at the back. If he's still showing some reluctance, put it in just enough to keep him from being anxious. After a few days, he should be eating comfortably in the crate. This is when you begin shutting the door. The first time, open it as soon as he finishes his meal. Gradually, leave the door closed for a longer period of time after he's done eating.
Crate Him While You're at Home
It's important to not just shut him in the kennel and leave for your 8 hour work day. Instead, leave him kenneled for short periods of time while you're at home. When you let him out, give him praise but don't make it a big deal. His crate should be a daily part of his routine, not something that's out of the ordinary.
Leave for Short Periods of Time
When you finally leave him alone, make your trips short. Leave him in the crate just to run to the post office or to the grocery store for some bread and milk. Don't make a big fuss when you leave; urge him into the kennel, shut the door, and leave. Prolonged goodbyes can make a dog feel more anxious. Make sure that every time you put him in the kennel, you're putting him in at different times as you're getting ready to leave. Some days put him in while you're putting your shoes on, other times put him in right as you get out of the shower. If you develop a predictable pattern, a more anxious puppy will begin to fret when you hit the point in your routine where he'll be kenneled. When you get home, don't get excited to see him. Keep your arrivals low-key to prevent any anxiety.
Don't let a puppy's sad eyes make you feel bad for kennel training. Older dogs who have been properly introduced to the kennel seek their crate out as a safe haven and genuinely enjoy being there. Train your puppy gently and consistently and his crate will become a happy hideaway for the rest of his life.
This article was written by Erika Remmington. Erika is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband and 18 month old daughter. Click here to contact Erika.
Informational credit to Lynx Brand Fence Products Ltd., An Edmonton Dog Kennel Chain Link Fence Company