Crate Training Made Easy

Look at Mr. Hogan, isn’t he just the happiest puppy ever? He already loves to ride in the car and even went to the drive-in movie theatre with us last weekend!

The first night I had Hogan I was really worried I would be kept up by his persistent crying as he frantically tried to escape his crate (as most puppies do). To my amazement, he whimpered for only five minute before passing out.

A miracle right?

I thought it was too good to be true so I crossed my fingers the next night when I placed him in his crate at bedtime. Well, after 10 days of having Hogan, the verdict is in: Hogan is the BEST at crate training! He never cries when I first put him in his crate at night! He does throw in a good solid effort for about 5 minutes when being put back in his crate after his midnight potty break, but hey, no one is perfect (though he’s sure darn close)! Just look at how content he is in his cart when I get home from class:

So why is it some puppies do well in crates while others cry as if their leg has been dislocated?

The first thing that comes into play is how the breeder raised him as a puppy. My breeder crated Hogan and his siblings all in one kennel at night. When brought home, Hogan wasn’t use to sleeping alone, but he WAS use to being inside a crate. I think this is a key ingredient to a crate-happy puppy! Of course, you can’t control how the breeder raises their puppies, and whether or not she crate trains shouldn’t make-it or break-it for you if you have found the puppy you want.

When bringing a puppy home, he is already experiencing so much change in one day. You just took him from his mother and siblings, the only thing he has known in his short little life. You have then introduced him into a completely new environment with strange new people. If you THEN put him in a kennel by himself and walk off, what do you expect will happen? If the breeder hasn’t already predisposed him to a crate, this initial experience could be quite traumatizing.

Don’t make these mistakes! Follow these simple rules:

1) Have the Right Sized Crate

Your puppy’s crate should be just large enough for him to stand up, turn around and lay down. Any bigger and you risk the possibility of him pottying in one corner while sleeping in another. Dogs inherently despise sleeping where they relieve themselves, so a more confined space eliminates the chance for accidents.

I personally bought a large crate with a divider.

That way, I can increase the size  as Hogan grows without having to purchase an entirely new crate
(they are expensive!).

2) Wear Your Puppy Out Before Bedtime

Run that little guy in circles around your living room, play tug of war, whatever it takes to exhaust your puppy. This rule is a BIGGY! All too often, new puppy parents let their new family member lay in their lap the last two hours of the night while they watch TV. When they later move him to his crate for the night, he is awake, re-energized and ready to play. Instead, make him so tired he wouldn’t mind sleeping in the sink if he had to.

3) Make His Crate Comfortable and Comforting

Your puppy needs something soft to lay on while in his crate. Hogan has a nice squishy bed with raised edges that LOVES it! It’s seriously more comfortable than my bed (spoiled!). Don’t forget to include a bone and stuffed animal to keep him occupied in case he gets bored in the middle of the night or wakes up earlier than you do (kong, anyone?). Hogan loves his turtle, so I keep it in his crate every night!

If your breeder sent him home with anything (a blanket, a toy, etc) make sure to put that in the crate as well! Your puppy will appreciate something familiar next to him his first few nights alone. Lastly, cover the crate with a large blanket that blocks out light. This will help make his crate more den-like and block him from visual distractions.

4) Put the Crate in YOUR Bedroom

I never realized I had to explain this to people, because I enjoy having my puppy near me. Once Hogan is potty-trained, he will sleep in his bed, un-crated, next to mine. Actually, if we are being honest, he will more than likely sleep at the foot of my bed…or up next to my face… (again, spoiled!).

Keeping your puppy crated in your room makes him feel safer, knowing you are near. It also keeps you within earshot so you can let him out when he needs to potty in the middle of the night (and he will, puppies may not sleep through the night until they are 4-6 months old). If you can’t hear your puppy whining to go out, you can’t be angry with him if he uses the bathroom in his crate.

5) Learn the Difference in a Potty-Cry and an Attention-Cry

When your puppy wakes up in the middle of the night and starts whining, chances are he needs to use the bathroom. THIS is a “potty-cry” and is a cry you  SHOULD respond to. Take him outside and let him relieve himself. Keep the process as low-key as possible, you don’t want to excite him into thinking it’s playtime. Immediately afterwards, put him back in his crate. He will more than likely whine for a bit. THIS is an “attention cry” and one you SHOULD NOT respond to. Even if you angrily tell him to be quiet, you have reinforced the idea that you are listening and responding to his whimpers. Give it 20 minutes, he will more than likely give up. These first few nights might be rough, but if you refuse to respond to his attention-cries, it will pay off.

6) Eliminate the Chance of an Accident

To reduce the number of times your puppy needs to go out at night, feed him two hours before bedtime. Then, take up his food and water for the night.

There you have it, all the tools you need to successfully crate train your puppy! Let me know how it goes, and I will keep you posted on Hogan’s progress as well!

Question of the Day: In what weird places does your boxer like to sleep?