CRATE TRAINING
        by Robin Kovary, Trainer, Copyright 1999
        http://www.inch.com/~dogs/
        Kovary is the American Dog Trainers Network helpline
        director and canine behavioral consultant.

         Providing your pooch with an indoor kennel crate can
satisfy a need for a den-like enclosure. Besides being an
effective housebreaking tool, because it takes advantage of the
dog's natural reluctance to soil its sleeping place, a crate
can also reduce separation anxiety, prevent destructive behavior,
keep pups away from potentially dangerous household items and
serve as a mobile indoor dog house which can be moved from room
to room whenever necessary.
        Most dogs which have been introduced to the kennel
crate while still young grow up to prefer their crate to rest
in or "hang-out" in. Therefore a crate, or any other area of
confinement, should NEVER be used for punishment.
        We recommend that you provide a kennel crate throughout
your dog's lifetime. Some crates allow for the removal of the
door once it is no longer necessary for the purpose of training.
The crate can be placed under a table, or a table top can be put
on top of it to make it both unobtrusive and useful.

Preparing the Crate
Vari-Kennel type: Take the crate apart, removing the screws, the
top and the door. Allow your pup to go in and out of the bottom
half of the crate before attaching the top half. This stage can
require anywhere from several hours to a few days. This step can
be omitted in the case of a young puppy who accepts crating right
away.

Wire Mesh type: Tie the crate door so that it stays open without
moving or shutting closed. If the crate comes with a floor pan,
place a piece of cardboard or a towel between the floor, or crate
bottom, and the floor pan to keep it from rattling.

Furnishing Your Puppy's Crate
Toys and Treats: Place your puppy's favorite toys and dog treats
at the far end.  Toys and bails should always be inedible and
large enough to prevent their being swallowed. Any fragmented
toys should be removed to prevent choking and internal
obstruction. You may also place a sterilized marrow bone filled
with cheese or dog treats in the crate.

Water: A small hamster-type water dispenser with ice water
should be attached to the crate if your puppy is to be confined
for more than two hours in the crate.

Bedding: Place a towel or blanket inside the crate to create a
comfortable bed. If the puppy chews the towel, remove it to
prevent the pup from swallowing or choking on the pieces.
Although most puppies prefer lying on soft bedding, some may
prefer to rest on a hard, flat surface, and may push the towel
to one end of the crate to avoid it. If the puppy urinates on
the towel, remove bedding until the pup no longer eliminates in
the crate.

Location of Crate
Whenever possible, place the crate near or next to you when you
are home. This will encourage the pup to go inside it without
his feeling lonely or isolated when you go out. A central room
or a large hallway near the entrance is a good place to crate
your puppy.

Introducing the Crate
To help your pup associate the crate with comfort, security and
enjoyment, please follow these guidelines:

        *Throughout the day, drop small pieces of kibble or dog
biscuits in the crate. While investigating the crate, the pup
will discover edible treasures, reinforcing positive associations
with the crate. You may also feed him in the crate to create the
same effect. If the dog hesitates, it often works to feed him in
front of the crate, then right inside the doorway and then,
finally, in the back of the crate.
        *Praise and pet your pup when he enters. Do not push,
pull or force the puppy into the crate. At introduction, only
inducive methods are suggested. Overnight exception: You may need
to place your pup in the crate and shut the door. In most cases,
the crate should be placed next to your bed. If not possible,
place the crate in the kitchen, bathroom or living room.
        You could also play this game with your pooch: Without
alerting him, drop a small dog biscuit into the crate. Then call
your dog, saying: "Where's the biscuit? It's in your room." Using
only a friendly, encouraging voice, direct your pup toward his
crate. When the puppy discovers the treat, give enthusiastic
praise. The biscuit will automatically serve as a primary reward.
        Your pup should be free to leave its crate at all times
during this game. Later on, your puppy's toy or ball can be
substituted for the treat.

        *It is advisable first to crate your pup for short
periods of time while you are home. In fact, crate training is
best accomplished while you are in the room with your dog.
Getting your dog used to your absence from the room in which he
is crated is a good first step. This prevents an association
being made with the crate and your leaving him/her alone.

A Note About Crating Puppies
        Puppies under 4 months of age have little bladder or
sphincter control. Puppies under 3 months have even less. Very
young puppies under 9 weeks should not be crated, as they need
to eliminate very frequently (usually 8-12 times or more daily).

Important Reminders
        Collars: Always remove your puppy or dog's collar before
confining in the crate. Even flat buckle collars can occasionally
get struck on the bars or wire mesh of a crate. If you must leave
a collar on, use a safety "break away" collar.

        Warm Weather: Do not crate a puppy or dog when
it's hot. This is especially true for the short-muzzled dogs and
the Arctic or thick-coated breeds. Cold water should always be
available, especially during warm weather.

        Be certain your dog has fully eliminated before being
crated. Be sure that the crate you are using is not too
large to discourage your pup from eliminating in it. Rarely does
a pup or dog eliminate in the crate if it is properly sized and
the dog is an appropriate age to be crated a given amount of
time.
        Puppies purchased in pet stores, or puppies which were
kept solely in small cages or other similar enclosures when
between approximately 7 and 16 weeks of age, may be
harder to housebreak using the crate training method
due to their having been forced to eliminate in their sleeping
area during this formative stage of development. This is the
time when most puppies are learning to eliminate outside their
sleeping area. Confining them with their waste products retards
the housebreaking process, and this problem can continue
throughout a dog's adult life.

Accidents In The Crate
        If your puppy messes in his crate while you are out,
do not punish him upon your return. Simply wash out the crate
using a pet odor neutralizer. Do not use ammonia-based products,
as their odor resembles urine and may draw your dog back to
urinate in the same spot again.

Crating Duration Guidelines
        9-10 Weeks Approx. 30-60 minutes
        11-14 Weeks Approx. 1-3 hours
        15-16 Weeks Approx. 3-4 hours
        17 + Weeks Approx. 4+ (6 hours maximum)

*NOTE: Except for overnight, neither puppies nor dogs should be
crated for more than 5 hours at a time. (6 hours maximum!)
 

Back to Ruppy Rearing