Crate training puppies is an exercise in patience (with Stetson it certainly was). If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a guide dog puppy raiser it’s how to crate train a puppy. I’ve been raising puppies now for the past seven years and I’m currently raising my third guide dog puppy. Stetson, my first guide dog puppy was very stubborn and hated his crate. Needless to say, Stetson almost ended my guide dog puppy raising career just as it was beginning. If you’ve been following my blog for a while then you already know that it took Stetson over four weeks to get used to his crate. In fact, he did not let me sleep more than two hours in a row during those four weeks.
When it comes to crate training puppies each puppy is at least slightly different. Stetson was an extreme case and after those four weeks of pure torture much to my joy he went totally silent and would sleep in the crate all morning without a peep. Dublin was on the other end of the spectrum and only had a couple nights of whimpering before he began sleeping through the night. Below is Dublin during one of his first puppy crate training sessions.
Over the years I’ve learned many tips and tricks on crate training puppies. Today we’re going to share with you the basics of how to crate train a puppy and then give you some of those tips and tricks for those of you who have a stubborn puppy who doesn’t want to adjust to his crate.
How To Crate Train A Puppy
As a guide dog puppy raiser we are given exact steps on how to crate train our puppies. Here’s what our Guide Dogs of America puppy manual says about crate training puppies:
A crate is a wire or molded plastic kennel that simulates a nest or den environment. A crate can become a puppy’s safe place, not to mention a house saver. When properly used, the crate becomes a security blanket, a place where the puppy can retreat to escape the household confusion and to feel secure. Never use the crate as a form of punishment! The dog crate should offer a positive, secure environment, a calming zone.
The crate can be effective in house training. Confined to a crate, an unattended puppy cannot destroy or soil anything. Do not crate the puppy during the day for more than 3 hours.
Start crate training your puppy on its first night. Place the crate in your bedroom where the puppy can still see and hear what is going on. Put a blanket or towel in the crate for bedding. A pup will rarely soil the crate, however, if he does, try removing the bedding. A crate should not be too big, but large enough for the puppy to stand stretch and turn around.
When placing the puppy in the crate, use the word “kennel” or “kennel up”. If he should happen to fall asleep somewhere else, pick him up and place him inside and quietly shut the door.
Do not hesitate to periodically use the crate, even while you are home. You may feed the puppy in his crate and give him some favorite toys, to keep the experience positive.
Crate Training Puppies
Our Favorite Crate Training Tips
Over the past seven years we’ve learned quite a bit about crate training puppies from crate training our first puppy, Linus who we rescued from the animal shelter, to working on crate training litters of puppies as foster parents, and finally crate training our very own guide dog puppies as guide dog puppy raisers. As you might have guessed over those past seven years we’ve learned many puppy training tips and tricks including a handful of useful crate training tips. Here’s a list that will hopefully help you out if you have a stubborn pup who whines, whimpers, barks, yelps, cries, and pretty much any other disturbing noise a pup can make in his crate:
- If you get to meet your pups litter mates then bring a plush toy or blanket to rub all over his litter mates. When it comes time to put your pup in his crate leave the toy or blanket in the crate too with the scent of his litter mates. this may help your pup sleep better at night. This seemed to work with Dublin.
- If your pup wakes up crying in the middle of the night take him straight to his potty spot to relieve himself. As soon as he finishes up his business take him straight back to his crate without any play time or other distractions
- Make sure you feed him at least an hour and a half before bedtime. Also, it’s been suggested to cut off water an hour and a half before bedtime so he won’t have to pee in the middle of the night.
- Play with your puppy for an extended period of time just before bedtime to tire him out.
- If you have a wire crate try putting a sheet over it to make him feel more cozy and enclosed. Be careful because I’ve had pups pull and chew on the bed sheet over the crate.
- Put your crate near the bed where your puppy can see you and if he starts crying hang your arm down so he can smell your scent. and if that doesn’t work then…
- You can try sleeping on the floor next to the crate. This worked with my rescue puppy, Linus.
- Feed him his meals in his crate. This will make him more comfortable entering his crate.
- Put plush snuggly toys in the crate to keep him company. Be careful. I’ve had pups chew, destroy and swallow plush toys when unsupervised.
- If he takes a nap during the day move him from the floor into the crate. Try doing this with the door open and closed.
- Try leaving the door open but lying down across the doorway of the crate as if to nap with him, to make him feel more comfortable in the crate, and at the same time make my body block the doorway.
- When he’s in the crate and being quiet make sure to give him lots of praise
- Try the heart beat toy. I’ve heard of a toy that simulates the mom’s heartbeat that helps the puppy sleep. We haven’t tried this one yet, but if we have another stubborn pup it will be on our wish list.
- Try the heated toy. I’ve also heard of a toy that has a thing on the inside that you can warm on the inside and insert in the toy. Makes the puppy feel like he’s with one of his litter mates. Another one we haven’t tried yet, but will be on the top of our wish list if we have a pup who doesn’t sleep.
- The one that worked for me and Stetson – I was a wreck and I thought Stetson would never get used to his crate. The only way I was able to get him to sleep was to talk to him for 5-10 minutes, telling him what a “good boy” he was when he wasn’t crying (if he did cry I would just keep silent tell he stopped). To try and quiet him down I’d either say “quiet” or “Shhh”.