Dogs in the wild are den animals. Those instincts are in your puppy, so giving him a crate is like giving him his own personal den. A crate provides a secure, comfy retreat from the household hubbub and a safe place to stay while you are away from home. Puppies are reluctant to soil their den, so being confined in a crate is a great way to prevent training accidents.
You can also have a bed for your dog in another room, such as in your bedroom or a child's.
- Choose the correct-size crate for your puppy. A dog should have enough room to stand up, stretch, turn around, and lie down in her crate. If there is too much room, however, your dog will be tempted to use one end as an elimination spot. For large breeds, you may have to purchase two crates, a small one for the puppy and a larger one to accommodate your dog's growth; or, you can partition off part of a larger crate.
- Do not put food and water into the crate; your puppy's bladder and bowels will fill up and he will have to eliminate in the crate.
- To train your dog to go into the crate, designate a single-word command like "Kennel!" or "Crate!" State your command firmly and toss a piece of dry dog food into the crate. When your puppy enters the crate, praise him and close the crate door. Leave your puppy in the crate for 15 minutes, to start, and gradually increase the time so that your puppy learns how to behave while you are away.
- No puppy (or adult dog) should spend most of her time in a crate. A few hours is the maximum time a puppy should be crated, though much will depend on the personality and age of your pup. Calculate your puppy's approximate crate time limit by adding 1 to how many months old your puppy is. For example, if your pup is 2 months old, she can tolerate 2+1 hours, or 3 hours, of crate time.
- As your dog matures, you will learn how much crate time she is comfortable with. Some dogs can happily be crated while you are at work and other dogs can only handle several hours in a crate, particularly if they are also crated at night.
Continued on page 4: Behavior Basics