Crate Training Puppies

You've just brought your new puppy home and after hours of oohing and awwing, you wonder what to do with him while you cook dinner. There are risks in leaving your pup unwatched as he can get into trouble in a second. There is also a good chance he'll have a hard time sleeping at night for a while. And he'll need a place to call his own when the kids get too rough or the cat won't stop chasing him.

The best and easiest solution to this problem is crating your puppy. When you give your puppy a crate, you are giving him a place that is safe and secure. Not only does crating him give you peace-of-mind, it mimics the den-like atmosphere that he naturally seeks out. It also provides an area which he is unlikely to soil and thus helps in house training. But how do you get your puppy to accept and like a crate? It's a simple process which, begun early on, will become habit for both of you very quickly.

The main direction to take is a positive one. If your puppy is afraid of his crate because you drag him in there, he's unlikely to use it on his own or be comfortable after you've shut the door.

1. Cover the crate with a blanket on three sides. This will make your puppy feel more comfortable and will help him sleep at night.

2. Start with the crate in an area where the family hangs out. If he can see others around him, he'll be less likely to feel abandoned.

3. Take as much time as is needed to let your puppy explore the crate himself. Using a treat, encourage him to go in and praise him when he comes out.

4. Put secure and fun things in the crate. Have a good crate bed, some chew toys, water and any blanket that your puppy fancies.

5. Do positive things in the crate like feeding your puppy there and petting him if he goes in and lies down.

6. Begin by closing the door for only seconds at a time and build up to longer stints from there.

7. Keep a white noise machine or a ticking clock near the crate when you're gone. This helps sooth the puppy and helps him sleep.

Your pup may whine a bit at first when he is left for longer periods of time. Resist opening the crate immediately. He is fine and will get used to it. Getting a dog used to a crate as young as possible is imperative. Older dogs can certainly be crate trained but it is more difficult, so do it now.

There is no better solution to avoiding chewed up shoes, getting a good night's sleep and having a less anxious dog than crating. With a small amount of time up front, you will ensure his safety and finally have time to do your nails.

Photo: Jim W.