In the wild, dogs lived in dens which were essentially small holes or caves. Today you can purchase a "den" at any pet supply store in the form of a crate. Once you have gotten your puppy a crate, there are a few rules you should know. Most importantly, you need to know how long you should have your puppy in her crate. This rule and some other tips on how to keep a crated puppy will have you on the road to a happy, better-behaved puppy.
The rule of thumb in dog training is to not keep a puppy in a crate longer than one hour more than the number of months old the puppy is. So if your puppy is a robust 6-month-old, do not keep her in the crate longer than seven hours. Likewise, if your puppy is a newly adopted 8-week-old, she should not be in a crate for more than three hours without having an opportunity to get outside to urinate or defecate. With any puppy, you want to get her outside immediately after letting her out of her crate to keep her from having an accident in the house, thereby re-enforcing her house-training. Even during the night, if your 2-month-old puppy has been in her crate for more than three hours and wakes up and begins to cry, you should get her outside for a potty break. If she stays asleep, do not wake her to take her outside unless you are afraid she will have an accident in her crate.
Eight hours is the top number of hours recommended for keeping any mature dog in a crate. Once your dog has become house-trained and you can depend on her to not eat your couch while you are away, you can try leaving her loose in one room of your house rather than crating her. Generally, it is advisable to not let your dog have free roam of your house until she is at least 2 years old, the age when most dogs are mature enough to no longer be considered puppies.
To keep your puppy from having an accident in his crate you should you make sure the crate is not too big. A puppy only needs enough room to stand up, turn around and get comfortable in his crate. A dog's instinct is to not soil his den; therefore, a puppy will not go potty in his crate unless he is left in there too long or has so much room that he can find an out-of-the-way corner in his crate to go potty. You may have to invest in a small crate to begin and then buy a bigger one as your puppy grows. Another idea is to put some sort of spacer in your puppy's crate to create a smaller space within a crate that is too large.
The crate is a good tool for housebreaking as well as a place for your puppy to be when you cannot be supervising her rambunctious puppy behavior. To make this tool as effective as possible, your puppy's crate should be her safe place. She should enjoy her time in her crate and feel it is a place to go when she is stressed, tired or overstimulated. To ensure your puppy enjoys her den, never use the crate as punishment and never leave her in her crate too long. Teach your puppy a command such as "go to bed" or "kennel up" when you put her in her crate and perhaps give her a treat or favorite toy as you put her in her crate to encourage her to associate her crate with happy feelings. You can also give her something to keep her from getting bored while she is in her crate, such as a Kong (hollow rubber toy) stuffed with peanut butter and then frozen for longer enjoyment. By following these suggestions and making your puppy's crate a safe and happy place for your puppy, your dog's crate will be a lifelong tool. Whenever you need to have your dog in a safe place, whether its to keep her out of your Thanksgiving dinner or to make sure she does not track dirt on your freshly shampooed carpet, you will want your dog to view her crate as a safe haven and happily retire to it when she needs to.
- Don't Shoot the Dog; Karen Pryor; 1999
- The Power of Positive Dog Training; Pat Miller; 2001
- The American Kennel Club Dog Care & Training; The American Kennel Club; 2002