Most everyone has an instinctive resistance to crating or caging a puppy. There are those who insist it’s cruel but these are people who simply don’t know or understand how to introduce and use a crate properly. Your first task is to get over any feelings of guilt you may have. Your puppy will quite probably end up liking his crate and if he does then there is certainly no reason for us to feel badly about using it. The crate is going to provide security and safety for your pup as well as reduce some of your stress and aggravation.
A sturdy wire crate is recommended which is big enough to enable your pup to lie down, turn around and stand up. He will usually be resting or sleeping when inside so there is simply no need for excess space. If you are using the crate for house-training it is particularly important that the crate not be too large. If you own a pup that is going to be big as an adult, you can purchase a large crate and temporarily block off part of it and expand it as he grows.
The crate should be kept in a living area of the home. For daytime use you may want to place it in the kitchen or family room. At night, it is best to have him crated in or near the bedroom of a family member. You can us two crates if you wish.
How to introduce the crate
If you have not yet started using a crate, or if you have and your pup seems to resist it, we suggest several things. Have patience and proceed as slowly as needed to start making going into the crate an enjoyable experience for your pup. Drop a food treat or two in front of the open door and drop the next one just inside the crate. Praise your pup lavishly every time he puts his head in. The purpose is really three-fold: you will prevent bad habits from becoming established, you will protect your home, and you will keep your puppy safely away from poisons, sharp objects, electrical wires, etc. It is also recommended that you routinely crate your pup for brief periods and stay nearby. Otherwise many pups quickly recognize that when you put him in his crate you are going to leave. Consequently, they begin resisting it. If you avoid making this negative connection he will continue to go in willingly. As you continue your training and your pup matures you will be able to give him more freedom but don’t be in a hurry; many dogs are crated for a year or longer. It is always better to thoroughly establish a pattern than to test too early. When you feel that your dog may be ready for greater freedom introduce it slowly. If he gets into trouble during a brief absence, he is not yet ready. Be patient!
Begin placing the treats further back until he will go completely in. Similarly, begin feeding him next to his crate and then place the food dish inside. When your pup will go all the way in to eat, close the door for a minute or two. Remember: praise him when he goes in but ignore him when you let him out. The object is to establish that being in the crate is good. You can then begin gradually leaving him in the crate for increasingly longer periods.
If conditioned to it as described, a young pup may be left alone in a crate for several hours. If he must be left longer than this you will need to arrange for someone to let him out briefly for exercise and to eliminate. Introduced properly your pup will adjust to a crate well.
On occasion, he may cry to be let out. Letting the pup out at this time will teach him to cry. Make a point of only letting him out when he is quiet. Your best solution to barking or crying, assuming you have also followed the instructions above is to ignore it. When he learns that making noise doesn’t work he will stop.
How to use the crate
Your pup is now soiling in the house, chewing on furniture and generally getting into trouble. These are normal behaviors for a puppy but obviously unacceptable to you. When you are able to watch him you can correct him for making mistakes but when you can’t watch him and he engages in these behaviors he is learning to do them. You must then crate the pup anytime you cannot pay close attention to him. This means at night when you are asleep, anytime that you are away from home, or at home and busy with other things.