CRATE CONDITIONING

🏡 After your puppy settles in and starts feeling comfortable, a bit of crate or playpen regression is normal. Here are some things you can do starting the day puppy comes home to reduce the regression.

 

🚨 NOTE🚨 Puppies are NOT left in a crate for several hours during the day with the door locked, without appropriate breaks necessary for their age.  That is adult behavior and an unrealistic expectation for a young puppy.


📝 If your puppy can not be supervised during the day while you are home, set up an 8’x8’ puppy play area with access to potty bells so the pup can notify you of those needs. This is a great place to add a crate with the door removed and a comfy Yak Crate Mat. This gives your pup the option to sleep in their crate during the day.  Puppy Culture teaches new families a great puppy playpen setup.

⚠️  The safest place for a puppy that is home alone is in a crate with the door closed. How long your puppy can stay in the crate during the day depends on its age. The rule of thumb is one hour for each month old. This means you can expect a two-month-old to stay in a crate for 2 hours at a time, a three-month-old for 3 hours, etc… If a puppy needs to remain in the crate for a longer duration, someone will need to let them out of the crate at appropriate times, as outlined above, to meet their food, exercise, and potty needs. 

🔊 Play crate and playpen games as soon as you get your puppy home and continue to at least once a day. Call puppy into the crate or playpen and give high-value treats for entering. (Bits of cooked chicken, beef, fish) This is also a great opportunity to reinforce the puppy’s name and come with someone calling the pup back out of the crate or playpen and just giving a piece of kibble. Play for 3-5 minutes a few times a day.

👀 If you are using a puppy playpen, you will want to start 1-minute manding sessions soon after you get your puppy home.  Continue manding sessions a few times a day as you walk past the playpen when the puppy is in the playpen.  Manding sessions are simply clicking/marking an automatic sit with eye contact and rewarding that behavior with a high-value treat.  We like to toss the treat a few inches away but within the puppy's vision so the puppy has to get up, get the treat and intentionally come back, sit and make eye contact again.  Note: you can do manding sessions anywhere, not just in the playpen.  To end a manding session, we toss 10 or so pieces of kibble in the play area and let the puppy forage for them as we walk away.  

🪑 A continuation of the first crate and playpen game. Have pup run in the crate or playpen, click and treat. No treat for coming back out. After a few times, wait for the pup to sit before click and treating. Then wait for eye contact, click and treat. Then close the door and open it immediately, click and treat. Now that criteria is established, keep the door closed for longer and longer durations before clicking and treating. It may be a few seconds before you get to minutes. The goal is to click and treat BEFORE your puppy gets worked up.

🍖 When settling in the crate for bedtime, this is a great time to give a raw turkey neck or chicken drumstick. A pig ear, any raw meaty bone or chew will work. Give it for five minutes then refrigerate until the next crate session.

⏰ Grab a timer. (Smartphone timer works great.) Puppy’s needs are all met and it’s time for a nap or bedtime. With the puppy in the crate and door closed. Put a small metal food bowl in the crate so they wait for the ping sound of the kibble hitting. Every 30 seconds drop a treat in the bowl. After a few minutes, drop one treat every minute for 5 minutes. Then one treat every five minutes, leaving the room and coming back to give the treat. You do this whether they are barking and howling or not. After a few minutes or so they eventually settle and wait for the next treat. Don’t say anything to the puppy. The goal is to get the pup to focus on anticipating the next treat.

🔁 Your pup is familiar with these games, as they have played them with us.

 

❌ If your pup isn't settling into the crate for nighttime sleeping, increase each meal by 1/4 C, increase their evening sniffari walk outdoors and reevaluate the amount of time they are in the crate during the day.

Additional ideas:

1️⃣. Put a drop or two of lavender essential oil on Snuggle Puppy.

2️⃣. Put Snuggle Puppy in the dryer right before bed so it’s nice and warm.

3️⃣. Take puppy on 15-30-minute adventure “sniffari” walk before bed.

4️⃣. Put the crate next to your bed so the pup can see you and you can hear when the pup needs a potty break.

5️⃣. Turn on soothing music.

📝 Remember, the crate is a den to be used while the owner is home but can’t supervise. Intelligent use of the crate provides a place of safety allowing a dog a place to settle down and ward of destructive behavior. Do not use the crate for extended periods of time, it’s not a dog sitter. It doesn’t provide an outlet to release energy. A locked crate is the safest place for a puppy when home alone.  You MUST offset crate time with adequate and age-appropriate physical exercise and mental stimulation.

💓 Patience, snuggles, consistency, and love are the best puppy training tools. 💓

Have a solid training plan in place BEFORE YOU BRING PUPPY HOME so you have a foundation to build on.

🔊 If you are struggling with crate training or not finding results with the above techniques, seek professional help before the issue becomes a habit or destructive pattern.

Force-free, fear-free, positive reinforcement dog trainers we recommend.   

Pawsitive Training - Heather Bowden 1-757-269-1442
Homeward Bound - Emily Blythe 1-608-535-9743
Cooperative Canine - Jenny Wyffels 1-469-450-8118
Melena DeMartini
What to look for in a trainer