A crate is an essential tool in the potty training process because it helps your pup learn how to “hold it” and, more importantly, it allows you to predict when your pup will need to go, so you can take her outside and reward her for going in the right spot.
Step-by-step crate training:
1. Buy a crate that’s big enough for your pup to stand up and turn around in comfortably, but not much bigger than that. If it’s too roomy your pup will potty on one side, and hang out in the other.
2. Fill it with treats. Put a delectable food-stuffed chew toy in your pup’s crate while she watches from the outside. Close the crate door. When your pup starts sniffing or pawing at the crate door, open the door and let her in to investigate.
3. Close the crate door with your pup inside. Sit outside the crate and quietly praise your puppy for chewing her toy.
4. Let her out after about 15 to 20 seconds,and take away the treat. Close the crate door. Reopen, put the treat back in, and repeat the entire process.
Repeat this three or four times in a row, at least four times a day, starting with your pup’s first day home and for two or three days thereafter.
DogTime tip: Start this exercise with a hungry pup, keep the sessions short and sweet, and let her eat out of a food-stuffed chew toy beforehand, so she knows what to do with it.
If your dog’s too cautious to even explore the crate you’ll have to convince her it’s a great place to hang out. Don’t force her. Instead follow the advice for a slower introduction below:
1. Feed her only in her crate, preferably by stuffing her meals into Kongs and other hollow chew toys.
2. Place her meal in the back of the crate so she must get in to reach it. If you’re using a stuffed toy instead of a bowl, secure it with rope so she can’t remove it.
3. Stay near the crate while she’s in it, and encourage her to investigate.
4. Be responsive. If your dog pokes around in her crate, even briefly, quickly toss in a treat and praise her for being so brave.
5. Reinforce good behavior, by calling her out of the crate and letting her try again. Repeat this a few times but stop the session before she finishes her meal. Leave her wanting more.
6. Return to step one, and repeat at different times throughout the day.
Another way to help your dog enjoy a crate is to play what we like to call “the Crate Game.” Here’s how it works:
1. Waggle a freeze-dried liver treat in front of her. Once you have her attention, say “Crate!” point to the crate door, and toss the treat into her crate. She’ll have to go inside to eat it.
2. Before your dog comes out, say “Doggie, come here!” in a happy, playful tone while backing up a few feet and clapping your hands. When your dog comes praise her, and then start the game all over again.
Soon your pooch will race into the crate when you say, “Crate!” and point. Good dog!
Note: Never end the game by locking your dog in a crate; you’ll take all the fun out of it.