So you've just brought your fur baby home...What now?!
Puppies sleep for about 16 hours a day, yes they run around like mad things but that also require a lot of rest. Your puppy will be busy getting into mischief and investigating everything and exploring their new world. Your home is enormous to a little puppy and you can't watch them at all times unless you choose to have a long line tied to you. We all have busy lives what with work and life commitments so you may find that you don't have every second of the day with you puppy, we need to keep them safe and give them somewhere that they can feel secure, and also limit accidents while you are toilet training.
You can't watch them 24/7
You can't watch your puppy every second of the day so giving them somewhere to rest or take a break is extremely helpful. Some people look at crates and feel that they are putting their pup in a prison....Don't think of it this way, there are various models of crates, you can make them really homely and buy lovely bedding etc, or you could get a material travel crate, especially if you travel a lot.
Giving your pup a place that theirs can reduce stress, if you have children or guests visiting. Children playing with pup should be limited and a crate is a great tool to restrict play or give your pup the option to go somewhere to rest, especially if you choose to leave the door open they can have their own space.
Never use a crate for punishment
Your pup should feel that the crate is their safe place. Never use the crate for punishment, don't put pup in there when they have misbehaved, this will send pup a mixed signal. We suggest that you distract pup when they are being naughty, try a bit of training or play for a few minutes ending the training or play on a positive note and then in a happy voice send pup to bed. Like with children over tiredness can cause naughtiness, giving pup a time out is beneficial, ending the training or play positively will leave pup with a good feeling about going to have a rest and not feel that they have been punished so their place still feels good.
If we were to use the crate to punish, then pup will have a negative response to going into the crate and even when they have been good they will feel punished each time you put them in there, this will turn their safe place into the jail you were so worried about at the start.
What Crate should I choose?
All crates should be homely and cosy. The crate should be big enough so that they can turn around when fully grown but not too big. We think that the bigger the crate the better cause they have room to wonder around etc, but actually pups prefer to be cosy and have somewhere they can nest. If you have a puppy who is going to grow to a big size rather than buy twice you could buy a crate with a divider and install it into an adult sized crate.
Solid plastic crates can work well for travel and at home for pups who tends to get over excited and stimulated by visuals, some plastic crates only have the front uncovered giving pup a window, Material ones have three sides but have a flap that can cover the window, Wire ones are open visually on all sides, you could decorate them with by using custom made throws or blankets draped over.
Proper Introduction to the Crate
So you think your crate looks like a prison, who knows what your pup thinks, so introduction to the crate is all important. Don't force your pup into the crate without first introducing them to the structure. If they are not curious enough to explore the crate themselves coax them, play with them, use treats and make it fun. Take a high value treat and place some inside the crate, do a Hansel and Gretel and make a treat trail leading up to the crate door and praise them each time they take a treat, they will be so happy that they are getting praise for eating something yummy, win win, that they will be distracted from thinking about the crate, also the experience is all positive leading up to the crate. If they still don't want to go in the crate at this point we do no more about the crate, we should play games next to the crate keeping pup close to it. Pup will soon get used to the structure and will stop seeing it as a big scary cage and instead see it as a fun place to hang out.
Take a break after about 10 mins of play at the crate, then after a further 10 mins try again with the treat trail, and throwing treats into the crate, once pup is in the crate praise like crazy. Take another break of 10 mins, now place a treat in the crate and cue your pup to go to bed, if you need to place a treat to your pups nose and guide them inside and praise, still leaving the door open give them another treat and say again go to bed. Close the door and praise your pup telling them how good they are.
Now it's time for you to see how your pup is coping, if they sit down and relax in their bed then great your pup is ready, if you see your pup is nervous, uncomfortable or stressed open the door and say lets go and leave the crate for another 10 mins, keep trying until your pup settles. Then try leaving pup there and sit quietly close by but not talking or looking at pup, if pup goes to sleep or is very settled you can try leaving the room. If pup cries try to wait until they stop even for a moment and when they are quiet return and go straight outside for a wee wee. Do not soothe your pup when they cry, they shouldn't think that if they cry you will return and let them out, when they stop crying and you do let them out you go straight to the garden for a toilet break.
Puppies whine when they are adjusting to a new environment, your puppy would probably whine if you left them in the hallway too. They are just adjusting to a completely new life and new schedule it will take them time to settle down.
This is why you shouldn't rush the first part of the introduction to the crate. Make sure before you leave your pup alone in the crate you have made every effort to make them comfortable and feel safe.
Duration for using your crate
If your puppy is struggling to hold their toilet in the night or if you are away from pup for a long duration you can use part of your crate as their toilet area. Puppies don't choose to soil where they sleep so place the training pads on the opposite end to their bed next to the door but remember that when you let pup out always take them straight outside to "their spot" to go to the toilet. Also be aware that pup is likely to play with the training pad and rip it up....we suggest you only use pads at night if really needed.
Please do not leave your pup confined for long periods of time in their crate.
Leaving your dog in their crate for too long can actually lead to physical and behavioural issues, so it’s vitally important to have a way to get pup out of the crate mid-day. Otherwise, you could be looking at tendon issues related to being confined or behavioral issues like hyper excitement or fear – also due to being confined for too long.
Puppies and Dogs can generally stay in their crate all night. Just like us, when a dog sleeps, their body slows down. They don't need to eat or drink, so they usually won’t need to get up in the night to eliminate. “Usually” is the key phrase, here. In puppies or older dogs, this may not always be the case.
General guidelines for leaving your pup in his crate during the day:
8-10 weeks old: 30-60 minutes
11-15 weeks: 1-3 hours
15-16 weeks: 3-4 hours
17 weeks+: 4-5 hours
During this time consider having someone come home at lunch to let your puppy out and play for stimulation, please consider a dog walker/sitter and doggie day care.
Walk and play with your dog well before you go out until he’s absolutely zonked. A tired puppy is a good, content puppy. If you’re lucky, he’ll sleep until you can get home on your lunch break or the dog walker comes.
Once your puppy is toilet trained, they don't have separation anxiety or stress and they are not destructive in the home, I actually recommend that you leave the crate door open or not crate them at all. After a good walk and play your dog will be happy to just chill at home on their bed, if you are concerned that they may have an accident choose a tiled room to make their cosy place and put the radio on quietly so they have some company.
Good luck and don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or to tell me how you're getting on!