How Do I Crate Train My Labrador Retriever?
You have brought your adorable puppy home, and now the fun begins. Puppies have tons of energy and do not quite know their boundaries. As their owner, it is up to you to teach them good behavior, so they become happy, healthy and socialized. Crate training is one way to start. A crate offers a safe, secure environment for your dog and stops him from being the destructive puppy he might be until fully trained. A crate will become your puppy’s den where he will sleep and retreat to when tired or afraid. It will also keep him out of trouble when he is home alone. Crate training can be a useful, enjoyable experience for your dog when done the right way. Here are some tips on proper crate training techniques.
Choosing the right size crate
You can find secure, affordable crates at your local pet store. They come in different sizes to meet your needs. They are most often made from metal, plastic or thick fabric with a rigid frame. The ideal crate should allow your dog to stand up and move around. Look for a crate to fit the size your dog will be as an adult, not just the size he is now. Many crates come with panels to create just enough space to fit the dog, allowing you to increase the width as your puppy grows.
Dogs do not typically eliminate where they sleep, so crate training is also an excellent potty training tool. But, be warned, if your puppy has too much space in their crate to move around, they will do their business in the corner, away from where they lay. This defeats the purpose of teaching them to hold their potty until you can let them outside. Once a puppy learns they can eliminate in their home, it will make getting him to pee or poop elsewhere that much harder. Younger pups will only be able to hold their bladder for a few hours, so be sure someone is close by to let him outdoors frequently. As he gets older, he can keep it for longer periods of time. But, he will get discouraged easily if he has many accidents in his crate, so it is important for you to give him many opportunities throughout the day to use the bathroom, whether outside or on a puppy pad.
Start crate training from day 1
Crate training should begin from the very first day you bring your puppy home. Choose a word, such as “crate” or “kennel” and use it, along with a tasty treat, each time you instruct your pup to enter the crate. Puppies can learn well when they have consistent expectations from you. This is a fun, rewarding way for your pup to learn about his new environment. However, this is also a brand new experience for your puppy, and he may be nervous for the first few days. Crate training allows your puppy to have a safe and secure place to go to when he is afraid or tired. Place a blanket with your scent on it to soothe your puppy when you are gone. Leave a small bowl of water if he is thirsty. The first few days your puppy may be reluctant to eat his food in the crate. Encourage him by placing his food further into the crate each time he eats. Praise him when he finishes eating. He will soon be happily eating his meals inside his crate. If your puppy views his crate as a pleasant environment, he will adjust very quickly to being in there.
Limit the time your puppy is in the crate
You want your puppy to enjoy his crate but leaving him in there too long will have the opposite effect. If left alone for extended periods of time, your puppy may soon see his crate as a punishment. You will then have a hard time getting him in there without causing him anxiety. Puppies need plenty of exercises to work off their energy. Keeping him crated for countless hours will only cause him to misbehave, such as eliminating in the house or chewing on your shoes. Take your puppy out of the crate at least every three to four hours, allowing him to run, play and use the bathroom. If you are not available, hire a pet sitter, take him to doggy daycare or ask a friend to let him out a few times during the day.
The ideal area to place the crate
Dogs are highly social pack animals. This means they instinctively want to be around the family and know that they are part of the action. You have welcomed this puppy into your home, and he should be treated well. Your child would be terrified to sleep in the garage at night. Well, your puppy feels the same way. Position his crate in the area of your home where the family spends most of their time. That way when you are home, if he chooses to retreat to his crate, he can still see everyone and feel part of the pack. Do not put the crate in a deserted, dark room. He will soon feel lonely and isolated.
Problems that may arise
Your puppy may whine a lot the first several nights in his crate. It may be hard to tell if he wants out or needs to use the bathroom. Setting a routine will help figure it out. If he has eaten and eliminated several times before bed, he may just be lonely. It will be hard, but try to ignore his whining. If he figures out that you open his cage each time he whines, you will soon create a pattern that has you running to your puppy all night long. Make sure he has a warm blanket or a favorite toy to cuddle with. He will soon realize that his whining is not getting him anywhere and will go to sleep. Your puppy will learn independence and how to soothe himself in a healthy way.