A Guide to Crate Training a Puppy

Meet Jake. He is a sweet but fearful Portuguese Water dog.

During the first week that they had this little guy, Alex and Nelly experienced Jake chewing his way out of his first crate! Granted, this crate was soft walled (made of nylon and heavy duty mesh), however, they discovered that Jake would do whatever it took to escape. He managed to chew his way through in no time at all!

Home Alone Training – Training for Independence

Jake’s parents, Alex and Nelly, were used to child rearing. They already had two darling boys who adore their new puppy family member. They understood the importance of management and purchased a sturdy wire crate to ensure there would be no more escaping!  Having a strong escape-proof crate is essential, if a dog becomes nervous and successfully escapes from the crate it is a major set-back!

For a training plan, we emphasized that crate training should happen daily in very small increments. The general rule is daily practice, so we recommended a crating schedule of 10x per day for 2-20 minute intervals.

Help! It’s not Working!

While we were there during our visit, Jake was crated three times. His first go around was a tad painful, as expected. He screeched and cried much like he did every time his family crated him. We waited the noise out. We gave him “Watch It” warnings twice. Then said, “Enough!” – the final warning – before covering the entire crate with a blanket.

The blanket over the crate helped make it clear that barking and vocalizing will make things worse in there. Jake stopped his high-pitched complaints almost immediately. He changed his tune to a low growl. Nelly expressed some concern because this sound was new. We assured her that this was a good thing and continued to wait out Jake’s protests.

Outlast the Protest – Be Patient

The key to these crate training exercises is to ALWAYS OUTLAST YOUR DOG’S PROTESTS. The worst thing you can do is to let them out during or while they are upset!  So we stayed in the room, to give Jake assurance, however we didn’t speak to him and most importantly we didn’t give in. He growled for a while. Whimpered. Then nothing…

The silence lasted for about two minutes. This was the perfect opportunity to open the crate door! Jake had learned to self-soothe and to calm himself down.We opened the crate door and didn’t make a big deal about it. No celebrations. We didn’t give him any attention. It was a “business as usual” attitude.

Increasing Crate Time – Learning to Self-Soothe

We practiced three crate sessions during our visit. We explained that, at first, people should stay in the room where Jake is crated.  By the third exit from his crate, Jake was peaceful and calm. He would enter his crate (we always tossed treats in for him) and we would remain in the room talking and keeping him company. When he settled down, he would be released.

[Note: Not every dog will learn so quickly. If you think your dog has severe separation anxiety. Please contact a Zen Dog Trainer!]

From the Dog’s Perspective

Before long, they taught Jake to acclimate to being in the crate for longer and longer periods. Jake’s perspective:
“I go into the crate…
I wait silently…
Eventually I get released…
But only when I am quiet and relaxed.”

It was a great start!  After our session they had their work cut out for them. They had to get 10 crate experiences accomplished every day!

Gradually Decrease Company

Over time, Jake was gradually exposed to less and less company in his crate room.

His family was eventually able to leave the house. His family was able to go from having only 30 minute outings, to having 1 hour outings, to have multiple hour outings.

For more information on Crate Training for Independence or other dog training topics, visit us at www.ZenDogTraining.net to view our extensive collection of video tutorials.

In addition, you can check out our eBook:  How to Crate Train a dog in 2 Days