First Step in Teaching Discipline
Crate training a puppy is one of the first steps—and one of the most important ones—in teaching a pup about discipline. Teaching discipline starts as soon as you bring the pup home at seven or eight weeks of age. The key to successfully crate training a puppy is consistency, patience, and a positive attitude.
Since the pup is away from its littler mates for the first time, that situation will require some adjustment. Crates are a new environment for your pup, and you will want to make the crate a place of comfort for them, not a place of punishment.
When picking up your pup from the breeder, take a towel or soft blanket to rub on its litter mates. Letting your pup smell the towel on its journey home, and once at home, will allow it to transition into its new home while having the familiarity of its littermates’ smells for comfort.
Before bringing your pup home, decide if it will sleep inside the house or outside. If sleeping inside the house, consider having three crates in place. Have a crate for outside the house, one inside the house nearest the door where you’ll be doing potty training, and if the pup sleeps indoors, another one in the room the puppy will sleep in.
If the pup will sleep inside with you, place a crate in the bedroom at eye level so the pup can see you throughout the night. This will allow you to comfort it by poking your fingers into the crate. This step will also help in potty training communication.
Having a crate by the door where you’ll be doing the potty training at ideal. The pup can take a nap there during the day, and the second it wakens, it can be quickly let out to potty. When outside with the pup, you don’t want it wandering out of sight, so having a crate to quickly place the pup in helps in maintaining control.
If the pup will eventually sleep outside as it grows, be sure to have a kennel or run with a proper doghouse in place. Having a crate to put your pup in now will help with this later transition.
Introduce the Car
Now is also the time to start crate training your puppy in a car. When driving anywhere, even if just a quick run to the post office or corner market, put the pup in a crate and take it with you.
Eventually, you’ll be taking the dog hunting on extended road trips, so now is the time to introduce it to the crate and all the activity that comes with road travel. If the pup is afraid, put the crate in the passenger seat with the door facing you so it can see you.
If the dog is afraid of the car and the road noise, have someone ride with your pup in the back seat, where they can hold and comfort it. These are all new experiences for the pup, so be patient and use common sense. This is a time to teach them, not scold them. Be sure to never leave a pup in an enclosed car in warm or extremely cold weather.
You want your pup to always associate the crates as a happy place. Never reprimand them and toss them in a crate. If they are uncontrollably yapping in a crate, avoid hollering at them and hitting the crate. Instead, try to calm them with your voice, reassuring them all is okay. For the first week or so, pups may only be in the crate for a few minutes at a time for several times a day. Most pups will calm down and get used to this new place within a few days. Find a rugged, safe chew toy the pup can keep busy with, as this will help in making crating a positive experience.
The goal is to get the pup entering and exiting the crate, under control. You want the pup walking into the crate on command, and this can take up to a few months or more to achieve. Then again, some pups pick it up in a matter of days.
When letting the pup out of the crate, avoid talking to it in a high voice and getting it all excited. You want the pup to calmly and slowly exit the crate, under control. When opening the crate door, talk calmly to the pup, put a hand in front of its nose and as it emerges, rub its ears, neck, back, and rump. This will keep the dog calm and wanting to be touched, rather than letting it shoot out of the crate to run off and play. A lot of injuries happen when pups burst from their crate; these are injuries that can easily be avoided.
When putting the crate in elevated places like a car or the back of a truck, make sure the pup is under control when you open the door. If the pup bolts out of the crate uncontrollably, serious injury can be incurred. It can happen quickly, so always practice caution.
Crates should be a place of sanctuary and security for your pup. We use crates during family mealtimes and when we have a house full of guests. As a pup gets older it will enter and exit the crate on its own. My dogs are now six and eight years old and they enter and leave their crates on their own multiple times a day. A pup will learn that a crate is the best place for it to escape and rest. It’s a learned behavior that should be taught to pups at a young age.