Crate Training

Spend some time each day working on the crate being a "good thing". Start with some yummy treats (I mean *really* yummy). Sit beside the crate with the door open. Toss a treat just inside the crate door. Let them go and eat it. Toss the next treat in a bit further. When they are going to the back of the crate to eat the treat, close the door for 1/2 a second... just close while they are eating and open again as they comes out. Repeat this several times. Smile, talk happy talk to them.

Next close the door while they are eating the treat and wait 1 second before opening it. If they cry, you are going too fast. Open the crate before they have a chance to cry. Lots of praise as you open the door. Always let them come all the way out of the crate. You can have a brief play then toss another treat in and repeat the door closing again. Slowly increase the length of time the door is closed before you open it again. Only open it if they are calm and quiet. If they get a bit impatient and fusses, turn your head away. Don't look at them or say anything. When they quieten, then praise them and open the door. Vary the length of time the door is closed.

Sometimes 1 second, sometimes 5... Or whatever level you have worked up to.
Practice this exercise for no more than 5 minutes at a time, but practice many times a day, if possible. Stay right with them until they are calm and quiet in the crate with the door closed for 5 minutes.

Then proceed to move away from the crate. However, you have to go back to having the door closed for a very short time. So close the door, take one step away, step back and open the door before they cry. Keep working up to moving 5 feet away from the crate for 5 minutes in small increments as outlined above. Be variable. Don't respond to crying. If they cry out, just hold still without looking at them or talking.

If you find that they are getting louder and more stressed sounding with their crying, or you think they may need to go outside, make a sudden noise in another room... like closing a door or dropping a book... just enough to make them hold their breath and listen for a moment. In that pause, start talking to them and get to them as quickly as possible. Take them out, change something in the "picture" and regroup. *Do Not* go to them and talk to them or look at them when they are crying (and I know they can really scream at times) or you will undermine all the work you are putting into teaching them to be alone and quiet. Since you have rewarded them (by going to them) after 2 hours of crying, it is likely that they may try crying that long (or longer) again. If you follow the steps
I've outlined above, hopefully you can bypass the stress (on all of you) of all that crying. If you give in and go to them when they are crying you will be teaching them that crying "works".

Some Rules of Thumb:

  • A puppy should be confined a maximum of 4 hours at a time. They need frequent potty breaks and attention.
  • Puppies that are less than 12 weeks old should not be expected to "hold it" through the night. You can set your alarm to get up in the middle of the night and take the pup out or, if you like your sleep too much, resign yourself to cleaning up in the morning and accepting that toilet training will take longer. There is nothing wrong with this.
  • When not in its crate (or other safe confinement area) you should NOT take your eyes off your puppy. This is the biggest mistake people make. You must watch them. Direct them to appropriate play items. Keep them out of trouble and interacting with you. Puppies learn bad habits when no one is watching.