Welcome Home – How to Crate Train Your New Dog or Puppy

You’ve just brought your new dog or puppy home. It’s been a big day and it’s time to give everyone a break. After all, there’s dinner to prepare for the humans, laundry to do, errands to run, and your favorite TV show comes on at 8, but don’t forget about that new dog.

A dog or puppy left unattended to roam around your house is an invitation for trouble. Not only could this result in damage to a favorite piece of furniture, it could result in your dog getting hurt or sick. When you can’t supervise your new dog, it should be in a crate.

Crate training is one of the easiest ways to help your new dog be successful in your home. It is not cruel to put your dog in a crate. In fact, most veterinarians and breeders recommend crate training your dog from the puppy stage up through the senior years. Crates provide a den-like, safe space to contain your dog when you’re not home and when you are busy with kids or other daily life happenings.

And just like us, dogs need a quiet place to go when they need to decompress and get away from household hustle and bustle. Remember to teach children that the dog’s crate is off limits. That’s where the dog goes to have some quiet time and they need to respect that. When the dog wants to play, he will come out and find your kids.

We always want the crate to be a positive place, so here’s a list of 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Crate Training Your Dog:

  • Give your dog a food-dispensing toy in the crate.
  • Try feeding your dog meals in the crate in the first few days, as he’s getting used to it. Eating in the crate makes being in it a pleasurable experience.
  • Line the bottom with a soft blanket or mat.
  • Place a toy inside the crate for your dog to play with.
  • Reward your puppy with a food treat and lots of praise for entering the crate.
  • Associate a single word, such as “crate,” to the act of your dog going into the crate. Always follow with a treat and lots of praise. Make sure everyone in your household uses that word, and only that word.
  • Don’t use the crate as punishment. You want the crate associated with good things, not bad ones.
  • Don’t leave your new puppy or dog in the crate all day. He will need multiple bathroom breaks, play breaks, and feeding breaks throughout the day.
  • Remember patience and consistency. Dogs learn at their own pace and it might take awhile for your dog to get the hang of going into the crate on cue and lying down quietly.
  • Always take your new puppy to the bathroom first thing, each time you take her out of the crate.

Another great side benefit of crate training your dog is housetraining. Dogs don’t want to pee or poop where they sleep. Crates can really help you manage where your dog is learning to go to the bathroom in the first two weeks of being home. Crates can also help you to manage dogs who are going through excessive chewing phases.

Now that you understand why your dog needs a crate, you may be asking, what kind of crate should I get that behemoth Newfoundland puppy who is 12 weeks old and already 40 pounds?

  • Choose a well-ventilated crate just large enough for your dog or puppy to comfortably turn around in and not much larger. (For puppies, look for crates with built-in dividers that can be adjusted as your puppy grows. This is more common in wire crates.)
  • Hard-sided crates are made for easy transport of your dog, so if you’re going to be traveling, or if you want a safe way to get your dog to the vet and the groomer, a hard-sided crate is a good choice.
  • Soft-sided crates are easy to transport and set up anywhere, but may not be suitable for a new puppy or dog just learning the ropes of crate training. My Newfoundland was 3 years old and ate the side out of her soft-sided crate. Each dog is an individual and what works for one might not work for another. Consider a soft-sided crate after your pup or adult dog is reliable about not chewing things up.

Crate training can help minimize the stress your dog will go through in the first days and weeks of being in a new home. Expect a little whining or crying the first couple of days, but stay strong, and know that your dog’s crate is really the safest place for your dog to be at night or when you’re not supervising.

If you have any questions about crate training, be sure and ask your veterinarian. Your dog’s vet is a great resource for behavioral and training issues, including crate training.

In our next “Welcome Home” post, we’ll cover “Housetraining – Setting Up for Success.” Be sure and download our free ebook, “Bringing Your New Dog Home,” for great tips and tricks to help your dog acclimate to its new home quickly.

Have a crate training story to tell? Discover a great trick that really worked or have a tip for certain age of dog? Share it with us.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.