Crate training is not putting your dog/puppy in a cage or jail, and you are not being cruel if you follow these tips. Dogs feel secure in small, enclosed spaces, like a den. Dog crates make excellent dens. It is a safe place for him to stay when you're away or when you cannot watch him.
Watch your own dog around home. Where do you find him napping in his deepest sleep? Under the table, desk, chair? Yes, somewhere out of the traffic pattern where he has a roof overhead and a little privacy. A crate offers security, a den with a roof, and a place to call his very own where he can go to get away from it all.
There are basically just a few steps in crate training and they are as follows:
- Choose a crate the same size as your puppy/dog. He should only have enough room to stand up, turn around and lie down. His crate is for sleeping or for a safe place to be when you cannot be with him. If you get a huge crate for a small dog, he may eliminate in one end and sleep in the other and you will have defeated the whole purpose of using the crate (dogs do not like to eliminate anywhere where they sleep or eat). If you have a puppy who will grow into a 60-70 lb. dog, you may have to buy two different crate sizes or purchase a crate with a divider you can move as he grows.
- Use a single-word command for your dog to enter his crate, for example, "Kennel" -- throw in a treat or piece of kibble; when the dog/puppy enters, praise him and close the crate door. Increase the time he spends in the crate before you let him back out. Remember, your dog still needs time to play and eliminate. Maintain a regular schedule of trips outdoors so as not to confine him too long.
- As a general guide, your puppy can stay in his crate comfortably for as many months as he is old plus one month (2 mth old pup + 1 mth = 3 hours in his crate).
Always take your puppy/dog outside to the same area in your backyard to eliminate on a leash so you can praise him when his job is finished. This will take the guesswork out of his visits to the backyard. And don't forget to play with him and exercise him. He needs this kind of stimulation for his mental and physical wellness.
Remember, your dog or puppy is a pack animal by nature and he will be looking to you for direction. Your job as a responsible pet owner is to give him that direction so you can enjoy each other as true companions should.