Crate training your puppy

Can you imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t have a bedroom? A space that is just your own where you can escape to relax by yourself when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed? No doubt this lack of privacy and personal space would bring a lot of anxiety and unease into your life. Your dog is very similar to you in the sense that they too crave a space to call their own. Dogs are naturally denning animals, which means they enjoy sleeping in dark enclosed spaces. This makes a crate the perfect way to fulfil this natural denning instinct in your dog as well as to give them a space that is all theirs where they can go to relax. Crating your puppy also has the added bonus of making potty training much easier! Dogs naturally do not like to go to the bathroom where they sleep, so the crate is an excellent tool for getting your puppy on a proper potty schedule.

Crate training is one of the most important things you can do with your puppy, and it should start the first night they’re home. When done right, crate training will create an association of calmness and safety with the crate for your puppy. Trust me when I say, while they may protest their first two or three times being alone in their crate, your puppy is truly craving the shelter and protection the crate provides and they will soon learn to love it!

The most important thing to remember when crate training your puppy is, say it with me, you get what you pet! So if your puppy screams and cries when you first put them in their new ‘bedroom’ (and chances are they will!), please do not console them in any way shape or form. The best thing you can do for them is to completely ignore their protests and let them figure things out on their own. Don’t speak to them or pet them because, while you may see this as you comforting your crying puppy, they will see this as you rewarding and reinforcing their anxious behaviour and this will create a very negative association with their crate.

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If you brought your puppy home in a travel crate, they will already have had some exposure to a crate prior to their first night in your home. Even still, their first night in your home is going to be the most important interaction with their crate because it will set the stage for every other night moving forward. If your puppy screams and cries in their crate and you give in and let them on the bed that first night, they have just learned two things. Firstly, the crate represents panic and anxiety. And secondly, all they have to do is scream and they will be let out of their crate. So put in some earplugs and get into your most calm assertive mindset – this may be a long night.

Remember that this is going to be your puppy’s first night away from their mom and siblings, so along with being in a new place and being exposed to a crate for (likely) the first time, they are also without their family for the first time in their short life. Understandably, this is going to create a lot of stress and anxiety for your puppy, so it is completely natural for them to cry their first few nights with you. Don’t panic! Remain calm and assertive and always remember, you get what you pet.

I recommend keeping your puppy’s crate in your room at least for the first few nights as complete isolation may be too overwhelming for them right away. If you were planning on keeping them in a different room of the house, wait three or four nights until your puppy is completely comfortable with their crate before moving it into its permanent location outside of your bedroom.

After taking your puppy out for one last potty break before bed, lead them to their crate on leash to begin the introduction. Using the leash, apply light pressure to guide them into the open door. Do not drag your puppy into the crate – you want the decision to enter this new space to be their own. Keep the pressure constant and firm until they willingly walk into the crate, then relax tension as they enter it. Once your puppy is in the crate, do not immediately shut the door behind them. If they try to exit the crate, use either your body or the door of the crate to block them. Be patient! This is brand new for your puppy, so take your time and don’t rush this process. Once your puppy is calm and relaxed in their crate (ideally they will be sitting or lying down), silently close the door.

Once again, if/when your puppy cries in the night, do not let them out or pet them or speak to them in that baby voice we humans love so much. Ignore the behaviour and remember it will pass, no matter how endless the noise may seem now. Like most puppies, Sprout cried her first night in the crate but by her third night with me she walked right into it without me even having to tell her. It is now one of her favourite places in the house and she is comfortable in any crate I put her in whether it’s at daycare, in the car, or even at the vet!

Crate training isn’t just limited to bed time! In order to ensure your puppy is completely comfortable in their crate, I recommend crating them both when you are home during the day as well as when they are home alone. This will give your puppy some time to rest and recharge on their own, as well as prevent them from getting into things they shouldn’t or having accidents in the house!

So remember, no matter how hard your puppy may fight you the first night they are in the crate, it is actually the best thing for them and for you! Breathe deep, invest in some earplugs or headphones, and wait it out. I promise your puppy will thank you.

Thanks for reading and happy crate training. Don’t forget to stay tuned for next weeks Puppy Blog!

Claire

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Fireworks, thunderstorms, and loud noises, oh my!

The best defence is a good offence. This awesome piece of advice believe it or not works wonders with dogs, especially those who are anxious around loud noises. Being able to predict what your dog is going to do before he does it, like how he may react to a sudden BOOM, will help to curb the behaviour. That means being aware of your dog and their surroundings to prevent negative behaviours so that you don’t have to correct them. Always be 10 steps ahead of them. Easy enough, right?

Sometimes it is! You may not be able to predict thunderstorms (nor rely on weather reporters for any help) but you can prepare yourself and your dog for when there will be fireworks. On holiday long weekends you can expect there will be fireworks that light up the sky once it’s dark out. The loud noises accompanied by such a beautiful sight can be frightening for your furry friend. Dogs may pace, shake, become destructive, or even run away. No one wants to see their pet in distress, so what exactly can you do?

Fireworks at Disney - Thomas Hawk, Flickr

Fireworks at Disney – Thomas Hawk, Flickr

Keep your dog indoors and whatever you do, fight the urge to caudal your dog! I cannot stress this enough. Petting and telling him, “it’s okay buddy” actually reinforces the dog’s anxious reaction. Instead of comforting him, you are confirming that the dog is reacting appropriately. You have now trained your dog to be frightened of loud noises. Instead, be proactive and exhaust your dog well before the fireworks go off. If your dog usually goes for an hour walk a day, go for a 3 hour hike! Tire your dog out so that he won’t even notice the sounds. During the fireworks it is important that you stay calm yourself. If you are startled by the sounds your dog will think he is supposed to do the same. Dogs pick up very easily on our energy so if you are frightened it will rub off on your dog. Try playing loud music to drown out the sound and distract you both.

Always remember that being proactive helps and you can even prepare your dog for certain situations before they happen. If you have a puppy and you don’t want him to be startled by loud noises, try desensitizing him to the sounds by playing thunderstorms and firework clips off the internet in your own home when he is in a calm, relaxed state. Act normally and if you remain calm your dog will too. Walking your puppy on busy streets where there are buses, cars honking, and kids on skateboards are also ways to socialize your dog and expose them to unpredictable sounds that could spook them later in life if they are not used to them.

Try out these methods this Victoria Day when the fireworks sound. Hope you and your pet have a safe and enjoyable long weekend!