Crates keep curious puppies safe when they're not under your direct supervision. They help to teach your puppy to hold and strengthen their bladder and bowel muscles as dogs instinctively like to keep their sleeping areas clean. This helps to make potty training much easier for you and your puppy.
The first step to successfully crate training your puppy is choosing the right size crate for your puppy. A general rule of thumb is to select a size where your puppy has just enough room to turn around and lay down. A crate that is too big for your puppy allows them to move around a lot, play, jump, and even go potty at the other side of the crate. When their crate is the right size, it helps reduce stress and teaches your pup to be calm in their crate. It also reduces the likelihood that your puppy will go potty in their crate because dogs are clean animals and won't want to lay in their pee. Sometimes it makes more sense financially to buy the right size crate for your pups adult size depending on how big your puppy will get and use crate dividers. This allows you to adjust the crate to the size that best fits your puppy and adjust it as they get bigger.
We don't recommend using any sort of dog bed, blanket or towel inside your puppy's crate as this is something for them to play with, pee on, chew apart, and choke on. Most dogs actually prefer hard surfaces to lay on, so the regular crate mat itself is more than good enough.
We also don't recommend leaving your puppy with any soft plush toys or any chew toys that they are able to chew apart and choke on. If your puppy is between the age of 2-6 months and teething, we recommend finding a durable and quality chew toy that your puppy is not able to chew apart to help with the teething, and to help associate their crate as a positive thing. A Kong filled with peanut butter and then put in the freezer is a good way to keep them occupied and help with teething. After they're done teething around 6 months of age it isn't necessary to give your pup any toys in their crate as this associates their crate with playtime instead of being calm.
Crate training your puppy is just as important as potty training your puppy. To keep your puppy safe, they should sleep in their crate until they are at least 1 years old. To help your puppy make a positive association with their crate, try tossing some of their kibble or favorite toys into the crate and allowing them to go in and out on their own terms at first, leaving the door open.
The first time they go into their crate with the door closed, 99% of the time they are NOT going to like it. That is OK. DO NOT LET THEM OUT if they are whining, barking, screaming or putting up ANY kind of a fight. If you let them win and you let them out of their crate while presenting these behaviors, it reinforces that if they whine / bark / scream etc. that this is their way out of their crate. This is bad and teaches them negative behaviors is how to get what they want. AS SOON AS they are quiet for longer than a few seconds, LET THEM OUT IMMEDIATELY and praise the shit out of them. This reinforces that being calm and quiet is their way to get what they want.
Remember, dogs are narcissists and are always looking to better their situation. You need to teach them that to better their situation they need to be calm and quiet and then they will get what they want. THEN REPEAT, adding more of a duration every so often. This will be extremely annoying but the benefits outweigh the cons. You may have to wait awhile for them to stop whining / barking etc. but HOLD STRONG AND DO NOT GIVE IN. *Earplugs can be your best friend* This phase is temporary and will not last forever.
Many people's instincts when they hear a puppy cry is to comfort them and give in to what they think they want, but this is going to RUIN your chances of successful crate training from early on. In fact if your puppy is whining or barking IGNORE THEM COMPLETELY until they stop. This means DON'T EVEN LOOK AT THEM. Then when they stop, let them out and give them TONS OF PRAISE. This should only take a couple of days to a week if done correctly and then BAM your puppy is crate trained within 7 days and for the rest of their life. Before you know it they will even enjoy going into their crate and it becomes 'their space' that they associate as a positive and comfortable safe zone.
Take your puppy out immediately to go potty every time you let them out of their crate and every time after they eat or drink, no exceptions. This should be done until they are at least 6 months of age to help proof the potty training.
You should not feel bad or guilty for keeping your puppy SAFE by keeping them in their crate when they are not under your direct supervision. Puppies need lots of rest! It is not beneficial to take your puppy out for extended periods of time. Depending on age, young puppies need around 15-20 hours of sleep per day for essential physical and mental development. It's more beneficial to take your young puppy out for 15-20 minute intervals and then let them rest for at least an hour before the next outing.
Every dog 6 months or younger should be in the crate when they are not under your direct supervision. *Puppy / exercise pens DO NOT COUNT AS A CRATE and should only be used under your direct supervision. If they learn to jump out once, they have learned this behavior for life.
We recommend keeping the puppy on a leash in your presence at all times within the first 6 months when they are not in their crate. All dogs up to one year of age should sleep in their crate at night time. And all dogs up to 2 years of age should be in their crate whenever you leave the house. THESE RULES MUST ABSOLUTELY BE FOLLOWED NO MATTER HOW WELL BEHAVED YOUR DOG IS! These are our Golden Crate rules at PITT K9 that we ALWAYS follow! Remember this is for your dog’s safety and to protect your dog from common adolescent behaviors (i.e. chewing and choking on something, etc.) This also prevents unwanted behaviors from forming which we cannot stress enough how important this is to making YOUR life easier with your adult dog.
Dogs learn positive and negative behavior from repetition and practice. Do not allow your dog to practice unwanted behaviors as they will turn into lifelong habits. It is easier to create good habits at a young age than it is to correct bad habits later on, just as it is easier to prevent bad habits from forming than it is to fix bad habits after they have been learned. Protect and supervise your puppy/adolescent dog just as you would protect and supervise your baby/toddler. THIS IS FOR THEIR OWN SAFETY!
It is beneficial to have their crate in a separate room from where you sleep or spend most of your day (i.e. a basement, garage, or spare room, etc.) and to move their crate to different rooms periodically. If possible we also recommend switching different crates as well. This will help teach your dog how to cope with stress and separation anxiety in a healthy manner from a young age.