The Right Crate for Your New Puppy
A crate is a valuable tool for your new puppy; being comfortable in his crate helps him tolerate periods of separation from his human family and provides a safe place to leave him when you cannot supervise him. A crate can also prevent a mouthing puppy from chewing on dangerous or unwanted items and will discourage house-training accidents. Car travel is also safer with a crate.
There are hundreds of sizes and styles of crates available, and new pet parents are often overwhelmed by the choices. Here’s a helpful guide to selecting the right crate for your needs, as well as a rundown of the items that should be inside the crate to make your pup comfortable.
Style and Size
Your puppy needs a crate that is just large enough for him to comfortably turn around in and not much larger — otherwise, accidents are more likely to occur. But when your puppy reaches his full size, he should still be able to comfortably stand up and turn around inside the crate. Clearly this creates a dilemma, as an adult-size crate will be too large for successful puppy house training. Rather than buying separate puppy and adult-size crates, choose one that will be appropriate for your dog at his estimated full size but can be modified to accommodate him as a puppy.
Look for a crate with a built-in divider that can be moved further back in the crate as your puppy grows. Wire crates are most likely to have this type of divider, which makes them a good one-stop purchase for puppy owners.
Soft-sided kennels work best for well-trained dogs. They are harder to clean up if a house-training mess occurs, and can be broken out of more easily, which makes them most suitable for dogs who have already been kennel-trained. A soft-sided kennel is not the best choice for your new puppy.
Hard-sided crates are convenient for easy cleanup, making them more appropriate for puppies who are still house-training, and certain varieties are approved for airline travel. If your pup is going to be a frequent traveler, a hard-sided crate may be the right choice for your dog.
Dogs used to lying in their own mess are harder to house-train, and it’s a particularly awful feeling for the dog to lie in filth. For a dog that is struggling with house-training, look for a kennel with a moat indentation around the inside edge of the floor. This area contains any liquids from a house-training accident, leaving your puppy a clean place to lie down.
Inside the Crate
You want to make your puppy’s crate as comfortable as possible, but in the early days of crate training, accidents will happen. Instead of a fancy bed, use an easy-to-clean towel or blanket inside the crate; when your dog is fully house trained, you can invest in something more luxurious. If you opt for a wire crate, make it more comfortable and denlike by draping a towel or blanket over the top.
Keep your puppy busy and happy in his crate by providing toys and chews for him to gnaw on. Choose toys that can’t be broken into pieces that your puppy can choke on. Food puzzles keep your puppy busy in a productive way, which will help him tolerate separation from you and will expend physical and mental energy.
Feeding your puppy in his crate can help strengthen the positive association he has with the crate. But avoid giving him a big meal and then leaving him in his crate; a small smear of peanut butter in a Kong is plenty of reinforcement. By the same token, giving your puppy unlimited water in the crate can undermine house-training progress since puppies often have to eliminate shortly after drinking. Instead, offer him plenty of access to water during the times when he is outside his crate.
Training your puppy to enjoy his crate from the very beginning gives your pet a comfortable and safe retreat, and provides you with a beneficial training tool. It’s a win-win for both of you.