Adventures in Crate Training

Betsy started crate training the moment we brought her home.

There were two main reasons we decided to crate train Betsy:

  1. Housebreaking. Everything I read prior to getting Betsy said that crates are the absolute easiest way to housebreak a dog. Based on our experience with the crate, I have to say that I agree.
  2. Landlord stipulation. Our landlord’s rule for dog ownership was that our dog was in a crate when left home alone unsupervised.

After researching crate training, I learned a few other reasons why it was a good idea:

  • Teaching dog to self-sooth. It’s important for a dog to know how to be alone, and how to comfort itself when stressed.
  • Preparing a dog for situations when a crate is required, like if she gets lost and ends up at the pound for a few hours.
  • Gives the dog a safe spot to retreat to if needed. (example: Betsy recently voluntarily used her crate when we had a friendly dog over and she needed a five minute break from playtime.)
  • Is a safe way to transport your dog when in the car.
  • Keeps your puppy out of trouble at bedtime, so that you can sleep without worrying about her getting into something naughty!

We found crate training Betsy to be ridiculously easy. We were very lucky. She took to her crate pretty much right away, and although she protested a little, it only took a day or two for her to completely adjust to being in her crate. She never complains, and always scoots in there happily at bedtime. (and if there’s a treat involved, her default behaviour is to run to her crate, in hopes that we’ll give her a treat if she goes in there.)

Betsy's Current Crate

Betsy chillaxing in her crate with a bully stick.

Betsy has had two different kinds of crates, the solid plastic kind and the kind that is all bars that the dog can see out of. She definitely prefers the solid plastic kind. A total cave dweller! When we first got her, she had to go in her crate fairly often for potty training purposes, but now that she’s a bit older, she only goes in there at bedtime, when left alone, or if she’s being hyperactive and getting into mischief every 30 seconds and I need a moment of sanity.

Our potty training experience

The nice thing about the crate means that as long as the puppy is in there, no accidents! So you don’t have to worry about her having an accident overnight, or when you’re not paying attention. Because whenever you can’t supervise your new puppy, she is in her crate and not off in a corner pooping!

It also teaches the puppy that holding her bladder is a possibility, a concept that not all (if any?) puppies are born with.

Betsy was awesome with her crate. We’ve never had a crate accident, although we’ve known people who have struggled with this. When we first got her, she’d make funny noises of discomfort in the middle of the night when she really had to go, and I’d get up, carry her outside (never let your new puppy walk outside or they’ll totally pee on the floor before you get there!), and let her do her business. We did 2-3 bathroom breaks in the middle of the night at first, then just 1, and, only recently (at 5 months old), we’ve gone down to zero. Yay!

Betsy posing in her brand new adult-sized crate.

Betsy posing in her brand new adult-sized crate.

We haven’t had many accidents in the house at all, although I wouldn’t call Betsy 100% housebroken, and probably won’t for a few more months, just to be safe. But she definitely is fairly trustworthy at this point, and I don’t have to constantly watch her, terrified of the sudden squat.

Time-outs

Sometimes Betsy gets into this zone of being annoying. She gets tons of exercise, we do lots of training and games to tire out her mind, but every once in awhile she just… bah. Is annoying! Mostly pulling kindling out of our firewood stack and trying to chew on it, which is not allowed. Sometimes getting into the recycling so that she can chew on a piece of cardboard, which is also not allowed. If she keeps going back to annoying behaviours after a thousand redirections from me, I usually get fed up and crate her for about ten minutes. After she is let out again, she is usually magically more mellow and no longer getting into mischief. I don’t know why this is but it’s a lifesaver.

Crate tips

  • Always have something chewable in the crate! Chewing is a great way for a dog to relax itself, and it also gives the dog something to do if it wakes up and is bored waiting for you to let it out.
  • Don’t leave your dog in the crate for inhuman amounts of time. Of course!
  • Make sure your dog has had lots of exercise before expecting her to be in the crate for any amount of time.
  • Give your dog treats in the crate without locking her in, so that “Go in your crate” doesn’t always mean “I’m locking you up and leaving you alone.”
  • Play crate games with your dog (we don’t do this nearly enough but luckily Betsy is fond of her crate & it doesn’t seem to matter….)
  • Again, use the crate responsibly. Don’t be a jerk.
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