Crate Training a Puppy
March 23, 2016
Along with the promise of 12 years of solid companionship, picking up a new puppy guarantees something else - work. Work on your part, his part, and anyone in your family who will share the responsibility of your new four-legger. This goes for all dogs, or should anyway, but is tantamount to creating a good bird dog.
Developing the hunting skills in a well-bred pup can be pleasantly easy, but the basic- and advanced-obedience is the foundation on which the rest of the dog is truly built.
That starts with simple commands like sit and stay, both of which are pretty easy to understand. It seems that the first directive that most pup owners run into trouble with is 'kennel'. The "kennel' command tends to signal that the fun is over for the puppy and thus, they rebel. It's simple, but without a proper plan to make sure your pup doesn't get the best of you, this command can be a pain in the neck.
Lead Him By The Stomach
Dog-training expert and owner of Oak Ridge Kennels, Tom Dokken, knows plenty about what to do to get a puppy to understand commands and his answer for how to effectively and quickly crate-train a puppy was pretty straightforward, "The kennel should be a positive place, not a negative place. So I don't like to use the kennel as a form of punishment because he'll quickly associate it with negativity. Instead, I like to feed the dog in his kennel. For most sporting dogs, where they get to eat is where they'll be happy, so this is a good start.
"I also like to grab up a handful of kibble and let the puppy smell it in my closed fist. Then I'll simply lead him into the kennel while saying, 'kennel, kennel, kennel.' As soon as he walks into the kennel, I'll release the kibble as a reward. After doing both of these food tricks, he'll start to understand the command and view his kennel as something more positive."
While feeding in the crate is a good idea, watering is not. Dokken doesn't like the mess it can create, and he tends to limit the water intake in the evenings for small-bladdered puppies.
Crate-Size & Potty Training
Dokken went on to explain a few advanced lessons in crate training a puppy that all potential puppy owners should understand. "One big thing I see a lot of people do with their kennels is that they go too big. It's cost effective to buy a full-sized kennel, but that's too big for a puppy. I like to build a simple partition in that case to keep the pup confined to a smaller area. This helps with potty training a lot, because he doesn't want to go to the bathroom where he has to sleep."
Dokken then went on to say that as soon as you open the crate to let the puppy out, you put him outside and encourage him to do his business. Also, any time you're home with the puppy and he is in the crate, pay attention to his body language. If he signals he needs to go outside, let him outside but beware - a smart puppy will cry to get out of the crate and then not go to the bathroom.
They learn to be tricky early on, a lesson I learned when crate training a golden retriever I owned years ago. She'd whine like she had to pee and since we were also potty training her, I'd always have a treat ready to go for her if she was successful. It turns out she figured that if she whined to get out and then squatted like she was going to pee, she'd get a treat. It was a good con while it lasted for her.
While working through this stage of potty training and crate training a puppy, it's also a good idea to keep the crate close to your bed while you sleep. That way you can hear what the puppy is doing and if they suddenly get real active at night you know it's time to go outside (or it could very easily be too late). This also allows you to more easily get the dog on your schedule, which will require a middle-of-the-night alarm for the first couple of weeks to let the dog out.