I just adopted a new dog and I am lost. I would like to crate train, but I am not sure how to do it. How long do you recommend keeping a dog in the crate a day?
— Sarah, via email
Crate training is not about confining your dog in a crate. Do not leave your puppy in a crate for hours on end. That is confinement, not crate training. A puppy should never be confined in a crate all day long while you are at work. If that is your circumstance, then hire a pet sitter to come over at least twice a day to take the puppy out and play with it a little. A puppy in a crate for 8-10 hours a day is not going to make for a well balanced, happy puppy.
That said, the idea behind crate training your puppy or dog is to set him up to be successful in house training, instead of setting them up to fail.
How does this work? Well, dogs and puppies don’t like to soil the areas where they sleep or eat, so crating them for a time helps inhibit their tendency to urinate or defecate in their crate, thereby helping them learn to hold their business. It helps teach them to wait until they have an opportunity to do the business outside.
Here’s how to start. When you are at home, take your dog or puppy out of the crate and take them outside to potty. Generally speaking for every month a puppy is old, that is the number of hours they can hold their business. So if you have an 8 week old puppy, that puppy can hold it for approximately 2 hours (especially when awake). When you take your puppy out and they don’t potty, take the puppy back in, put it back in the crate and try again in about 15 minutes. When the potty potties, they get a standing ovation which helps them understand that what they did was a good thing.
To recap, crate training is not the same thing as confinement. The crate is used to aid in potty training, giving the puppy somewhere to go to be quiet and to sleep in at night so the puppy does not wander the house.
Crate training is used to illicit good behavior from your puppy and to aid your puppy in being successful instead of setting your puppy up to fail. Good luck and remember, “Opportunity Barks!”