Q: I recently adopted a new puppy. He is about 8 weeks old.
I am having a hard time with the crate training. Different advice is being thrown my way.
Currently I leave him in a crate that is big enough for him, blanket and a toy during the day. I try and make it home at lunch to let him out and play for a bit, and am heartbroken if I can’t. At night when I come home he is out and playing/eating with me. When it is bedtime I let him sleep with me in the bed. He hasn’t had any accidents. But I am being told that I need to crate him at night as well.
I don’t want to be cruel to the puppy. I do want him to know that he can hold his bladder and that he needs to let me know when he has to go.
Can you please tell me the rules about the crate training? If I crate him at night, is it just until he gets the potty time down? Is it forever? Will he hate me? Is it mean to him to be caged up all the time? Will he be a dog that misbehaves later in life if I keep him caged up all the time? Will he misbehave now if I do?
A: These are all good questions. There is a tendency to overuse crates, so it’s good you’re questioning some of the advice you’ve heard.
Dogs are normally active during the day and they sleep at night.There is nothing wrong with having a pup or dog sleep in a properly sized crate; it’s just a cozy bed. It’s certainly not mandatory though. If your pup is not having potty accidents at night, he does not need to be crated for sleeping. As long as you’re comfortable sharing your bed with him, there’s no reason to change that arrangement.
However, a full workday is a long time for a pup to be crated in the daytime. It’s good that you come home at lunchtime to let your pup out of his crate to potty, exercise and get a drink – he needs that. But on the days you’re not able to get home, his time-sense will be telling him he’ll be able to eliminate at noon, but instead he’ll have to hold it until you return that night.
For proper development, puppies need to be able to move around, stretch, play, drink, eat and potty during the day. A crate will not permit most of this.Two or three hours crated during the day are OK, but a full day, on a regular basis, is too restrictive for best health and comfort.
A better option than a crate, for safe daytime confinement, would be to puppy-proof your bathroom, laundry or mudroom and let your pup spend his days there. Put his bed, food, and water on one side of the room and a potty area for him (papers or a litter box) a few feet away.
Another option is a folding exercise pen (available at pet supply outlets). These freestanding pens are usually constructed of eight 2-foot wide metal wire mesh panels, hinged together, which fold to about four inches flat for storage. The pen can be used to surround a puppy-proofed area of the kitchen or other room with an easily cleaned floor.
When your pup grows up and is fully housetrained and finished with teething, and you can trust him loose in your home, you’ll be able to put away the pens and crates.