Make Your Dog Love Their Crate!
I have a lot of people ask me for advice on crate training when they hear how much my dogs love their rooms. That's a big part of it right there. Rooms. Not crates. We created a safe, special place for our pups. Their room is their safe place. They can go there when they are tired and want to be left alone. They aren't allowed to go in each other's rooms, though Ariana (being the sneaky, bratty, typical, little sister) will occasionally steal a toy or blanket out of Mufasa's room to take for herself. We NEVER pull one of our dogs out of their room unless they are doing something that is dangerous to themselves.
Here's how you can start transforming your pup's crate into their special room.
Well in advance of bringing your new pup home, pick out a crate that is the right size for your pup. I prefer getting the final size they will need when they are full grown. Most crates come with a divider so that you can size it down for a pup and keep giving them more space as they grow until they are eventually using the full crate. They should be able to easily stand up and turn around, as well as lay down comfortably. I like to get a slightly larger size than they need because I use an elevated bed in their crate. More about that later though. You also need to decide what kind of crate to get because there are so many. My preference is the Kong Dual Door Crate. They are nice & sturdy, breakdown easily for storage or transport, and the dual doors gives me more options on where I can place it in the house.
Now that you've got the crate home, you need to find a place to put it. If you want your dog to love their space and choose to spend time in there, even if you're home, you need to put it someplace where they can still be part of the family when they are in it. We chose to put them in the living room area with a straight shot to getting to the sliding glass doors to the backyard. That makes it easier for potty training too. You also want to make sure that it's an area that has good air flow and that you can protect from the sun shining through a window and making it too hot. You can always use a crate cover to protect it from the sun, to add warmth in the winter and to make it seem more cave like. Mufasa, my male Weim, has a crate cover. Ariana, my female Weim, will destroy anything that is laying against her crate, so we skipped a crate cover for her.
Let's talk crate beds. When you first bring a puppy home, you probably want to forego the bed until you get the potty training down. Once they are potty trained, I HIGHLY recommend a Kuranda crate bed. The Slimline is my favorite. You want to order one that is as close to the inner dimensions of the crate as possible. If there is an accident, you can pull it out of the crate, take it outside and hose it down. Extremely easy to clean. And very comfortable for your pup.
Your pup's room is in place and furnished. It's time for accessories! I go to Walmart or Target and stock up on the little rolled fleece blankets for $5. Wash them when you get home. Then sleep with a couple of them for a few nights to let them get your scent before bringing your pup home. That lets your pup have your scent with them even when you're not. I only leave what I call "crate safe" toys with them. My personal favorites are the Nylabone Dental Dinosaur and the Tux by West Paw Design. You can smear a little peanut butter on the dinosaur to encourage your pup to chew it. The Tux is great for filling with treats. You can even put yogurt & treats in it and freeze it for a great summer treat. It's much easier to clean than a Kong, and you can just toss it in the dishwasher. Speaking of treats, make sure that you give your pup high value treats for going to their crate. We have a treat cabinet, and when we open that cabinet, our dogs RACE to their crates.
We also leave a radio playing near their crates. This provides noise to cover up "scary" outside noises that might frighten your pup. Plus if you listen to music or TV a lot when you're home, it's sounds they are used to hearing. If you decide to leave a TV on instead of the radio, use some consideration on what channel you leave it on. I never leave Animal Planet or Nat Geo playing because they might have vet shows with animals crying out in pain.
You've got your pup's room in place and ready for them. It's time to start introducing it in a non scary way. Prepare yourself because your pup will cry, whimper and howl. It's how it's going to be. You'll have to work your way past that. The best way to introduce the puppy to the crate is to put them in for short amounts of time while you're still there. Put the pup in the crate with a treat and then read for 10 minutes...or load the dishwasher...catch up on Facebook. The trick is that you don't want to let the puppy out until they are quiet. As soon as they are quiet, go to the crate, let them out and take them straight outside to potty. While crate & potty training, a huge rule is to go straight outside to the designated potty area as soon as you let them out of the crate. Even in these short beginning sessions. Slowly work up to leaving them in for longer and longer. I also strongly recommend feeding your pup in the crate. Mine are still served meals in their crates. If you're going to give your pup a really special treat, even if you're going to let them just have it loose in the house, make them go to the crate for it.
I'll leave you with a few things to keep in mind.
NEVER use a crate as punishment for bad behavior.
Puppies don't have bladder control. Don't leave a puppy for more than 4 hours.
Do NOT leave a pet in a crate for long periods of time without exercise.
Always make the crate a warm, inviting place with toys & chews.
I hope that answered some of your questions, and I hope that your pup will be loving their "room".