Crate Training


How to crate train your Miniature Australian Shepherd or Toy Australian Shepherd


Start this process the day you bring you bring your puppy home. Your puppy will whine when you first put him in his crate. This is because he would rather be snuggled up close to you the way he was with his litter mates and Mom. Consider the adult size your dog will be. Do you have room in your lap, bed, etc. for the adult dog? You need to decide what the "rules" will be and then stick to them from the start. It may seem to be mean in the beginning but think of it from the puppies' point of view. Why could I get on the couch before and now I can't? Start early, stick with it! Think of the crate as their very own bedroom.

If the breeder has provided a crate for the puppies to sleep in, your off to a good start. Now all you have to do is get your puppy used to its new crate. If possible, get a familiar toy from the breeder, one that has the smells of the litter and Mom on it. Put this in the crate and don't wash it until you are sure the puppy is settled in. It may not smell good to you, but it does to them. Generally, a couple of days is all it takes and then you can wash it if you feel the need. Caution: Some puppies will chew large pieces of a towel or bedding off and swallow them causing impaction and possibly major surgery or death. Do not put any bedding in your puppies crate, they are totally comfortable without a padded bed or blankets.


Puppy crate training should all be done with no negative reinforcement. When you first bring the puppy home from the breeder, have the crate ready for the puppy. We use a towel or a pad in the crate. Be sure it is something washable. We use small treats and allow the puppy to sniff it and then lure the puppy into the crate with the treat. When the puppy goes into the crate to get the treat and explore the new area, we leave the door open and let him come out as he wishes. Don't force the pup into the crate. Don't make him stay in there the first few times. Repeat putting a treat in the crate, allowing the puppy to go in on his own for the treat. Praise the puppy while they are in the crate and begin to associate a word or phrase for going in the crate. We use "kennel up"; you can say "Go to bed" or "Bed", whatever works for you. Say this AS you are putting the treat into the crate and the puppy is following it in. Do this about five times and then quit for a while. Repeat this several times the first day.


Closing the Crate Door

When the puppy is going in after the treat comfortably and when the puppy has just finished playing and gone potty, lure the puppy into the crate with the treat only this time close the door. After you close the door, sit on the floor in front of the crate and talk to the puppy if necessary. If the puppy cries or whines, put your fingers through the grate in the door to reassure the puppy that he isn't alone. Usually, they will only whine for a short while and may even fall asleep if they are tired. Stay there until the whining subsides and the puppy calms down and then open the crate door. 5-10 minutes usually. If the puppy happens to fall asleep, great! I let him sleep in the crate until he wakes up and then it's right outside to go potty. Don't use a lot of praise when you open the crate door and ignore the puppy for a few minutes after he is out so that he doesn't get the idea that getting out of the crate is play time. Do not let the puppy out of the crate until he is quiet for at least 30 seconds and has calmed down. You might try to distract him with a toy to give him a chance to be quiet so you can let him out while he is quiet but DO NOT let him out until he IS quiet. Don't yell or correct in any negative way. Never let the crate be associated with punishment.


The First Night At Home

If you have gotten your puppy during the day and had time to do the above steps, great! The puppy will already be familiar with going in the crate after a treat. If not, and you want to begin the puppy's life at his new home sleeping in a crate here's what to do. Play with the puppy till he's tired, make sure he has gone outside and place crate next to your bed where you can reach it while you're still lying down. Remove any collar that might be unsafe, place your tired puppy into the crate, go to bed and turn out the lights. You are setting a routine for the rest of his life. If the puppy whines, place your fingers in the grate of the crate and talk softly until he falls asleep. You may lose a little sleep the first night and possibly the next but DO NOT open the door for the puppy unless you are sure he needs to go out. Do not get angry with the puppy or yell at him, but do not give in and let him out if he has been out in the last little while either. If the crate is comfortable and warm enough, the lights are out and you are right there to talk softly to him and let him lick your fingers, then usually he will fall asleep within an hour.


At eight weeks of age, you cannot expect the puppy to go more than four hours without a trip outside. So, as soon as the puppy whines after waking up, be ready to take the puppy outside. Dress quickly before you open the crate, carry the puppy to the potty area immediately, praise him gently for a job well done. Without getting into a play session with him, return the puppy to his crate, turn the lights out. Remember your setting a pattern for life. If the puppy fusses, talk softly and put your fingers in the grate of the crate. Two or three nights of this and your puppy will be used to the routine. If you happen to sleep through the puppy whining and he is forced to potty in his crate because he can't hold it, don't blame or scold the puppy. It is your responsibility to get the puppy out BEFORE he has had a chance soil his den. Clean it, put clean towels or pads in the crate and return to your routine. Set an alarm clock if you have to.


The crate should not be too big for the pup. To large a crate and there will be enough room for the puppy to soil in one corner, and sleep in the other corner. As the puppy grows you may need to use a larger crate. Some wire type crates come with a divider that can be moved as the puppy grows so that you will only need to buy one crate. Later on, after the puppy is used to the routine and after he no longer needs to go out every four hours, you can put the crate in another room if you choose to.


Crating When You Leave the House

At some point, you will have to go to work or go out somewhere and can't take the puppy. If he is familiar with his crate and it does not have any unpleasant associations linked to it, this is easy. It is helpful if he has played a bit and is tired. Make sure he has gone to the bathroom. Take off his collar, lure or place him into the crate with a treat and your association word. Close the door and leave the house without making a fuss. This only increases his anxiety level. Don't stay away too long. An hour or two is best. If you have to go to work, arrange to come home at lunch to feed, exercise and potty the puppy. If you can't do that, have someone else come in and do this for you. A puppy cannot be expected to go longer than four hours without a potty break and it is very hard to retrain a puppy that is used to going in his crate. As they get older, you can expand the time.


After the puppy has grown a bit and is used to being put into his crate, you will see something interesting happen. When the puppy is tired and wants some alone time, possibly away from the children (who should not be allowed play in or around the crate) you will find him in his crate, curled up and sleeping. We leave the doors of our crates open and my dogs are often in the crates taking naps on their own.