8 Best Strategies For Crate Training a Puppy While At Work

8 effective strategies for crate training a puppy while at work

Crates are one of the most important tools you can use when raising a puppy. Puppies love to explore the world around them – mostly with their mouth. This means your home is fair game! Cords, carpet, furniture, cabinets, doors, shoes, blankets… you get the picture… are all things my students have shared that their dogs have destroyed when left unsupervised outside the crate.

If you're feeling uncomfortable about using a dog crate, you're not alone. Many of our students initially misunderstand the value and purpose of the crate, too. But as they progress through our crate training process, they come to realize that a dog crate is a priceless way to provide a cozy, safe space for their puppies in a variety of situations.

Crate training a puppy while a work has unique challenges like finding the time to slowly introduce the puppy to the crate, ensuring that the puppy doesn't develop separation anxiety, and making sure the puppy gets enough exercise and attention when not in the crate. It can also be difficult to keep a consistent schedule when working, which is important for crate training success. Despite these challenges, crate training provides many long-term benefits for the puppy and the owner.

The strategies we share below will help you teach your puppy that the crate or kennel is the best place ever – a comfortable and safe space where the puppy can relax and unwind.

Benefits of crate training while at work

Puppies need constant supervision to prevent mishaps. Crate training while at work ensures your pup is safe and secure while you're away at work.

 

Benefits of Crate Training While at Work

Crate training can benefit your dog while you are at work in several ways. First, it provides a safe space for your dog to retreat to when they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Dog crates and kennels are like cribs and playpens for puppies – providing a secure and comfortable environment for your puppy to relax and play any time you have to step away for a moment to use the bathroom, put the laundry in the dryer, grab the mail, or are unable to supervise your puppy 100% because you need to focus on something else for a short bit. Think of it as a quiet, safe space that helps reduce anxiety and stress.

And, just as a human baby takes a while to settle when placed in a crib or playpen, a puppy needs time to settle when placed in the crate. The goal of crate training is to create a positive association so your puppy will love the crate. For this reason, we never use the crate as a form of punishment.

Additionally, crate training can prevent unwanted behaviors such as chewing on furniture or getting into potentially harmful items around the house. By confining your dog to a crate while you are at work, you can also streamline the potty training process, as most dogs instinctively avoid soiling their living space.

Furthermore, a crate can keep your dog and your belongings safe while you're not able to supervise them. It ensures that your dog does not have access to areas of the house where they may get into trouble or injure themselves. This not only protects your possessions but also keeps your dog out of harm's way. Ultimately, crate training provides a secure and controlled environment for your dog while you are at work, offering both you and your pet peace of mind.

 

8 Best Strategies for Crate Training A Puppy While At Work

 

8 Effective Strategies for Crate Training While at Work

1. Selecting the Right Crate

Selecting the right crate for your pup is essential for their safety and comfort. There are several types of crates available, including hard plastic, metal, collapsible, and mesh. Hard plastic crates are durable and provide security, while metal crates offer ease of setup and take down. They typically come with a divider that can allow the crate to grow with your puppy. Collapsible crates and mesh crates are not ideal for puppies and are only recommended for mature dogs who need a quick crate set up at a dog show, competition, or similar circumstance. We never recommend soft, collapsible crates if a dog will be left unattended.

A good crate should be sturdy, have multiple entries for easy access, be easy to clean, have rounded corners for safety, and be easily transportable. When choosing a crate, consider the pup's expected size (to ensure you get the right size crate), intended use, travel plans, chewing behavior, temperament, budget, and home decor. For example, a larger breed may require a sturdier crate, while a pup with chewing tendencies may need a more durable material. Consider the intended use of the crate, whether it's for travel, house training, or containment.

By considering these factors and choosing a crate with the right features, you can ensure a comfortable and secure space for your pup.

2. Preparing the Environment

When choosing a location for a crate, it's important to consider the needs of the puppy as well as the convenience for you. The crate should be placed in a quiet area of the house where the puppy can feel safe and secure. Avoid placing the crate in high-traffic areas or near loud noises that could cause stress for the puppy. Additionally, make sure the location of the crate allows the puppy to still feel like part of the family, so they don't feel isolated.

Puppy-proofing the area around the crate is essential to prevent accidents and keep the puppy safe. Remove any small items that the puppy could chew on or swallow, and secure any electrical cords or hazardous items. It's also important to consider the flooring around the crate – if it's carpeted, you may want to put down a protective mat in case of accidents.

By choosing the right location for a dog crate and puppy-proofing the surrounding area, you can create a safe and comfortable environment for your new furry friend.

3. Creating a Positive Association With The Crate

In order to make the crate a great place to be, you can start by feeding some meals in their crate, as long as your puppy is comfortable with it – just the food, not water.

Dogs that panic in the crate can develop a negative association with food and the crate, so feeding a dog in a crate only works if the dog doesn’t mind going in and hanging out in the crate for a while.

Leave water out of the crate as this just becomes something fun to play in, makes a mess when tipped over, and leaves them needing to go potty more frequently without a way to relieve themselves if left in the crate. We never want to encourage a dog to go potty in their crate!

The next best way to make the crate positive is to give a higher value treat to your pup each time they go into the crate. You’ll want to make sure your pup is well exercised before they go in their crate. You never want to put a fully charged puppy in their crate with a ton of pent-up energy. They will go stir-crazy and won’t settle down in there very well at all.

4. Establishing a Routine

Establishing a consistent schedule for crate time is crucial when crate training a puppy. Dogs thrive on routine, and having a set schedule for feeding, exercise, playtime, and crate time helps the puppy adjust to the crate more easily. Consistency also helps prevent accidents in the crate and reduces the puppy's anxiety about being confined.

To gradually introduce the puppy to the crate, start by leaving the crate door open and placing treats and toys inside to make it a positive and inviting space. You can also place the food bowl just outside the crate and gradually move it in, finally placing it all the way at the back of the crate. Encourage the puppy to explore the crate at their own pace and avoid forcing them inside. Once the puppy is comfortable being in the crate with the door open, start closing the door for short periods of time while you are still in the room. Slowly increase the amount of time the puppy spends in the closed crate.

You should be putting your pup in their crate for short periods of time throughout the day, even when you are home. For one thing, it helps them settle down. Also, it teaches them they can go in the crate whether you’re there or not. Finally, it helps them learn they don’t go in the crate only when you leave. It just makes crate training less stressful and gets them used to it a whole lot faster.

Positive reinforcement is key during crate training. Use treats, praise, and rewards to encourage the puppy to go into the crate and stay there calmly. Avoid using the crate for punishment and instead focus on creating a positive association with the crate. With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, crate training can be a successful and stress-free experience for both the puppy and their owner.

5. Using Calming Crate Training Tools

You can help your puppy settle into their crate even better by using the right crate training tools, which include playing calming music for dogs, using a Snuggle Puppy, using a white noise machine, and closing the blinds to make it darker and more cozy. You can also use dog-appeasing pheromones (DAP) such as Adaptil, this is like a scent the mother dog gives off that calms her pups.

6. Keeping the Puppy Occupied

Interactive toys are essential for keeping your puppy occupied and mentally stimulated. These toys engage your puppy's mind and provide them with a fun challenge, helping to prevent boredom and reduce destructive behaviors. They also encourage problem-solving skills and can help build their confidence.

The only things I put in a dog’s crate are hard chew toys like Benebones, Nylabones, Kongs, and Indestructibones that can’t be pulled apart, destroyed, or ingested.

Safe chew toy for crate training a puppy while at work

Chew toys are important for puppies, as they provide relief from teething pain and satisfy their natural urge to chew. The Benebone, Nylabone, and Indestructibone are durable, non-toxic chew toys that are specifically designed for puppies. You can also consider frozen chew toys or treat-filled chew toys to provide additional mental stimulation.

In addition to chew toys, treats are another great way to keep your puppy occupied. Treats can be used for training, to reward good behavior, and to keep your puppy entertained. The Kong is a treat-dispensing toy that can be filled with your puppy's favorite treats, or filled with peanut butter or applesauce and frozen to provide them with a challenge and a tasty reward.

If your pup struggles with the Kong, the West Paw Toppl is a great alternative that many younger puppies find easier to engage with than the Kong.

Overall, offering a variety of interactive options – chew toys, treat dispensing toys, and treats – is essential for keeping your puppy interested, occupied, and mentally stimulated. These items not only keep your puppy entertained, but also promote their overall well-being and development.

7. Managing Anxiety and Stress

Signs of anxiety or excited behavior in a puppy can include excessive panting, whining, pacing, and trying to escape the crate. They may also exhibit destructive behavior, such as chewing or scratching at the crate, or have accidents despite being house-trained. If your puppy starts to whine inside the closed crate, you may have increased the length of time too quickly and should revert to a shorter time period in the crate with the door closed.

To calm your puppy while in the crate, here are some crate training tips:

Introduce the Crate Gradually: Start by placing the crate in a common area where the family spends a lot of time. Encourage your puppy to explore the crate by placing treats and toys inside, making the crate a positive place they want to enter voluntarily.

Create a Comfortable Environment: Choose a quiet area of the house, away from drafts, high-traffic areas, and loud noises that still allow the puppy to feel like part of the family, so they don't feel isolated.

Practice Short Crating Periods: Begin with short periods of time in the crate while you are home. Gradually increase the time as your puppy becomes more comfortable. Always return before they become anxious or start whining.

Use Calming Aids: Products like Adaptil calming sprays and diffusers, a ticking clock or Snuggle Puppy can mimic the warmth and heartbeat of littermates, and white noise or calming music for dogs can be soothing for puppies.

Ensure Adequate Exercise: Before crating, make sure your puppy has had enough physical and mental exercise. A tired puppy is more likely to rest calmly.

Leave Quiet Entertainment: Quiet toys, such as a Kong or Nylabone, can keep your puppy occupied and reduce anxiety.

Keep Goodbyes and Hellos Low-Key: Avoid overly emotional departures or greetings, as this can create anxiety around your absence and presence. Keep your interactions calm and matter-of-fact when leaving or returning.

Use Positive Reinforcement: Reward your puppy with treats and praise for calm behavior in the crate. Avoid letting them out when they are whining or barking for attention, as this teaches them that these behaviors get your attention. There is one important exception: if your puppy is panicking, remove them from the crate immediately!

Signs that a puppy is panicking include frantic scratching at the door, panting, trembling or shaking, excessive barking or whining, excessive salivation, and potty accidents.

Anticipate Some Whining: Some whining is normal as a puppy tries to settle into its crate. However, if it continues beyond 10 minutes or so, it’s likely not healthy, and you should remove the puppy from the crate.

We no longer teach the “cry it out” method – a widely accepted but obsolete approach to crate training where you leave a puppy to cry in the crate until they wear themself out. Much has been learned about canine behavior over the years. This showcases how our training methods change to reflect the latest developments in canine development.

If your puppy whines excessively in the crate, wait until they are quiet – even if it’s just a pause long enough to take a breath – before letting them out. This teaches them that being calm leads to release. However, ensure they've been to the bathroom first, as whining can also indicate a need to go out.

Consistency is Key: Keep the crate training consistent. Puppies thrive on routine and predictability.

By implementing these techniques, you can help manage your puppy's anxiety and stress during crate training. This will ultimately promote a positive and pleasant association with the crate and reduce the puppy's overall anxiety levels.

8. Monitoring Progress

Regular check-ins on your puppy during work breaks via a pet camera or baby monitor are crucial for their well-being and development. It allows you to ensure that your puppy is comfortable and has had opportunities for potty breaks.

Avoid walking over to your pup for a check-in while they are calm in the crate, as this will rile them up and cause them stress while in the crate.

Depending on your puppy's age, it is likely that your puppy will need to be let out for potty breaks during your work hours. The rule of thumb is one hour for each month of age. That’s about how long they can hold it. If you can’t make it home, have a friend or family member come let your puppy out. There are dog walking services that offer this service as well.

If you find that your puppy is struggling with being alone during your work hours, it may be necessary to adjust your routine. This could include gradually increasing the time your puppy spends alone, providing more mental and physical stimulation before you leave, or utilizing the help of a dog sitter or dog walker.

When your puppy does well in the crate, celebrate the milestones. This positive reinforcement can encourage good behavior and help your puppy associate the crate with positive experiences. Whether it's praising them, giving them a special treat, or spending some extra playtime together, acknowledging their progress can strengthen the bond between you and your puppy.

Conclusion

Common problems that puppy owners may encounter when crate training include resistance or fear of the crate, whining or barking, and soiling or accidents inside the crate. These issues can arise due to a lack of proper introduction to the crate, leaving the puppy inside for too long, or using the crate as a form of punishment.

Addressing these challenges is important to ensure that the puppy feels safe and comfortable in their crate, and to prevent negative associations with the crate that can lead to long-term problems. Properly addressing these issues can also help in creating a positive, stress-free environment for the puppy, which is crucial for their overall well-being and behavior. A well-trained and comfortable puppy will be more likely to use the crate as a safe space.

Ignoring these common problems can result in continued resistance to the crate, increased stress for the puppy, and difficulties in managing their behavior in the future. By following the guidelines in this article, you will end up with a happy, well-adjusted puppy and a harmonious home with your furry friend.

You May Also Be Interested In:

11 Common Crate Training Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Why Is My Puppy Crying In the Crate? 8 Steps You Can Take to Stop It

8 Pro Tips to Prevent Puppy Separation Anxiety

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Michele Lennon with her dream dogs

About the trainer

Michele Lennon

After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.