You may be asking "Should I crate train my puppy?" or "Why should I crate train my puppy?" or "How should I crate train my puppy?"
YES! we 110% believe you crate train your puppy, whether or not you intend to have him/her stay in a crate as an adult or very often, there are MANY reason for crate training that you may or may not have considered. We will go through those below as well as go through how we crate train our own puppies!
We want to note that the crate should never be used as a punishment, it should always be a positive experience! The crate should always be a temporary place for during day/night and should never be a full time place for your puppy.
Your crate should not be too big but also not too small. It should be tall enough for your puppy to stand up and not hit its head and wide/long enough so that your puppy can turn around and lay comfortably. If it is too big they will feel there is enough room to potty and if there is not enough room that can be detrimental to their growth.
ALWAYS make the crate a positive experience for your puppy. Give him/her a treat before going in as well as toys and chew items to keep them distracted. Your puppy does not need to sleep the entire time it is in its crate so it is nice to give them something to do while they do not sleep.
1. The first reasons we recommend to crate train is to create boundaries.
Golden Retrievers are naturally "velcro" type dogs. They love their humans and if they had a choice they would be stuck to your hip at all times! While this is great to have a loyal companion, it can be very disasterous for the times that you cannot be with your dog and he/she must be left alone. Lets be honest and say that most of us cannot be with their dog 24/7! By giving your dog times during the day/night in their crate, this creates boundaries and shows them that it is okay to be alone and there is no reason to stress on their part! This will help to avoid your dog developing anxiety and negative/destructive behaviors that come along with being left alone. And if your dog already has anxiety/destructive behaviors while being left alone, this can be a great way to alleviate these issues and keep them safe.
2. The second reason is to help with potty training.
The key to potty training in our opinion is to "catch them in the act". Are you able to keep an eye on your puppy at ALL times during the day and night? Probably not. So for any of those times that you cannot keep an eye on your puppy (sleeping, cooking dinner, working, doing homework with the kids, etc.) then the crate is a great place to put your puppy! Give him/her a treat and something to play with/chew on in the crate and go about your business without having to worry about your puppy! Make sure to keep in mind that puppies will need potty breaks often (especially at night).
3. The third reason is to keep your puppy/dog and belongings safe
Puppies and even full grown dogs LOVE to chew and when they are young or maybe new to an area they have not quite learned what is safe or okay to chew on and what is not. It is way too easy for a puppy to chew on a cord and get electrocuted, eat something it should not, or destroy your expensive personal belongings. If you cannot watch your puppy to make sure they are not getting into or chewing on things they aren't supposed to then put them in their crate, which should be a safe and positive spot for them to spend their time!
4. The fourth reason is to prepare for times where your dog may need to be crated that you may not have anticipated
While you may think your dog will never be crated for your own personal reasons, have you ever considered that your dog may need to go to the vet, groomer, boarding facility, go to a friend/family and be crated, etc? It can be VERY stressful for a puppy or dog who has never been crated to go to the vet and need to be crated for the first time. In some of these instances, this extra stress can be detrimental. By crate training early on, you can avoid this unnecessary stress and have your dog prepared for the times he/she may need to be crated that you may not think about or may not be able to predict!
5. The fifth reason is to give your puppy a safe palce to settle down if he/she needs
Puppies are busy and can have lots of energy! The crate can be a great place for your puppy to settle down before coming out to join the family. Don't let him/her run amok through the house, terrorizing the cat, the kids, and the furniture, and don't feel guilty about restricting their freedom if it is necessary. Sending the pup to his/her crate is somewhat akin to sending a child to his room: he feels comfortable there and it will give him time to settle down before you overreact and get upset at him for something he cannot necessarily control just yet.
How we crate train;
First off, the type of crate you use really depends on your personal preference. We personally use the hard plastic sided kennels and have multiple different sizes that puppies grow into as they age. Because we often have puppies of different ages and sizes, this is cost efficient for us. We personally like these ones because they can be easier to clean and sanitize overall for us. All of our dogs sleep in their own crates at night and they love it! They run to their crates as soon as they hear "who is ready for bed"?For all of our puppy buyers, we recommend the adult wire kennels that have the divider in them. This way you can buy a large kennel and use the divider to adjust the size so your puppy can grow with the crate! This is the most cost efficient option for one fast growing puppy!
Before all of our puppies leave, they will be introduced to a crate for at least short periods during the day. When you get your puppy at 8 weeks old, we recommend to crate your puppy during the night as well as during the day for short periods or during any time that you cannot actively watch your puppy.
When you get your puppy at 8 weeks old, he/she will likely not like the crate. On the rare occasion they will but your puppy will likely cry and scream at first. This is normal. I cannot stress how important it is to stay strong during this time and let your puppy cry it out. THEY WILL LEARN and likely they will grow to love their crate! If you stay consistent, this stage will only last a week or so at most. We truly believe it is in their best interest to be crate trained.
Again ALWAYS give your puppy a treat when he/she goes in and act like it is such a fun thing! NEVER put your puppy in the crate as a punishment or in a negative way. Puppies do play in to your tone of voice and your energy. The crate should be a positive experience! Along with a treat, you can also give your puppy toys and items to chew on while they are in there. Remember that your puppy will likely sleep while it is in the crate but they do not HAVE to so give them things to do so they do not become bored.
We personally keep the puppy's crate in our bedroom when we are crate training. We leave the door open so they can go in there whenever they want during the day. We keep ours in the bedroom because during the day this is usually a quiet area of our house that we can make dark to have as little distractions as possible. By having it in our bedroom it also allows us to hear the puppy during the night if he/she starts to get restless or whine to potty.
We find that the puppies typically tend to settle down a lot faster if there are no sounds or movements that they can hear or see. Nothing to distract them from falling asleep or settling down to play with their toy or chew on their item. If you need to, you can put a towel or blanket over the crate to create even more of a dark and quiet spot because sometimes if they can see you that will keep them from settling down as well.
In the evenings feed your puppy plenty early, a couple hours before you intend to go to bed, so that he/she will empty their bowels and bladder to avoid night time accidents or needing to potty quite as often during night.
When you go to put your puppy in their crate make sure you take them out to potty and make sure they do actually potty before putting them in the crate. Give them a treat, tell them "kennel", and put him/her in the crate. In the beginning he/she will likely cry for 15-20 minutes before they settle down and fall asleep. Make it as dark and quiet as possible and let him/her settle down on their own. If he/she does not settle down within 30 or so minutes take them outside and see if they do need to potty. If they went before they went in, they really shouldn't need to and they may need more time to settle down. Once they settle down let them sleep for as long as they can. Typically 2-3 hours for an 8 week old puppy. Longer as they age. At 8 weeks old your puppy will likely need to go outside to potty in the night 2-3 times. When your puppy starts to get restless or cry again take them outside to potty. When you go to take them out of their kennel, make sure they settle down before you take them out. Sit and wait for them to calm down. You do not want to take them out when they are acting out because that may come off to them as a praise for that negative behavior. Pick them up and take them out, do not let them walk out by themselves or they will likely stop and squat along the way! DO NOT allow them to play during any time that you take them out to potty during the night. This is not play time. They are out to potty and then back in to crate. They will typically potty right away but if they do not then take them back in to the crate and try again in 20 minutes or so. Don't forget the treat! And again in the beginning they will likely need time to cry before they settle in but they will eventually. Be consistent with this process and they learn very fast!
As you get deeper into the crate training process you will likely find that they will wander into their crate during the day on their own for naps or to play with their toys. Their crate is a great "safe space" for them and they truly should enjoy it. If you do not think your puppy enjoys the crate, they likely just need more time and patience to get used to it!
If you need to, you can use a stern "no" when your puppy does not settle down right away. This typically works a little better after your puppy has been crate training a couple days and knows and understands in general what you mean when you say "no".
There really is no perfect time to stop having them spend time in their crate. Some people believe that a dog becomes an adult and they no longer need to sleep in their crate at night or while you are away and this is all personal preference. We personally feel it is safer for the dog to sleep in their crate at night and when they are at the house alone or cannot be somewhat supervised, even as an adult. We personally do not leave our dogs alone in our house at night or when we are gone for long amounts of time.
People often cringe at the thought of putting their beloved puppy in a box or cage. They think confinement is cruel. After all, people don't want to be enclosed in a space they can barely turn around in. But puppies aren't people. Their wolf ancestors found comfort, safety, and shelter in their dens, and modern dogs find solace and satisfaction in their own space as well.