note: dogs should not be left in a crate for more than 4 hours during the day, and for more than 8 hours at night. young puppies will have to go potty more frequently. the general rule is that a puppy can "hold it" for the same # of hours as they are in months. Two months = two hours. Young puppies, just like adults, will be able to hold it for longer at night when their metabolism slows down - but this will vary from puppy to puppy. consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter to come visit mid-day while you are at work.
1. Rest and Relaxation: Every puppy needs good rest and relaxation to grow up to be physically and emotionally healthy adults. However, puppies (just like kids) are not very good at self regulating their sleep needs. When puppies do not have scheduled sleep time you are more likely to exhibit poor social skills and highly impulsive behavior (like mouthing and jumping). Schedule in nap time in the crate each day, to ensure that your puppy is getting sufficient sleep between play sessions.
2. Separation: Most puppies from the ages of 2-5 months of age will act like a duckling. They want to follow you everywhere. And while this is a normal behavior it does not fit in with the way we live our lives. No matter how much you want to, you will not be able to be with your puppy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When a puppy is conditioned to a crate, he will feel safe and secure in that space. Ultimately, this will significantly reduce the stress that he may otherwise feel when left alone. When used correctly a crate will actually decrease the likelihood that your puppy will develop separation anxiety.
3. Destructive Behavior: Puppies love to chew. Puppies need to chew. It's a fact of puppy life. You will see an increase in chewing when their new adult teeth come in around 4 months of age and you will see another surge in chewing through adolescence when their curiosity and energy spikes and they look for more creative ways to "explore" their surroundings. This natural impulse will need to be managed through careful supervision, puppy proofing and use of a crate when these other options are not feasible.
4. House Training: If you have sized the crate correctly, most puppies will have a natural desire to keep their immediate space clean. This can give puppies the necessary incentive to "hold" their bladder and bowel movements until they are given access to a large space. We recommend setting a timer to remind yourself to take your puppy outside every half an hour. Walk with your puppy on leash, carrying a high value reward. When your puppy goes potty - immediately reinforce the behavior with the high value reward (reinforcement should come within 1 second of elimination). You can increase the time interval at which you bring her outside once you have a better idea of your dog's individual potty habits.
5. Puppies That are Timid with New People: It's very important that you create a "safe place" for timid puppies to retreat to when they feel overwhelmed. Forcing a shy dog into social situations may reinforce the fear or uncertainty that your puppy is experiencing. If you notice that your puppy is showing signs of stress or fear you should encourage him to retreat to an open door crate, allow him to make the choice to approach unfamiliar people when he's built up the curiosity and courage.
6. Puppies That are Excitable with New People: Your friends and family members will LOVE to get your puppy excited during greetings. They will not understand or listen to you when you ask them not to reinforce your puppy for jumping. Have your puppy in a crate for the first 5 minutes that a new person walks into your home. Reinforce your puppy with treats for keeping all four paws on the ground inside of her crate. This will teach your puppy to be calm when new people come into the house and will save yourself a lot of frustration in the long run.
Feel free to share this article with friends and family members if you feel this information is helpful. What have your experiences been in using crates? Have you ever had a puppy or dog that LOVED his or crate? Have you ever had a puppy or dog that hated it? Stay tuned for an article about the right way to condition any puppy to a crate.
This article was written by Alyssa Lapinel, CPDT-KA - founder and head dog trainer at Legends Dog Training. Legends Dog Training is based in San Diego, California.