To crate train or not to crate train, that is one of the many questions pet parents face when they bring home a new puppy.

Personally, I am a huge fan of crate training. And while I understand the feeling of guilt you may have when putting that sweet little puppy (and those big brown eyes!) in a crate for the night or while you are at work, what you really need to think about though is what could happen if you didn’t.

Why crate train your dog?

A puppy left to her own devices operates much like a 2-year-old child. Everything that could possibly be chewed on or swallowed, will be. Every nook and cranny will be investigated. And house training becomes a free-for-all. Baby gates can contain some pets, but only until they learn to climb them!

I’ve seen puppies who were left free to roam the house get into all sorts of trouble, including chewing power cords, falling off balconies and eating things they shouldn’t. And when you think about how pets under the age of 1 are two-and-a-half times more likely to have an injury or illness causing them to file a claim on their pet insurance, keeping your puppy confined to the safety of his crate when you’re not home seems like a good idea.

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Things to remember while crate training

It is important that your puppy doesn't learn to think of the crate as a punishment, but rather as a secure, comfortable den-like environment that keeps your puppy safe from harm (and encourages better bathroom habits). Choose a crate that your pup can grow into. Make sure your pup has had plenty of water and used the potty before going into the crate; leaving a water bowl in the crate could lead to an accident.

Put a soft, warm blanket in the crate, and give her lots of praise and a treat once the door is closed, so she learns that it's delicious and delightful to be in her crate! If you're worried about her being bored or lonely, put a favorite toy in the crate with her, and leave a radio on low volume while you're out. Start with short intervals, and slowly lengthen them until your pup get used to longer periods in her crate.

As your puppy matures into adulthood, you will be able to allow longer periods of time out of the crate when you’re not home. Eventually, you may even find that your dog doesn’t need to be in her crate once she is a mature, responsible adult (we promise, she’ll get there!). But you might find she's learned to love her crate!

Nov 30, 2010

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