The Den Effect...Crating Advice
Updated: Mar 18, 2021
IT'S ONLY NATURAL:
Dogs have a natural instinct to be in a den. Let's think about the wolf for a moment, the ancestor and originator of our beloved pet dogs. Where do they sleep? They are always on the move hunting for their next meal, but when they bed down for the night they will either find a den or a cave. Some will take the time to dig an area in an open space to rest in. Denning is natural, instinctual, and comforting. A crate is our pet dog's den. They love it.
A SAFE PLACE:
First I must say, the crate is not a punishment tool. It is a housetraining tool. A safe place. Do you utmost best to not leave your puppy for more than 4 hours in the crate during the day. Be consistent with your schedule. Keep his area in your home limited to one area until he has proven to understand this is his living area. Now let's move on to why I think a crate is an amazing way to train a puppy.
A HEAD START:
Our goldendoodles have had a "den" since their sixth week of age. We allow them open access to their crate during the day and almost daily they will be caught napping in a puppy pile in their crate. They love the safety it brings. At night their crate door is closed. We have spent two weeks getting up at night when a puppy cries. Being crated with their litter mates is comforting and when a puppy cries at night on our watch, they need to potty. By the time they are ready to go home, our puppies are sleeping though the night. We have a feeding schedule that we recommend and will send home to all our clients to help with the transition. Our puppies will come to you crate trained. YAY...but there is a catch, as stated before they are crated with their litter mates. So although they have a sense of well-being and safety in the crate, they are not alone. Dogs are pack animals. So being alone for the first time in life can be very disturbing to a puppy. It takes about two nights to adjust.
So let's talk about that adjustment period and how to help him get through it. You will need a few things for his crate. A crate cover (you can use a blanket or towel) a soft matt to lay on, and a microwave heating pad. This heat is a source of comfort. Simply place it in the microwave for approximately five minutes, then place under your pet's bedding. It will provide up to ten hours of safe, comforting warmth. These three things are great for the first few days of alone crate adjustment. Always cover his bed the first few days you put him in his crate. Make sure you place his crate near but not in the same room as you. In a place where he cannot see you moving about at night. If you have an ensuite bathroom, do not place him in there. If he sees you up, he will want to be up. Use common sense the first weeks with you.
Next you will need to be firm and set rules. You're now your puppy's pack. Whether it is just you or you have a big family, everyone in the family is part of your puppy's pack. You need to make sure your puppy knows his position in his new pack, bottom! I will blog about this another time, but for now, the crate is a good way to establish his position and set rules.
The first and most important rule is to never let your puppy train you. This is NOT good. A puppy's cry is meant to enlist a rescuer, entice an intervention, and erupt guilt. This pitiful cry means he wants something that he is not getting. Be brave and trust me on this... IGNORE him! His mother did at the appropriate times. Our dames are GREAT moms they nurse and clean the puppies very well, but there are times when they need a break. They will come out from their whelping box and hang out with us. I have seen the same mom ignore her crying puppies after she has left them warm, fed, and pottied to run to them when she hears them crying. She instinctively knows when they need her and when they are crying wolf. You will too, eventually.
LIES WE BELIEVE:
When they are being placed in a crate for the first time without their littermates, they will cry wolf. It is VERY ok for him to cry as long as he has been walked, fed, and give water. If these needs have been met, let him cry it out. Side note and big no no, don't keep food or water in his crate. My best advice is to wear your puppy out with playtime prior to placing him in his crate. This will provoke him to want to sleep rather than get out and play. When you do hear his procuring cry (it will happen). Don't give in to him. Allow him to comfort himself. In the long run, following these basic rules will help him learn more about his position in the pack (so important), and will help him have more security in comforting himself.
How can you be brave and firm? Here is how to help your new puppy adjust to his alone time. First ignore him. But with puppies as with toddlers they will throw a temper tantrum when they don't get what they want. While kids will throw themselves on the floor, thrash about and wail, puppies will also wail and some will even bite at their crate door during a puppy temper tantrum.
YIKES...HE IS MAD!:
How do you handle a puppy temper tantrum? You have to address it. There are levels of addressing. The first thing to do is tell him "NO!" Firmly and leave. Miraculously this works...sometimes. But not usually. So stand by the door and wait. If you hear him again, address it immediately and tell him "NO!" Do this a few more times and if you see that he is not going to give it up, tap his crate or if using a wire crate enlist a jar of pennies...just something with enough sound to distract or break him out of it. Many puppies give up at this point after a few minutes and fall asleep. Do this as many times as he needs to settle himself down. Always leave the room each time you address it or if the crate is covered with a cover, stand very quietly by. Always be prepared to act quickly and swiftly to his cry. He will learn when you say "NO!" You mean it. "No!" will mean to be quiet in his crate. You can translate this to barking too. A good firm soild "No!" is your best word with a dog, It teaches limits.Dogs like to know their limits.
Within a few days/nights your puppy will take to his crate very easily and quietly (unless you happen to have vocal dog...they will usually take a little longer to adjust). Crate training provides a number of benefits to you and to your puppy. A crate that is sized properly (read more about size below) encourages a pup's instinct not to mess where he sleeps, helping to teach him bladder and bowel control and thus helping with housebreaking.
WHEN CAN MY PUPPY SLEEP IN MY BED?
The maximum you want to leave him over night in his crate is six hours at first. Eventually as he ages he can stay up to 8 hours. When he can stay in his crate without complaining and he has proven some good house manners, you can move him out of his crate and into your bed. Kizzy is my sleeping buddy and has been ever since she was 4 months of age. When she proved to me that I could trust her to "hold it" through the night even when I got up. If you have to get up during the night for any reason, you can test out your puppy's ability to "hold it". Once he is established and is quiet in his crate you can then bring him into the same room with you. When he watches you get up and then goes back to sleep without complaining, then he is ready to be brought into your bed. Expect a little complaining when you first bring him to your room because this will be something new. There is really no set time frame as to when you can bring him into your room. I would suggest that he gets established sleeping through the night quietly in his crate for at least a week, then try bringing him in.
Depending upon the size of goldendoodle you are getting will depend upon the crate size.
PM MINI: A miniature (10-20lbs) goldendoodle will need one appropriate for a mini poodle, cocker spaniel, beagle etc. Look for sizes that are 15-20 inches in height. Try not to get anything under 15 inches in height...14.5 is fine.
PM SMALL MEDIUM: A small medium (20-30lbs) goldendoodle will need a crate the size of an Australian Shepherd, Border collie, or bull dog. Look for sizes that are 19-22 inches in height. This can vary from manufactor to manufactor so if you find a wire crate that is 24 inches and their next size is 36 inches then that 24 inch is the best size for a small medium.
PM LARGE MEDIUM: A large medium (35-55lbs) would need the size of a small golden retriever or springer spaniel. Look for sizes that are 24-36 inches in height. Try not to get anything over 42 inches in height. 42 inches will be more than enough space.
A good house training rule during the day is to leave your puppy’s crate in an area that you can place a gate and limit his roaming, This place need to be limited on size and safe for mistakes to be made. If you do not have an area like a small bathroom or laundry area, a playpen is the next best route. Playpens are a perfect way to give him a little freedom and are a great place to put down pee pads to protect your floor and give him a place to "go". I would encourage you also get a pee pad training pad holder. Puppies are notorious for destroying their pee pads if they the time and opportunity. You can always try stick to the floor pee pads too.
For expanded play area ideas, if located in a small bathroom, move to a kitchen area or screened in patio. Eventually when your puppy does not soil his play area, you can open the entire house to him. A puppy’s bladder develops fully at 6 months, so let him out often to establish that outside is the correct place to eliminate.
Setting a timer for one hour on your phone is a great way to remember to let him out. You can increase the timer as he ages.
Please do not leave him in a playpen if you leave your home. If you are going to be gone for a full day, and have no other option, then yes. But if you have someone who can check on him, the crate (up to 4 hours during the day) is the safest place when you are away from the house.