If you've decided to crate train your puppy - congratulations!
Despite what some people think, this practice isn't cruel. You're providing just the type of environment he'd be searching for in the wild - a safe, den-like hide to protect him from predators and the elements.
To crate train a puppy successfully, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks - it all depends on HOW the training is carried out.
If your pup feels at ease, and isn't rushed, his development will be much more positive.
My Cocker Spaniel Questions & Answers page often receives many questions on this subject.
I always try to answer them as best I can and I've listed a few of those questions most frequently asked below.
However, before you go any further I recommend you read the essential rules of cage training to give you an understanding of the approach to take to give the best results.
If you decide to crate train your puppy, the first step is to entice him into his cage - quietly and calmly, and without too much stress!
Begin by sitting outside of it, with your pup by your side, and try the following:
TIP: Always crate train a puppy when it's quiet, and when there's nothing much going on around him, otherwise he'll become easily distracted.
When your Cocker has mastered entering and leaving his crate, use the command "into bed" (or whatever words you feel comfortable with) just as he goes in.
Practice this regularly and he'll soon begin to associate those words (in our case, "into bed") with going into his crate.
After a couple of days, try using the command "into bed" but this time don't throw any treats inside.
Instead, simply wait for him to enter on command.
If he doesn't obey, don't command him a second time, and don't throw in a treat to try to entice him inside - stick to your guns and wait it out!
If your Spaniel doesn't go into his cage, end the crate training session. Don't say anything to him. You can always try again in a few minutes time.
If you are to crate train your puppy successfully, please don't ever try to force him into his cage and try not to show disapproval or sound angry if he gets it wrong - make it fun and keep it light!
Repeat the above lessons at each training session and your puppy will soon be going in and out of his crate on command!
If you want your pup to get used to his cage quickly and without trauma, never force him to do anything he doesn't want to. Instead, entice him to go in by throwing some treats inside, towards the back.
When he goes in, quietly close the door behind him for a few seconds.
Just as he's about to finish his last treat, open the door.
While you crate train a puppy, it's always better to reward him more for going into his crate and less for coming out of it; help him to learn that it's more fun to be inside the cage than out of it!
Try this exercise again, only this time leave the door closed. When he's finished his treats, he may settle down in his crate, he may explore it, or he may whine and want to be let out.
If he whines, try feeding him a couple of additional treats through the bars to quieten him, before opening the door. (If you open the door as soon as he cries to be let out, he'll learn that crying gets him what he wants!)
Repeat the above dog crate training exercise until you're able to leave your pup in his crate for several minutes, gradually building up the time he spends inside.
If you prefer not to feed your pet too many treats, you could instead try feeding him his meals in his cage.
To begin with, place his food bowl just outside the door and let him eat.
Move his bowl just inside the cage for his next meal, and gradually move it further inside each meal-time.
When he eventually goes inside to eat his food, close the door gently behind him.
He may want to be let out immediately.
If this happens, open the door and let him come out, but leave his food bowl inside and then close the door again.
Don't praise your Cocker at this stage; stay quiet.
If he's hungry, he may try to get in again, in which case, open the door and let him in.
If he doesn't try to get back in, leave the door open and leave him to it. If he's hungry, he'll eventually go inside to eat.
Once your puppy enters his crate to eat his meal, quietly and gently close the door. Open the door just as he's finishing his food, but next time try leaving the door closed for 30 seconds longer.
Continue with this process until your puppy has eaten all his food.
Repeat the above training for each meal, but leave the door closed for longer each time.
Remove the food bowl, offer your Cocker some water, and then take him outside to his toilet area. Praise him if he does the business, and then reward him by playing with him for a little while.
If you crate train your puppy using treats as a reward, don't forget to offset the treats against his food allowance, otherwise you may end up with an overweight puppy!
Overweight puppies grow up to be overweight dogs and that's not healthy!
During this phase, please be aware that not all puppies react in the same way or develop at the same pace and this stage of training may need to be attempted several times before your Cocker becomes comfortable with his crate door being closed.
Take your time and be patient!
As well as being safe and comfortable, crate training puppy should be fun!
To crate train a puppy without traumatising him, it should be done in such a way that it's fun and interesting, and he enjoys it - it shouldn't be a stressful or frightening experience!
Make the training more fun by placing a puppy Kong, a soft toy, or a few small treats in his cage for when he wanders in without being prompted.
Always check that any toys you leave with your pet are safe for him to play with unsupervised as some toys come apart, or the squeaker can be chewed out, causing puppies to choke on small parts - check that nothing can be broken or bitten off and swallowed.
When you crate train your puppy, there will probably be times when he cries or whines to be let out of it.
It's important that you don't pay any attention to him. If you do, your Cocker Spaniel will soon learn that crying is the way to get your attention and he'll do it all the more.
Wait until your pup has stopped crying for at least 10 seconds before letting him out.
If your Cocker won't stop crying, try feeding him treats through the bars of his crate; alternatively, you could try distracting him with a new toy.
Your aim is to stop him crying for 10 seconds so that you can let him out without him learning that crying opens doors!
Learn more about attention seeking behaviour in Cocker Spaniels.
To crate train your puppy successfully, I recommend you lock him inside for short periods of time while you're at home, before leaving him on his own.
If you cage your Cocker while you're in the same room with him, perhaps while you're reading or watching television, he's more likely to feel settled because he will still be able to see you and/or other family members.
It will prevent him from associating being crated with being left on his own.
When he's comfortable with being locked in, try moving out of sight for 30 seconds before returning.
If he stays quiet, you can reward him with a stroke through the bars of the cage, or a training treat, but don't make too much fuss.
Practice moving out of sight as often as you can. The aim is to gradually increase the time you stay away, and for your puppy to realize that you always return.
Don't be tempted to rush this part of the training.
To get it right, you must crate train your puppy in small, gradual stages. Give him time to get used to his crate and you'll soon see that he'll settle down quietly in your absence.
The hardest part of having to crate train a puppy is leaving him on his own.
However, if he's comfortable with his cage, and hasn't had any unpleasant or distressing experiences in there, there should be no reason why you can't leave him locked in for a little while.
If you need to go out for longer, you may want to ask someone to look in on him after an hour to let him out into the garden for his toilet, and to play with him for a short time.
If you need to go out to work, there are a couple of ways to make sure he's safe and happy.
For example, you may be able to come home at lunch time or, if that's not feasible, you could consider paying a dog sitter to look after him, hire a dog walker, or ask a neighbour to pop in and feed him and take him out into the garden a couple of times each day.
That depends upon the age of your pet, but never longer than he can control his bladder and bowels. Your pup's control will improve as he gets older, so when you crate train your puppy, please be patient.
As a general rule, the length of time your Cocker can be left during the day, is as follows:
The above is a guideline only as all puppies are different, and develop at different rates. Please use your own judgement when it comes to crating times for your pet.
I don't recommend leaving puppies under 10 weeks alone for any longer than 30 minutes during the day.
If you're planning to leave your Cocker alone for most of the day, I would recommend you leave the door to the crate open to allow him a little more freedom, although you will need to make sure the room is puppy-proof first.
I appreciate that trying to crate train a puppy can sometimes be hard work , but, with a little understanding and patience, it shouldn't be too long before you can leave him for up to 5 hours at a time.
Be patient though, and don't expect too much from your little boy too soon.
The room or area you choose to leave your dog should be large enough for his crate - door open - and still leave plenty of room for him to run around in.
The space should also contain his water bowl, a chew toy, and a soft puppy toy.
You'll also need to prepare an area with newspapers or puppy pads for his toilet. You might want to place these in a litter tray - this way your puppy may not associate newspapers left lying on the floor as his toilet, just the tray.
Until you fully crate train your puppy, the kitchen or utility room is ideal for this purpose as the tiled floor makes it easier to clean up any little 'accidents'.
He'll then be free to go in and out as he chooses and will have plenty of room to run around, explore, and play safely.
If you're uncomfortable leaving him in an open (although puppy-proofed room), you might like to consider a pen. Dog pens are much larger and very often open at the top allowing you to safely leave your pup to play.
Place the pen on a hard, washable surface, such as floor tiles or place a plastic sheet underneath it.
Create a warm comfortable bed at one end, (even better if you can get his crate inside the pen, as he'll use that as his bed) place a litter tray layered with newspapers at the other end, and leave some toys for him to play with in the middle of the pen.
Don't forget to leave him a bowl of fresh drinking water as puppies can easily dehydrate.
This section assumes your pup has already been crate trained by the breeder and applies to your puppies' first night in his new home.
Exercise your Cocker in the evening, play games with him and let him play with his toys - wear him out!
Before you put your pup into his crate for the night, take him outside to his toilet area and encourage him to pee.
It's best if you don't give him anything to eat or drink after 7:00pm.
When you're sure his bladder is empty, bring him inside, put him in his crate, and leave him.
It's almost certain that he'll cry during his first night as his new home will be unfamiliar to him and he'll probably be missing his mother and his litter mates.
For his first night in his cage, you have two choices; put his crate in another room where you can't hear him crying or bring it into your bedroom where you can comfort him if he cries during the night.
Either is acceptable, but I'd recommend the latter for his first night. If you place it by your bed you should be able to reach out to reassure him if he wakes.
While you crate train your puppy, don't allow him out of it unless you're certain that he wants to pee. Take him outside to his toilet area and wait with him. If he pees, quietly praise him and bring him straight back to his crate; no playing and no fussing - your baby must learn that night-time is not for playing.
You may need to do this every 2 or 3 hours during the night for his first few weeks, but this will quickly improve as he's able to hold his bladder and bowels for longer.
At 3 months, a puppy can usually go all night without a bowel movement as long as he's been allowed out to relieve himself just before being put to bed, and isn't given any water for a couple of hours before bedtime.
Learn more about potty training your puppy.
This article covered puppy crate training and we've seen that, with a little patience and perseverance, anyone can quickly and easily crate train their puppy.
But what if you want to train an older dog to use a cage?
Crate training an older dog may take a bit longer and may well prove a little more difficult but it is possible - simply follow our guidelines on crate training a dog.
We hope this article has given you enough information and advice to help you train your puppy successfully, and that you've not encountered too many problems along the way!
If you're looking for another good reason to crate train your puppy - here it is - it can help with potty training!
How good is that?
So if your pet isn't yet fully house-trained, a dog crate might just be the thing for you and your Cocker Spaniel!
Just remember, all dog or puppy training, no matter what it is, takes time and patience - so take it slowly!
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