One of the most convenient skills a Cavoodle puppy can learn is to enjoy time spent in a crate. While some people may think that crate-training is cruel, a dog actually has a natural instinct to seek out, and even prefer, small and enclosed areas. When properly trained, crates become a “safe haven” for dogs during stressful situations. Crate-training is an essential puppy skill, not only for the convenience of the puppy parent, but also for the puppy’s safety, such as during long car rides. Additionally, crate-training is a fantastic tool for potty-training, since dogs instinctively refuse to relieve themselves in confined living quarters.
To crate-train a Cavoodle puppy, an appropriately-sized crate must first be obtained. The crate should be large enough that your puppy can comfortably stand and be able to turn around. If planning to keep the crate throughout the dog’s lifetime, be sure to purchase one large enough to accommodate his expected adult size. If the crate is significantly larger than immediately needed, block off the excess space.
When training your puppy, there are two important rules to keep in mind: always associate the crate with positive experiences, and approach the training gradually, in small steps. First, introduce your puppy to his crate. With the crate door open, bring the puppy near the enclosure and talk to him in a positive tone. This action will help create positive associations. Next, encourage your puppy to enter the crate by placing food or treats inside. Depending on the personality of your puppy, this step may take a few minutes, or a few days. Do not force your puppy to enter the crate, but continue encouraging him with treats or toys. Eventually, he will walk in on his own, and should be profusely rewarded with positive praise.
After your puppy becomes comfortable walking in and out of the crate, begin feeding meals inside the crate, with the door open. Continue until he is eventually comfortable having his dinner with the crate door closed.
Once your Cavoodle puppy is comfortable with 10 minute crated durations, teach him a command for entering the crate. To do so, call him to the crate, place a treat inside, and use a command such as “kennel.” When he enters the crate, give him another treat and praise, and close the door. At first, sit quietly near the crate, and leave him crated for intervals of 5 – 10 minutes. Gradually, repeat this process but spend increasing amounts of time in another room. Continue until your puppy can spend 30 minutes in the crate alone.
The next step is to crate your Cavoodle puppy while you are away from home for short periods of time. Never crate a young puppy for more than 3-4 hours, as he cannot control his bladder or bowels that long. Upon returning, give plenty of positive reinforcement. Continue crating for short periods of time while you are home to ensure he does not solely associate the crate with being alone. Once 3-4 hour durations are comfortable, your puppy is ready for sleeping overnight in the crate, if desired.
One of the biggest challenges to crate-training is always maintaining the crate as a positive area. While it may be tempting to punish your puppy by crating him, this action will create a negative association. Initially, a puppy may whine or cry to be let out of the crate. If this happens, shorten the amount of time the puppy is crated during the next training session. However, do not let the puppy out of the crate until he has stopped whining on his own. As with all puppy-training, patience and positivity are key components. The quicker your Cavoodle puppy can relate the crate with happiness and safety, the quicker he will be readily enter the crate for extended periods of time!