Crates: Crating Puppies and Leaving Them Alone

Discussion in 'Labrador Puppies' started by pippa@labforumHQ, Mar 5, 2020.

  1. pippa@labforumHQ

    pippa@labforumHQ Administrator

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    From time to time we get posts from people with new puppies that are hoping to return to work full time and leave their puppy in a crate for all or part of the day.

    Sometimes these posts are from people that have already returned to work and are finding that this arrangement is not working out for them or their puppy.

    Firstly, I'd like to say that I do not blame or judge the puppy owners who come here for help with crating problems. These are people who have fallen in love with their new puppy and then find themselves struggling to juggle work and dog ownership. I think it is great that our experienced forum members treat these new puppy owners kindly and try to break it gently to them when in many cases they need to totally rethink their daily routines.

    I do on the other blame (and judge) dog breeders that sell puppies without making it clear what the needs of a young puppy are, and without insisting that their puppy buyers can meet those needs before swapping their puppies for cash.

    Most people buying a puppy have no way of knowing that there are things they need to know before bringing a puppy home. It’s no good us saying (or thinking) that they should have found out what was involved before they brought their puppy home. Because many people who have never had a dog in their lives, aren’t aware that there are ‘barriers’ to dog ownership at all.

    But the truth is there are. Barriers that is. :)

    One huge barrier to dog ownership is that puppies cannot be left alone all day. Another is that dogs of any age cannot ‘live’ happily in cages.

    Don’t get me wrong! I love crates and use them regularly. But using a crate responsibly requires knowledge and self discipline. And a crate is not a suitable substitute for the care and supervision of a responsible adult. Nor is it a substitute for a fully equipped outdoor kennel and run with the company of other dogs. Simply put, a crate is not a ‘home’ for a dog. It is a short term confinement and training tool.

    What happens when dogs are crated for too long?

    If you crate a puppy for too long, several things will happen.

    1. The puppy will wet their bed. This is a more serious problem than you might think, because unlike small children, dogs do not ‘grow out of’ bedwetting

    On the contrary, once a dog has wet their bed, perhaps just two or three times, they will stop caring and will simply treat the bed as a toilet and lie in it. You know, the way dogs lie in muddy puddles on a summers day? That’s because dogs don’t mind being wet at all, and only instinct (to keep a clean den) prevents them bed wetting in the first place.

    You break this instinct at your peril


    2. The second outcome of over-crating is that he puppy will become distressed and start to scream. If you have neighbors they will soon start complaining. Either way, the puppy will work itself into a state of terror and may well have diarhea inside the crate. This will be unpleasant for you. Worse still, the puppy will become afraid of the crate and you won’t be able to leave the puppy there, even for short periods of time without the puppy screaming and trying to escape.

    So how long is too long?

    How long depends on the puppy’s bladder control, on how often the puppy is being crated each day, and on the experiences the puppy has had in the crate so far.

    A puppy that has been gradually introduced to crating in the correct way (see this article for instructions) first being crated in your presence, then gradually being left alone, over a period of weeks rather than days, may be able to be left in a crate for a couple of hours during the day by the age of four or five months.

    But that doesn’t mean a couple of hours in the crate, outside for a pee, then back in the crate for another couple of hours.

    Essentially, a young puppy that has been crated and left alone for a couple of hours without fuss, has done a brilliant job. But now that puppy needs a bathroom break, fresh air and the chance to run about, a change of scene, a game and above all, some human company. It does not need to be let out for a quick pee, and then shut straight back in the crate again.

    If you do this, you may get away with it, depending on your dog’s temperament and bladder control. But be aware that many dogs will become distressed and miserable living under these conditions. And that you will likely end up with the problems outlined above.

    The bottom line is that a full-time job and a dog requires a lot of planning and help. And usually quite a bit of money. You’ll probably need someone to provide companionship, exercise, and bathroom breaks for your dog throughout their life. That means dog walkers, dog sitters, doggy day care etc. And while your puppy is very young you’ll need this help to happen frequently throughout the day.

    I really feel for those that have taken on a puppy, become deeply attached to it, then realize that their circumstances are simply not suitable for parenting a dog. It takes a lot of courage to own such a mistake and do something about it.

    For those that think they might not be able to keep their dog this article may help you. Rehoming Your Dog
    And of course, you'll find help and support here from other forum members.
     
  2. Helen Garrett

    Helen Garrett Registered Users

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    Wonder if you could help. When we got Penny at 8 weeks she developed a urine infection in the first 24 hours of being home, she obviously had it when she left the breeder. We were all set up to crate train but this went out of the window as the poor little thing was weeing constantly. As a result the first two weeks of her being home I slept on a mattress in the downstairs room with her. Obviously the crate has never been used and now resigned to the back of the garage. Penny is just over 7 months now, she sleeps on her bed in our room. As my husband works from home (and so do I at the moment due to lockdown) Penny has never been alone. How on earth do we start to get her to be alone? We are still completely overwhelmed with having her. I have found your tips about getting her to stop destroying the garden really helpful. We love her to bits but each day is such a struggle. She just is not used to amusing herself at all. Any tips and advice would be great
     
  3. Christina2807

    Christina2807 Registered Users

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    Hi Helen,

    We never crate trained Luna and she was the same, 7 months and had never been left alone. Unfortunately my husband was admitted to hospital and I had a couple of weeks off work with her but then I had to go back to the office. We were quite lucky in that Luna is happy to amuse herself.

    What I would suggest is try going outside the front door for 5 minutes then if she is quite, go back in. Another great way is to leave her with a frozen kong or her favourite treat to chew on and that way when she is left she will associate it with good things. I also would take Luna to the park when she first woke up to tire her out so that she would sleep.
    The hardest part will be learning how to hold their bladder as they are used to going whenever they want as someone is always there.

    I started with 10 minutes as I had an appointment and my mother in law was stuck in traffic. Luna was absolutely fine and didn't bark at all. I then bit the bullet and had to leave her for a couple of hours and came home to a fully in tact house and she had a pee on the puppy mat. I think she likes being alone as she gets peace to sleep lol.

    Good luck with what ever you do and I am sure Penny will adapt!
     
  4. Cadey's Mum

    Cadey's Mum Registered Users

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    Hey How long should I leave my puppy over night between toilet breaks in the crate. Last night I did 12am, 3am and 6am ish
    I read that setting the alarm was the best idea, she's only 8 weeks at the moment but what kinda of schedule should I use?
     
  5. Christina2807

    Christina2807 Registered Users

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    Hi Cadey's Mum,
    If this worked for him then I would say keep at that and then try pushing the 12 and 3am alarms back by a couple of mins each night. If he starts crying to get out the go back a couple mins and stay there a couple nights. The key is to always be awake before him and not have him cry to need out.
     
  6. Cadey's Mum

    Cadey's Mum Registered Users

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    Yes I like the idea of waking on my terms then there is no guess work. Thank you for your reply.
    Can you give me an idea of how future schedule would look like?
     
  7. Christina2807

    Christina2807 Registered Users

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    Luna is now 10 1/2 months and she will go 7 hours during the night. I am an early to bedder most nights so we go out for the last pee at 9.30 and she will go until about 4.30/5. We are always able to come home and go back to sleep until around 6.30. We tried the setting alarm in middle of the night but she would just look at me and not go out so we did leave it for her to tell us. Yes it did mean some very early mornings but she started going through the night till 4 early on.

    If she would go out during the night then I would say 1-2 would be the ideal time for us. Depending what time is bed time for you and when you will be up I would say you are aiming for half way between this and see how he gets on.
     
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  8. Sarah_Smile

    Sarah_Smile Registered Users

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    Regarding the current #lockdown situation, the problem is that many dogs might get used to having their momma or daddy around. It's a lovely thing to spend 24/7 with our doggo but we've got to prepare them for when it's time to come back to our usual schedule of 9-5.



    TheDogExplained dot com has launched a "Happy-Dog-Alone" Kit #lockdown edition. It includes a printable 28-Day (or 3-month plan which includes crate training) step-by-step plan to prepare your dog to be alone when it's time. Even though I'm a beginner it was super easy to understand and follow the plan. Since it's a digital download, you get instant access and can start the training plan whenever you're ready & move at your own pace (since every dog is unique ❤️)


    Didn't mean to advertise it, but in case somebody needs it, you can write me a DM (since I’ve bought the 3-month plan, I got 5 discount coupons worth $10 each I would be happy to share - first come first served :))
     
  9. Bertie_lab

    Bertie_lab Registered Users

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    Hi All,

    We have a 9 week old lab puppy, we had a long journey back from the breeders when we picked him up so used a crate in the car. He cried for about 10 minutes then self settled after we gave him no attention and slept throughout the journey (minus us stoping for him to have a wee break- where he did the same getting back in)
    The first 2 days he chose to take himself to his crate to sleep and we thought we’d cracked it with zero effort! He now prefers to sleep on a separate bed that we got him (we plan for him to sleep in the bed not the crate long term). I took him out in my car for a 5 minute car journey today in his crate and he just howled and howled, I thought he’d settle after a few minutes like he had before so drive round aimlessly for 30 minutes to prevent him associating crying with getting out of the crate but he wouldn’t settle. How long is suitable to let him cry for? Obviously I don’t want him to associate the crate in a negative way, I’ve been feeding him in there (but with the door open) so that all positive things happen and he doesn’t bat an eyelid going in.
    I know it’s something that needs building up slowly but what is the best advice for when you fail I.e your puppy is howling at you in the back of the car.. do you stop and let him out or carry on until he stops be that 5 minutes or 50?
     
  10. Lady Maybelline

    Lady Maybelline Registered Users

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    I have to go into work tomorrow for a short while and I am a little anxious to leave pup in the crate. I've put her in for a few hours while I've been home at work, but she can hear me most of the time this will be the first time she'll be home alone. I'll be gone for like 2/3 hours from 9:30am to like 12ish (or as quickly as I can finish). I plan to have some play and training in the morning, potty, then up to crate to hopefully nap. I see people reccoment a Kong toy. Should I just put her kibble in it or something else? Maybe I should get a neighbor to check on her after like 1.5 hours?
     
  11. Jo Laurens

    Jo Laurens Registered Users

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    I'd suggest getting up extra early (perhaps several hours early!) and taking her out for a 'new experience' somewhere. Perhaps find an empty field to practise recalls in and let her romp about a bit. Maybe grab a coffee on the way home and sit outside with her whilst you drink it, in someplace new. You want her to be ready to zonk out when you crate her and new experiences are the best way to achieve that.

    I think you can manage without the neighbour checking on her if she often does this amount of time with you home - as that might be disruptive/feel abandoning for her when they leave and actually be harder than her sleeping through.

    Giving a Kong is a good idea to tide over the time that you leave, if the pup is still awake. But if you wait at home till the pup is asleep before you leave, then slipping out is probably best and giving the Kong will probably wake her up again. Try leaving the radio on low to mask any external noises the pup might hear.

    If you can, it's also great to get a camera you can set up to watch the pup from work whenever you want to check in. I recommend a NestCam for eg.
     
  12. ELLE

    ELLE Registered Users

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    Hi Pippa, I actually don't have a pure lab. I have a 1 year and 2 month old petite double doodle and I am new to this forum. My dog is actually a mix of labradoodle-goldendoodle-mini poodle. I used to put my Willow in her crate for a nap at 10am in the morning and she would sleep there happily for 2-3 hours (that is often when I would try to schedule any appointments, if we had any, and had to leave her home alone). She would have a second nap in her crate at 3:30 -5:00pm inside her crate as well. During both naps, the crate door would be closed and she never minded that. She loved her crate which was situated in mine and my husband's bedroom. During her naps, we also got her used to our bedroom door being closed too in order to minimize her anxiety to pretty much zero because she hated being away from us and when the bedroom door was closed and her crate was closed, we would wait for her to fall asleep for her nap and then sneak out quietly and slowly to our appointments if we had any or our grocery shopping etc... At all other times, at least one of us was always home with her and she would be running and playing all over the house. During these times we would have training sessions or play times often throughout the day and evening. This arrangement worked extremely well for us and for her. However, when the cocid lockdown happened, we were all home with her daily and at first we were able to keep the nap times in her crate but as time went on, this became tougher and tougher. My parents are elderly and both quite ill. My huaband also broke his foot in 4 places and for the past 6 months, has been either in a cast or in rehab and physio so was unable to keep up with putting Willow in the crate for her naps when I had to go help my parents for a few hours daily. Also, my daughter has some health issues and has been remote learning from home (due to covid) so has tons of school work and is in her room for a good portion of the day. She did her best to help out but was not able to strictly stick to Willow's nap schedule all the time. Due to all this, Willow has had to have most, or even all, of her naps out of her crate and in the family room near my husband on the couch or on the floor. We have a bed for her in the family room as well but she hardly uses it and prefers to sleep on the couch or on the floor by my husband who is on the couch. Now we need to get Willow back into the crate for her naps and we are trying to get her used to having them in the crate because she has a great deal of anxiety if we leave the house when she is awake and out of her crate. As I mentioned earlier, we used to put her in the crate, close the door, and wait for her to fall asleep, then close our bedroom door and sneak out quietly for a couple of hours. We usually returned before she woke from her nap or while she was in the process of waking up. Once we came inside we always went straight to our bedroom and let her out to potry, play, etc... However, we have researched a lot and tried all suggestions that have been offered including giving her a feozen treat filled kong or treat filled towel to occupy her and then hopefully she would relax and fall asleep but no such luck! She cries and barks after she finishes her treat and wants to be let out. We teied ignoring her but she is relentless. We tied playing a lot and taking her for a long walk before her nap to tire her out, and take her to potty and when we get back, she is obviously exhausted and so ready to drop but still refuses to fall asleep in her crate. She barks and cries a lot and won't let up. We tried going in to give her a treat and quiet praise every time she is quiet but that didn't work either. She sleeps in her crate nightly and through the night, thank God, with no problem at all and has been sleeping in her crate at night ever since she was 8 weeks old. However, ever since we began trying to train her to have her naps in her crate again, she has been slightly reluctant to get into her crate for her nighttime sleep and during the day, if she senses that we are near the crate door at all, while she is in there to get her toy , for example, she quickly runs out of there assuming we were coming to close her in....but rhat was not at all what we were doing. It just so happened that one of us may have been standing close to the crate door by fluke ata that time. She used to love her crate so much before cocid and before we tried to get her to have her naps in there again but now she is only willing to sleep there during the night and is mostly willing to be in there for a couple of minutes during the day toeat her meals or play a game of "find the treats in your bed" and munch on treats in a towel or kong and only with the crate soor open which I have been doing for a couple of days to regain her trust because I never want her to feel like she is trapped in there but rather, for her to always feel like it is her safe and happy place to relax. By the way, we have always had a play pen fence that is size adjustable attached to her crate where we kèp a 2nd large bed for her to relax on and she has always enjoyed switching from one bed to another through the night for added comfort. Can anyone please offer any advice on how we can get Willow back to having her naps in her closed crate, alone, in our bedroom? Please keep in mind that we found this was the happiest and best way to greatly reduce her anxiety when we have to leave hwr alone for a couple of hours a few times a week. Also, I forgot to mention that we teiwd daycare but she did not adjust well there and we don't have anyone who can help watch her during the times that we need to go out. Thank you.
     
  13. Julian

    Julian Registered Users

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    We have packers crate in the corner of our dining room , it has been there for 30 years ,as we have had labs for that long ,we leave the door open all the time ,I feel they’re naturally drawn to the crate , dogs instinctively are used to and comfortable in small confined spaces ,they feel safe , your child would have a room so the dog considers it his room, I watch tv sometimes late in the living room ,when packer feels tired he retreats naturally to his crate ,when your puppy goes to investigate his crate give him a small treat and praise he will eventually acclimate
     
  14. Woodie

    Woodie Registered Users

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    Can I ask advice please on this topic. My Labrador is nearly 9 weeks old and has been with my all of this week (now Friday). I am working from home until May next year.
    In preparation for her arrival I moved my work gear downstairs (she isn’t allowed upstairs). I began to get worried during the week that she was my shadow, following me everywhere and not really resting because if I moved or took phone calls she would stir.
    Today I have gone back upstairs to my office and had her in her play pen all day. She has a toilet area, bed, water, toys and a big fluffy blanket in there. I go down every hour atleast to take her to the toilet and we always have a bit of a play or do a bit of training at the same time. Once she’s had her second vaccinations we will go for a walk before work, at lunch time and after work too. She hasn’t cried once today and seems very chilled out.

    Am I doing the right thing for her? I’m so worried that I don’t want to set her up for a big shock when I go back to work but at the same time don’t want to be too harsh.

    Your opinions gratefully received.

    thanks
     
  15. luisteira

    luisteira Registered Users

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    Hi Pippa and everyone!
    My first Chocolate Lab ever arrives tomorrow from the breeder, and I’m not sure whether it is ok to leave her outdoors from the first night. She’s nine weeks old and has been living outside with 3 siblings until today,
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 10, 2020
  16. luisteira

    luisteira Registered Users

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    (I clicked post by mistake)
    I live is a house with a massive garden, 2,000sqm, and already have an 11 years old Belgian Shepherd who lives in the garden all day. Is it ok to leave the puppy outdoors from the first night? Also worried about jealousy from my current dog, as she has been living alone for over five years now. Would it be a problem if she saw she’s outdoors while the puppy sleeps at home? (My current dog slept at home during her first week as a puppy, as she arrive in a particularly cold January as well!).
    Thank you, and very glad to join the Labrador forum!
     
  17. loutyrone

    loutyrone Registered Users

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    Hi, this is my first post. But equally concerned and finding it a challenge to get into routine. I have a 13 week old lab, crate training I have followed to the letter, feeding, playing, treating, leaving door open. My little fello has no problem going to bed with the crate locked at 10pm, we have continued wet patches though, I toilet him anywhere from 4am-4.30am and I’ve tried to set an alarm to beat him to it, but he won’t budge! So as a result I clean up, remove bedding blankets and use fresh ones at 4am (this is every night now and frustrating) I get up again from 6.30am/7am. He will happily go into crate again at 9am, prior to this I feed him, play with him he gets 2-3 toilet breaks and I take him outdoors for a walk about, fresh air and sometimes sits playing on grass. The barking starts at 10am if not before and I let him out, toilet break and he plays about the kitchen, lies on tiles or mat and sleeps, he protests going into crate anytime after 10am....even though he sleeps most the time I need to provide supervision as he’d literally chew the kitchen up, my issue is I need to use the crate for short spells so I can do school runs or take a call at work. I have always worked from home but on occasions could be out and about for no more than 3 hours at meetings. I dunno what I’m gonna do post lockdown as I can’t get him into crate and settled without constant barking even though I’ve met most of his obvious needs. Any suggestions on the above? Thank you
     
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  18. CezT

    CezT Registered Users

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    Hello!

    Thanks for all the great info on this site, I have found it really helpful. I am slightly confused about crate training . . . .

    I’ve been following the guidelines for spending some time in the crate in the day and that is going well. However, at night, am I supposed to wait until he is crate trained before I leave him in at night for 4 hours? When I put him in the crate at night he is quiet for about 20 mins but then starts whining / howling! I wait for a break in the whining and then let him out so he can sleep on the rug in the kitchen (this is his preference). I wouldn’t mind but he is starting to eat the furniture!

    Teddy is 10 weeks and 4 days old. We got him at 9 weeks. He’s a little (well, chunky 24lb) superstar but I’m keen to crack the crate training!

    Thanks for any advice!
    Ceri
     
  19. JosiePie

    JosiePie Registered Users

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    Hi Ceri!

    I did a lot of research before we committed to crate training our dog. I first gave him the run of the kitchen but when he was around 10 weeks old, he took a liking to chewing the chair legs.

    He now sleeps in his crate overnight happily and will go to his crate to sleep during the day.

    I took a fortnight off work to train him and it was so worth it!

    Here’s what I did.

    1) I set the crate up with a VetBed Silver as the base, and his favourite Kong teddy, a teething ring and a piece of coffee wood to chew on. I also took a throw from our bed and popped it over the top of the crate to make a cosy safe den (he has never chewed this).

    2) I introduced the crate slowly. At first, I encouraged him to investigate the crate by tossing treats inside it. I praised him calmly when he went inside and I never closed the door during this stage. This lasted for 2 days and we repeated this “game” a whole lot during those days.

    3) I then began feeding him inside the crate (still with the door open). I gradually moved the food bowls “deeper inside” the crate until they were right at the back. This took around 3 days. All meals were inside the crate.

    4) I began closing the door when he was eating but not locking it shut with the mechanism. When he turned to face me with the door shut, I praised him calmly and reassured him that everything was okay.

    5) When he was comfortable in the crate (probably at the end of the first week ish), I began to shut him inside the crate for 5 minutes (whilst I was in the room). To get in the crate, I always used a really tasty treat. After 5 mins, when he was calm, I let him out of the crate but did not make a big fuss over it. After a day or so, I increased to 10 mins, then 15 etc.

    We now leave his crate open all day, and will put him in the crate if we go out (max of 2 hours but realistically more like 1 hour). He also sleeps during the day in his crate by choice.

    He sleeps in the crate overnight with the door shut (now at 21 weeks, he sleeps for 7 to 8 hours overnight).

    We always always always take him out for a wee and a poo before bed, ensure that he has access to clean water in the crate, and give him a filled Kong treat in the crate (usually with 1/2 tea spoon of peanut butter). We also ensure that he has had a good walk a few hours before bed, and that he has had lots and lots of cuddles and a good game of fetch before bed (“fun time” ends about an hour before bed and we wind down slowly).

    I hope that this helps!
     
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  20. CezT

    CezT Registered Users

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    Thank you, that’s really helpful! I will try feeding all meals in his crate. He seems to be ok about spending some time in there in the day but never goes to sleep in there out of choice. At night now he manages about 90 minutes (which he is asleep for) and then gets upset when he wakes up! He’s sooo good at night - if he’s just loose in the kitchen he sleeps from 10.30pm-3.30am, out for a wee, back into the kitchen and then sleeps from 3.45-7am. I just need to get him to love his crate as he’s started chewing the kitchen units and chairs.

    I will follow your plan and hopefully he’ll warm to it, thanks again x
     
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