If you are not sure whether or not to purchase a crate for your Labrador puppy, the following article may help you decide: The benefits of a dog crate
The main purposes of a crate are to help a puppy with learning to be clean in the home, and to provide a place of containment when he needs to rest or when you cannot supervise him.
Crate training is a term we use to describe the process of adaption that the puppy goes through in learning to happily accept the crate as his own private den.
There are several different ranges of crate on the market, and what you are looking for is a sturdy wire crate that cannot be destroyed by chewing or scratching.
It is tempting to buy a crate that will fit him when he is fully grown but ideally a crate for a puppy should be relatively small or your puppy may decide to use one end as a toilet. He should be able to stand up without bumping his head and to turn around easily
Your puppy will soon grow out of his little crate and you will need a full sized labrador crate for the rest of his first year of life and possibly beyond. So it is worth getting a sturdy one. It is helpful if a crate can be opened from more than one direction, especially with the larger crates. You never know when you might need to place it in a different position.
Crates have come down in price over the last few years. This is the type I use for a larger pup:Large 36″ silver strong dog cage by Doghealth ck36 This size is for the puppy from about four or five months. You will need to buy a divider for it, or a smaller crate for the first couple of month. You can get even cheaper ones than these, but they may be rather flimsy. A few labs, may be large enough when full grown to need the next size up.
Where to put the crate?
The crate should be placed in a room where people pass through or spend a lot of time. Puppies need company and should not be banished to a back room or isolated for long periods of time. The kitchen is ideal in most homes.
What to put inside the crate?
It can be difficult with some puppies to find bedding that they do not destroy. Vetbed is an ideal crate liner but if your puppy chews it up and swallows bits of it, you may have to think again. Stuffed beds are usually ripped open and dismantled by Labrador puppies.
You do not need to leave water inside a crate as you will not be leaving the puppy in there for longer than an hour or so, except at night. An eight week old puppy will be fine without water during the night-time hours.
Getting your Labrador puppy used to his crate
Start by placing puppy in his crate frequently and each time you place him in there drop several little edible treats through the roof for him.
Don’t shut the door on him during the day to start with if you can avoid it. Just let him come straight out again when he has finished his treats. This introduces the crate as a fun and enjoyable place to be.
Each time you pop the puppy into the crate say “in your crate” in a cheerful and upbeat way. He will soon come to associate this phrase with going into his crate for a treat
Closing the door
The next step is to close the crate door momentarily and then open it again. Leave it shut only long enough for the puppy to finish his treat and notice that the door is closed. Then let him out. Do not wait until he gets upset or cries.
Repeat many times during the course of the next day or two.
Whilst he is homesick
During the night, for the first two or three nights, it may be helpful if you can have the puppy sleep in a sturdy deep sided cardboard box by your bed. If he is left alone at night whilst he is still homesick he is likely to howl, and howling in his new crate is not a habit we want to establish.
Accepting the closed door
The next task is to get the puppy to accept the closed door for longer periods of time. This may take a day or two. The idea is to leave the door closed for a few seconds longer each time you crate the puppy. But it is very important only to open the door when the puppy has been silent for several seconds.
What if he cries and cries?
If the puppy starts to whimper or howl you will need to turn away from the crate and ignore him. Busy yourself in the room but don’t look at him and don’t be tempted to open the door.
Wait for the silence as he stops crying and tell him what a good dog he is. Let him out immediately and go back to much briefer periods of closed door for a while. Build up again gradually, but do not be tempted to avoid crating him because it upsets him. If he whines, you need to crate him more often not less. Just make sure that each time he is crated is very, very brief to begin with. That way he will learn that being crated is not a big deal
Warning: if you open the crate door whilst your puppy is howling, he will howl longer and harder next time!
Longer periods in the crate
Build up slowly to a minute, then two minutes, then three, five, seven, ten, fifteen minutes and so on. Up to a maximum of about an hour during the day.
You will need to make sure that the puppy has had a wee recently, before being crated, and some playtime. Try to crate him when you know he is ready for a rest.
A routine of: outside for a wee when he wakes, followed by play, outside for a wee, meal, outside again for a wee and a poo, then into the crate for a treat and a sleep seems to work well for most puppies. You will soon figure out what works best for you and your family
What about night time?
At this stage most puppies will also be sleeping the night in the crate. Make sure he has been outdoors to empty himself before you put him to bed, and don’t leave him more than five or six hours to start with. So if you put him to bed at midnight, you will probably need to get up around five am to let him out for a wee to begin with.
If a puppy has fallen asleep in his crate and slept for more than a couple of hours then you will need to let him out if he wakes up crying.
If all goes well, you can stretch this five hours out by 15 minutes or so a night until you are getting seven hours sleep. If he wets the bed you will need to get up earlier the next night. I wouldn’t leave a puppy more than seven hours at night until he is around ten weeks old. And a few puppies will be 12 to 14 weeks before they can cope this long
This can be a tough time, with some inevitable sleep deprivation, but it passes quite quickly.
If you found this article helpful you might like to read: House training a puppy
This article was written by Pippa Mattinson. Pippa’s recall training book will be available from July 2012: Total Recall A complete recall training programme for dogs and puppies.
The Labrador Site is brought to you by Pippa Mattinson. Pippa's latest book Total Recall is a complete recall training programme for puppies and adult dogs