Until getting the Border Collie I had never really considered the idea of crate training as a tool to help not only with toilet training but for those times when we would be going away to trails or competitions. The Beagle, Luna had been trained to use a crate but she wasn’t a really big fan and so it was quickly ruined and only used as a carrier when we travel in the car. We planned ahead and got a crate that would be big enough for when she got a bit older as well as having a divider that would make it small enough for when she was a puppy. When purchasing a crate you should look for one that’s big enough for them to stand up comfortably, turn around and lie down.
The reason I decided to crate train the Border Collie, Cynder was so that she would have a safe space to go to, no matter where we were. As an instinct, dogs like smaller, enclosed spaces like a ‘den’, especially when feeling a bit unsure. Cynder really loves her crate, she goes there to sleep, keeps her toys in there (which she will get out one by one to play with) and will also be calm and quiet in there whenever we are at training workshops or if she needs a little bit of a break away from Luna (like when she broke her toe). Cynder also stays in her crate when she comes with me to work, and enjoys it enough to quietly play with her toys or treats until I am able to take her out for a run around or a walk.
How Cynder Was Crate Trained
We were pretty lucky in that Cynder was already pretty used to a crate by the time she was 8 weeks old. As a Blauvelt Border Collie she had already been sleeping in a crate as well as travelling in one in the car. This was quite handy as the first night she came home we had her in the crate in the bedroom so she would feel comfortable. Being a puppy we knew she wasn’t quite ready to sleep all the way through the night yet so we were able to take her out to the bathroom every couple of hours. It was worth it though for a comfortable, quiet puppy at night who wasn’t keeping us up with any whining or crying.
Dogs by nature will not want to soil the area where they sleep so crate training helps make the process of toilet training much easier and a much quicker process as well. Cynder only ever had one or two accidents in the crate and really learnt quickly that outside was the place to go to the bathroom by making sure that at night we took her out every couple of hours and during the day if she was in her playpen we would take her out once an hour. We taught Cynder to enjoy being in her crate by giving her treats in the crate, as well as some of her toys so that she wasn’t scared of the crate and instead saw it as a place where she could be safe and have fun.
We wouldn’t close the door on her too quickly, instead giving her short periods of time in the crate playing, eating, or just relaxing and then slowly closing the door, just for 10-15 minutes, so that she felt calm and comfortable with the door closed and wouldn’t try to claw her way out at all.
Some things to note
Especially when puppies are young it’s important not to leave your puppy in the crate for long periods at a time. The maximum I would ever leave Cynder in a crate until she was about 6 months old was about 2-3 hours with a good break in between, when we weren’t at home and she was still staying inside she had her crate to go to, as well as her puppy play pen that she had quite a bit of room to play in as well as her safe space for sleeping.
We didn’t really have this issue at all but if your puppy is whining or crying in the crate, try to ignore it, or take them out quietly to the bathroom as they may need to go. Any sort of interaction, whether positive or negative, can be seen as a ‘reward’ for your dog, so trying to ignore something like whining or crying and rewarding when quiet and settled will help your puppy learn that the crate is a safe haven and a comfortable place to be.