Cockapoo's and Crate Training

Taken from a recent introduction of a CCGB RRR (The Cockapoo Club of GB Rescue, Rehoming and Respite)  dog:

 Quote "Missmuffet"
'Brilliant work, as always at JD land Stephen, when you tell us the story of rescuing dogs, you quite often mention taking them through the crate training process.  Would it be possible (and I know you have a lot on at the moment) for you to explain on the forum, how you go about this, so that those of us who would like to introduce crate training or to reinforce it if we are having problems, can follow the tips of an expert!  '

Crate training is not an exact science and different people have different ways of tackling it and there are a number of options, with each ultimately ending with the same result. Some methods may take a more hands on approach and some methods require little disruption. There is no right nor wrong with each method - it's all personal choice.

I would say that in my own personal experience - crate training is a must, especially when you have multiple dogs here, as we do. As each dog then has it's own 'space' or 'den' for sleeping, chilling, re-cooperating (if by any chance they were unwell), and a place to be safely and comfortably separated from each other when we go out or when in a vehicle for traveling.

The crate is in essence a sanctuary and is not cruel and should certainly not be used as a punishment and nor really for 'time out' or 'naughty step' either if a puppy gets a little over excited.

Even if you wanted your puppy to sleep on your bed for ever more I'd still 100% recommend that you crate train it for at least the first 3 months of ownership. Generally a crate trained puppy will always be crate trained but it would be very much more time consuming to crate train an adult dog that has never been crated previously.

With crates for a Cockapoo sized dog, I'd suggest getting a 36" crate from the beginning and I'd personally not bother with getting a divider with it, as all you need to do is fold the vet-bed in half at the back of the crate and have newspaper in the other half with a bolt-on water bowl too (Crates can be bought from Dog Health Ltd and CCGB membership gives you a 10% discount on any order).

Some people suggest starting off the crate in the bedroom and then moving it over time to the landing , bottom of the stairs and then to the kitchen or wherever the crate is likely to stay - though my personal preference would be to put it where it will stay and just let the puppy get used to it from day one.

Below is just my own personal experience with crates and it is what has worked with us:

Usually on day one of taking puppy home it can go to sleep in it's crate without much fuss - especially if it's been on a journey, been fussed and played with and been able to explore it's new surroundings - they tend to crash readily and may not make a sound, though some may make a noise early in the morning when they get up. I'd leave them until a time when I'd normally go to them to let them out. I'm a believer in starting as I mean to go on. Certainly be as normal with your daily routine as possible and let the puppy adjust to you (not the other way around). If the puppy toilets in the crate it would probably be on the newspaper half and be very easy to clean out, disinfect the crate base and set clean newspaper and bedding down. I have several pieces of vet bed half the size of the crate (or you could just fold a full sized piece in half ) for use in the first couple of weeks as they are extremely easy to wash, dry and have ready as replacements. There are people who don't believe in ever letting a puppy toilet in it's crate so take them out several times in the night for a toilet break, but in my experience it's bed/crate is the first place that a puppy will try to keep clean and all of our pups have been clean in their crate for and 8 hour night period, within 2 weeks, some are clean from day one.

For some puppies nights 2 and 3 can be their most vocal (whilst some can be quiet from day one others can cry all night for up to a week) so it can be a testing time for the unprepared.
As long as you put the puppy in it's crate, having been fed, allowed to digest and then out for the toilet, at anything from 8pm onwards (again best to start off with what you plan to do on-going), and you having not trapped it's leg or anything then it should be totally fine until you go to it in the morning. Yes puppies can go all night without having to be checked. As I said, if they need to go to the toilet then they are likely to go on the newspaper and as it's their sanctuary, personal space then they will pro-actively want to keep it clean - so even though you may have a few accidents it will be the first place they will not want to mess in (if they do mess in their crate then please do not make a fuss over it, taken them out and clean-up without them seeing you do so (otherwise it conveys that you are a substitute Mum and OK with it) - if they come out of a dirty crate then get when they go back in it's all clean they will not even notice. Puppies don't usually mess in their crates after more than a week or so - they will quickly learn to hold it and this is where you will need to let them out in the morning and take them straight out into the garden and stand with them until they do go to the toilet - that's when you praise them. There is no point taking a young puppy out of the crate, dumping it in the garden, closing the back door and going off to put the kettle on - you must watch over the puppy (without too much fussing) until they have been to the toilet.

If your puppy does cry, scream, yelp, bark, howl or whine during the night - either constantly from putting it in there or for a short while then again middle of the night or perhaps early in the morning then I'd personally suggest that you leave it. There is no harm being done and there is unlikely to be any damage and your puppy will soon come round to the situation - it just needs to get used to it. There is usually someone in the family who are likely to crack first and go to the puppy but if you do then you could well make a rod for your own back and you'll have a puppy that could take months to settle and you have to live through that too. If you chose to get up every couple of hours (which some do with great success) then it's also likely to take longer for them to settle and you could well be suffering from lack of sleep to and that could equally cause tensions in a household that puppy will equally pick-up on - so a potential hiding to nothing. If you live in a residential area with close neighbours then I would certainly explain that you have a new puppy and apologise in advance (perhaps even with a bottle of wine or something - neighbours are people you need to keep on your side).

8 week old puppies are also likely to be sleeping up to 60% / 70% of the day as well as at night and so they should have access to the crate during the day too. We actually like to put them in their crates for an hour or so in the morning and again in the afternoon, as with toddlers, puppies can get overtired so putting them 'down' for a sleep helps them to routinely have rest. We'd also suggest putting them in the crate sometimes for 10 - 20 minutes if you are busy and need to do some cooking or have friends round - give the puppy a treat, Kong, or toy and get the used to being in there when you are milling about. Make it a normal part of their day and it will help them long-term - don't just put them in there when you are going to go out, whether popping to the shops or out for a few hours, puppies will quickly learn that being put in the crate means they are about to be left alone and you can set-up separation anxieties very quickly. Having them in the crate, whilst you do a few chores can quickly become normal and if you had to pop out or not then they don't learn to panic. It can be very beneficial to have your puppy still in it's crate from it's afternoon rest when children come home from school. Allowing your children to get settled and calm before letting your puppy out to play, when it itself is refreshed, reduces biting and overzelous play. After each rest period in the crate it is best to take it out to toilet in the garden before being let loose in the house.

If you do have to pop out then don't fuss the puppy just before you leave and don't fuss the puppy as soon as you come in. Be normal, relaxed and leave / return as casually as possible. Come in, put the kettle on, greet others first then take puppy out and into the garden and stay with them (again without fussing) until they have been to the toilet, once they have been to the toilet then you can play with them as much as you want.

With an older dog such as Mollie ( a rescued Cockapoo) the process of crate training her was similar but took an extra bit of resolve as she would not like being put in there and ignored. Even if I stayed in the room then I would completely ignore her and only communicate if she was quiet and still. It helped having our other house dogs here as they knew the score and go into their crates without batting an eyelid so even if an RRR project creates the others are not fazed and this in turn helps settle any newcomer. If I put Mollie in her crate for 1/2 hour then I would always put at least one other dog in a crate too for a couple of weeks and then wean her off into being in alone. They soon come round and accept it as normal and Mollie went from being a bit frantic to totally settled within 2 weeks. Again if Mollie messed in her crate for whatever reason then I made no fuss and cleaned up without reprimand and without her seeing me (or more likely Julia  :roll: ) do it - so when she returned it was to a clean tidy crate.

A crate ideally needs to be big enough for a dog to stand up comfortably, turn around and lay out flat without any discomfort - so smaller dogs could get away with a smaller crate and a larger dog would need a bigger one but we have found the 36" to suit our needs. Obviously a car crate does not need to be that large but if you go away on holiday or if you leave you dog with family or friends for a few days then make sure you give them the house crate to use.

Stephen X

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