Whatever genius came up with the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” was obviously not a Labradoodle owner. We Doodle lovers know that even the briefest separation from our canine companions is torture, and it’s too often equally torturous for our furry friends. That’s why crate training is so crucial: you get peace of mind knowing your pup is safe, and your Labradoodle gets a cozy den that keeps separation anxiety at bay.
How do you crate train your new Labradoodle like a pro?
- First, find a crate that is the right size for your dog and that is secure enough to prevent a sneaky escape. This is the crate I use with my Labradoodle.
- Introduce the crate slowly by allowing your puppy to freely go in and out before you attempt an extended period of crate time.
- Before crating, engage in a period of rambunctious play with your puppy, and make sure to give your Labradoodle plenty of potty opportunities.
- When playtime is over, sit calmly by the crate and brush or pet your puppy to instigate a sleepy-time response.
- Then, once your puppy is soundly snoring, place her gently into the crate and shut the door without locking it.
- With time, your Labradoodle will associate his crate with rest time, and crating your Doodle will be a stress-free experience for you both.
Tip: If you’re worried about your pup being lonely in the crate, try giving them a snuggle puppy! It emits a life-like heartbeat that can calm and sooth them. You can even add a heat pack to make it even more realistic.
Sounds simple, right? The truth is, crating can be one of the simplest training exercises for you and your pup, but it can also be laden with challenges and unexpected issues. If you are ready to begin the process of teaching your Labradoodle how to love his crate, read on for tips on crate selection, introducing your puppy to his new hideaway spot, and tackling issues as they arise.
What is Crate Training and Why Is It Important?
Many first-time dog owners are horrified at the idea of leaving their dog in a small, enclosed space for hours at a time. “I would never crate my dog. I love her too much!” may sound like the exclamation of a dedicated dog lover, but it actually represents a failure to recognize that dogs aren’t people. Dogs are den animals: even though they have been domesticated over thousands of years, they still retain some wild canine instincts. One of those instincts is to rest in a spot that is safe and offers protection.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, most dogs actually crave periods of solitude, and a crate gives them a special space where they can secure that solitude when and if they need it. While you may use crate training specifically to house your Labradoodle when you need to leave, you may find that your dog goes in and out of her crate even when you are home. If crate training is approached slowly and methodically, your dog will come to love this special spot.
Once your Labradoodle is acclimated to her crate, a wide variety of benefits will be seen. A Doodle that is comfortable in a crate is:
- Easier to potty train
- Able to be transported without unnecessary stress
- Prevented from destroying furniture during teething times
- Able to seclude themselves in their crate when feeling overwhelmed
- Less likely to experience separation anxiety
- Less prone to injury when left alone
As a dog owner, it’s important to get into the dog mindset when deciding whether or not to crate your puppy. Think of your pup’s crate like his home-inside-a-home. It’s not a cage of punishment and isolation. Instead, a dog crate is a sanctuary. It’s the only spot in your entire home that is 100% for your Labradoodle’s use. Everyone needs their own space, and dogs aren’t exempt.
Choosing The Right Crate
The single most important part of successful crate training is choosing the right crate, and this often leads to Doodle owner panic. There are thousands of crate models on the market today, and it can be absolutely overwhelming for first time Labradoodle owners to know which crate to buy.
This is the crate I got for Oliver as a puppy…and he still uses it today. We wrote a helpful guide on choosing the right crate which you can read here.
Which materials are safe for your fluffy furball? How secure should the crate be? How big? Does it need attached water and food bowls? Multiple doors? An enclosed top?
If you’re reading this article on your smartphone while staring at towering shelves stacked with crates, then here’s the secret: the only feature that is critically important is size. Everything else can take a back seat.
Your Labradoodle’s crate should be large enough for her to easily stand up and turn around. Dogs frequently reposition themselves when resting, and a crate that provides room for this is essential. Dogs kept in crates that are too small may develop anxiety issues or even health problems like joint stiffness. That said, the crate should not be big enough for a Labradoodle to designate multiple “zones” inside the crate.
Dogs will instinctively avoid urinating or defecating near their sleeping spots, but if they’ve got the room to do so, they will most certainly delegate part of their crate as a bathroom zone. This is why your Labradoodle’s crate should be just large enough for him to readjust. This can be problematic for Labradoodle owners who want to start crate training when their Doodle is still a puppy. A crate that is the perfect size when your dog is six months old is going to be far too small when your puppy reaches a year in age. Large crates with dividers will let you adjust the space as your Labradoodle grows, so a single crate can function well through the various stages of doggy development.
Useful Crate Features
The size of the crate may be the most important feature, but there are other factors to consider when investing in a high-quality dog crate for your Doodle. These features are not necessities, but they may make your Labradoodle more comfortable and your life a little easier.
Optional crate features may include:
- Adjustable wall panels for subdividing a large crate as your puppy grows in size
- Multiple doors for easy access
- Removable floor tray to make cleaning up messes easier
- Detachable food and water bowls for longer-term crating periods
- Breathable crate covers for creating a more den-like environment
- Foldable design for easy transport
Simple Steps to Crate Training
Once you’ve selected the perfect crate for your Labradoodle, it’s time to start training. Crate training is a long-term process; it’s not something that your puppy will acclimate to overnight, so be prepared to take it slow. Here are four simple steps to ensure crate training success.
1: The Introduction
Put your Labradoodle’s crate in a spot that is quiet and secluded. Place a few of your pup’s favorite toys inside (along with a couple of tasty treats), and then leave the door open and let your puppy explore this space on his own time. In the beginning, don’t try to shut the door with your Labradoodle inside: this may lead to panic. Allow your pup time to get acclimated to this interesting, new cubby.
If your snuggle buddy falls asleep in your lap after a period of play, gently move him to the crate and let him continue to sleep with the door open. When your Labradoodle awakens inside the crate, he’ll start to associate the small space with feelings of contentment and security, and he may even start going to the crate on his own when he is feeling tired.
2: Play and Potty
Before you lock your Labradoodle into her crate, engage in at least 30 minutes of high-intensity outdoor playtime. This accomplishes three things. First, it will tire her out and make her more likely to spend her first crate experience in deep, blissful sleep. Second, it will give her ample time to go potty, which helps to avoid accidents. And lastly, it gives your Labradoodle time to feel connected to you, her human companion. Crating can be stressful for a puppy because they are spending an indeterminate amount of time without you in the home. When you walk out the door, your dog has no idea when, or even if, you will return. Playtime reinforces bonds and helps your Labradoodle puppy feel nurtured and engaged.
After playtime, you need to show your Labradoodle that it’s now time to calm down and relax. You can transition your puppy from exuberance to exhaustion by sitting quietly and petting or brushing him. When your Labradoodle is relaxed and starting to sleep, place him in the crate and continue soothing him until he falls asleep. Then, quietly shut the crate door and immediately leave. If your Labradoodle wakes up and starts to cry, don’t acknowledge him: simply exit the room where the crate is kept, and he will likely settle down to rest.
4: Start Slow
Here is the most important part of expert crate training: treat it like a marathon, not a sprint. If you crate your Labradoodle for four hours the very first time, she is going to have an accident. This will lead to discouragement, frustration, and even fear of the crate. Puppies shouldn’t be left for more than a couple hours inside a crate since their little puppy bladders simply can’t last that long. You want to establish crate milestones that your puppy can easily achieve. Each time you return to a puppy who has successfully stayed in her crate with no issues, you reinforce the crate as a positive location.
Start your Labradoodle off with periods in the crate ranging from a few minutes up to an hour. Once she is acclimated to staying in the crate alone for an hour, you can gradually begin increasing crate time. As long as she enters the crate without an excessive struggle and isn’t crated so long that she has an accident, she’ll continue to see the crate as her special safe space.
Common Crate Training Mistakes
In the world of dog training, a simple mistake can often lead to months of problem behaviors that need to be slowly and meticulously corrected. This is why it’s so important to avoid simple crate training errors before they cause bigger problems down the road. Here are some of the most common crate training mistakes made by first-time Labradoodle owners.
- Rushing the process: Dogs need time to acclimate to changes, so if you introduce a scary-looking crate and immediately shut your pup inside this unfamiliar area, it may lead to anxiety or panic.
- Improper crate size: Your Labradoodle’s crate needs to be just large enough for her to stand up and turn around, but not so large that she can create a potty zone and a sleeping zone.
- Forgetting the potty break: Puppies can only hold their bladders for a couple of hours at a time, so be sure to give your Labradoodle a chance to go potty immediately before putting him in the crate. When you return, immediately take your puppy to go potty, and praise him when he goes.
- Punishing with the crate: If your puppy associates her crate with punishment, it will cease to be a safe and relaxing environment for her. Never punish your puppy by banishing her to the crate. Similarly, never punish your puppy for soiling her crate. Simply take her outside for a potty attempt, praise her if she goes, and clean the crate promptly to remove any lingering odors.
- Improper crate placement: Make sure your Labradoodle’s crate is in a quiet, low-traffic area so he doesn’t feel left out. Also, the crate should not be in an area of direct sunlight that might get too hot, since your pup won’t have a way to move to a cooler location.
- Crating multiple dogs together: Yes, puppies love to snuggle with one another, and it can be tempting to think that crating two dogs together provides them with companionship and comfort. However, as puppies grow they will need their own spaces, and separating two pups that have spent months in the same crate can be traumatic. If you have multiple dogs, crate them separately but in close proximity to one another.
- Cluttered crate environment: Sure, you want your puppy to be entertained while crated, but the crate should predominantly be an environment of serenity. One toy is enough to provide your Labradoodle with something to do without cluttering up the zen-like atmosphere of the crate.
Crate Training Troubles And How To Solve Them
Because crate training relies predominantly on your dog’s natural instincts, it is one of the easier training endeavors that you and your pup will tackle together. However, this doesn’t mean it is guaranteed to be a breeze. There are issues that can pop up between pup and crate, and these may be chalked up to a mistake made during the training process, an issue with the crate itself, or even just the specific personality of your dog. Below you’ll find some of the most common crate training behavioral issues and some suggestions of how to solve them.
My Labradoodle cries constantly when I put him in his crate.
This is a heartbreaking problem to have, and it’s the number one reason why most Labradoodle owners don’t stick with a consistent crate-training routine. After all, who wants to hear their precious puppy crying? It’s important to remember, however, that puppies are babies, and babies cry. Crying doesn’t always mean an intervention is necessary. If your Labradoodle whines or barks immediately after being put into his crate, sometimes waiting for him to cry himself to sleep is the best course of action.
The only time it may be necessary to intervene is if your dog’s crying starts to escalate. If your puppy is panicking (i.e. yelping or wailing, incessantly barking, pawing or clawing at the crate walls and floor, etc.) then release the dog. Give your puppy calm, soothing pets and snuggles until he calms down. Then, take one more trip outside for a potty break, and try to introduce your dog to the crate again. You may need to do this several times until your pup has worn himself out to the point where he can fall asleep in his crate.
My puppy always makes messes in her crate.
Coming home to a potty mess in your pup’s crate can be annoying, but you absolutely must be patient and refrain from punishing your puppy for making a mess. A dog’s natural instinct is to keep her sleeping space clean, so if your Labradoodle is going potty in the crate, there may be a few things going wrong.
First, be sure your puppy doesn’t have too much room. Remember, your dog should be able to stand up and turn around comfortably, but she shouldn’t have room to roam inside the crate. If your pup has too much room, use a divider to cordon her to one side of the crate to avoid messes.
If that doesn’t fix the issue, you may be leaving your Labradoodle crated for longer than her body can physically handle. Puppies have smaller bladders than adult dogs, so they can’t “hold it” for very long. Labradoodle puppies younger than one year need to go potty once every two hours to be comfortable! If you are keeping your Labradoodle locked in her crate for an entire workday, for example, you’re going to come home to messes. Try to schedule a few mid-day breaks for your Labradoodle puppy.
Finally, you might want to watch how much water your Labradoodle is drinking in the hour leading up to crate time. If you remove your dog’s water bowl an hour before she’s going to be put up for an extended period of time, you might be able to cut down on accidents.
I can’t get my Labradoodle to go in his crate; it seems like he hates it!
Congratulations, you have a strong-willed pup on your hands. Some dogs will do everything in their power to avoid being put in their crate. Your dog may brace himself against the crate door, drag his paws on the ground, or turn into a puddle of dead weight and force you to manhandle him through the opening. It can be funny if you aren’t running late and scrambling to get to work.
Remember that a crate mimics a dog’s natural instinct for finding a safe, secure den in which to rest and relax. While you might dread the thought of spending hours in a small space, your dog doesn’t have this same prejudice. So, why is your puppy resisting arrest if he doesn’t hate his crate? Because he hates the thought of being separated from you. Be sure to spend plenty of time playing with your Labradoodle puppy before crating him. High activity levels before crating will ensure that your pup isn’t cooped up with excess energy that needs to be relieved. Also, some dogs will relax when they are brushed for a few minutes before crating. The act of brushing is a physical indication that it’s time to chill, and it serves as a transition between “people time” and “alone time.”
Whatever you do, don’t let your dog dictate whether or not he will be crated. Crate your Labradoodle firmly but calmly. Crate time should never be a punishment, but it’s also not a “take it or leave it” situation for your dog. It may take a few weeks, but he’ll eventually realize that resisting won’t get him a reprieve.
My Labradoodle is an escape artist, and no crate can contain her.
If you have a little Houdini on your hands, you might need to get creative. Rotating your pup’s crate so that the door is against a wall can prevent her from escaping. Some dog owners, however, have to resort to zip ties to keep their magic canines in check. As long as you’re sure that your Labradoodle has ample room, is crated in a safe and quiet space, and isn’t trying to escape because of some deeper-rooted issue, it’s ok to bring in the reinforcements. The sooner your pup realizes that she can’t escape from the newly reinforced crate, the sooner she’ll stop wasting time trying. Eventually, she’ll settle down quickly in her crate and wait patiently for you to release her.
Every bed I put in the crate gets shredded within hours, what gives?
Your Labradoodle puppy has an innate desire to chew, and this desire can only be redirected, never eliminated. First things first: your puppy doesn’t need a fluffy feather bed inside his crate, especially in the first year. Dogs are perfectly happy resting on a hard surface for a few hours at a time. Crate your dog without the bed, and leave the comfy cushion for times when you are at home and supervising.
Next, find some sturdy toys that will stand up to persistent chewing, and put one in the crate with your Labradoodle. You can find toys that can be filled with goodies to occupy your Doodle pup for hours on end, but any toy will act as a healthy outlet for that chewing instinct. Some owners find success by purchasing several toys and rotating them in the crate on different days. This helps the toys feel “new” to your Labradoodle and can encourage him to chew in a parent-approved manner.
How Soon Can I Train My Labradoodle Puppy?
Puppies are information sponges, and they love the stimulation and reward that comes from learning new tricks. While formal dog training usually occurs around 10-12 weeks of age, you can start teaching your Labradoodle simple commands like “sit” or “stay” as early as 8 weeks.
How Do I Help My Labradoodle With Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety can be traumatic for both dog and owner, but there are ways to alleviate your Labradoodle’s stress if she is struggling. First, try not to act differently when you are preparing to leave your puppy. If your dog senses that you are stressed by the act of leaving, she will internalize that stress. Next, stay positive and upbeat, and when you are ready to leave do so promptly and without fanfare. Start with short trips away from your dog, so she can learn that you will always return after leaving. Finally, make sure her crate is comfortable and stress-free, so she has a space to relax while awaiting your homecoming.
What If I Have To Leave My Labradoodle For An Extended Period of Time?
As dog owners, we may wish we could spend every waking minute with our pups, but that’s just not always feasible. If you have to leave your Labradoodle for more than four hours without a break, you will probably need to make arrangements for him to get a reprieve from the crate. Apps like Wag or Rover are great ways to locate passionate dog-lovers who will visit your dog mid-day for a walk or some much-needed play time. Doggy daycare facilities are also incredibly beneficial. Not only will your dog be active and exercising throughout the day, but these communal dog spaces teach valuable socialization skills. Leaving your dog crated for an extended period of time will make him uncomfortable and could lead to crate anxiety, so be sure to plan ahead.
A Comfy Den For Your Curly Friend
Whether you’ve got a brand new Labradoodle puppy on your hands or you’ve adopted a full-grown Doodle with some separation issues, crating is a great way to provide a safe spot for your friend. Wolves rarely sleep in the open, preferring instead to find a cave or hollow where they can be protected on all sides while they snooze. Their canine cousins still possess this innate desire, and a Labradoodle left to his own devices inside a sprawling home can feel anxious and unprotected. These feelings of anxiety coupled with the freedom to roam are the only necessary ingredients in a recipe for disaster.
Start crate training as early as possible, and take it slow. Eventually, your Labradoodle will recognize her crate as her own special space, and she will likely seek it out when she needs some downtime. You’ll feel secure in the knowledge that your curly-coated friend is safe, and she’ll be happy until you are once again reunited.