How to Crate Train My 5-Month-Old Puppy
Crate training a dog prevents damage to the home from chewing while the owner is away. Dogs have a natural instinct to find a sleeping den in the wild and a crate becomes, to a dog properly trained, not a cage, but a den. Since dogs instinctively avoid eliminating in their dens, and since the crate simulates a den, it helps house train the puppy. Crate training a puppy allows you to travel without your dog experiencing trauma from being in a kennel. For best results, begin crate training as soon as possible after the puppy's weaning, but even a 5-month-old puppy can benefit from crate training.
Choose a crate large enough that your dog, when grown, will be able to stand up and turn around in with room for a water dish. Since the puppy will probably not be fully grown at 5 months old, the crate will be larger than what he needs right now. If there's too much excess room in the crate, the puppy can potty in one end and still eat and sleep in the other, so add a partition to the crate to allow him only the room he needs at his current size. Some crates come with a partition grate to install. If yours doesn't, create a partition using a piece of wood or plastic secured to the crate's frame with twist ties or wire.
Place the puppy's crate in a living room or other common area where she won't be ostracized from the family and will be able to hear the noises of the household while she's in it. Position the crate away from furniture or cabinets that she could reach with his paw. Place a small pillow and a fleece blanket in the crate. Your puppy can use these items for sleeping once she becomes more comfortable in the crate.
Use the crate for your dog's feeding times twice per day when you can directly supervise him. Begin closing the door for up to two minutes while your puppy is eating, but open the door before he finishes his meal. Taking food in the crate and getting praise from being in the crate helps your puppy associate the crate positively. A 5-month-old puppy is in the "Flight Instinct Period" where he wants to test his limits and find some independence. Consistently praising your puppy for desired behavior during this stage helps him learn to please.
Increase the amount of time your puppy spends in the crate with the door shut by a few seconds each time. Don't open the crate door if the puppy is whining or scratching. If she does start whining, wait until she has calmed down. Opening the crate door while the dog is displaying anxious or problematic behavior reinforces that behavior. Because a 5-month-old puppy instinctually begins chewing to help with the teething that occurs during this period, guard against unintentionally reinforcing anxious chewing to prevent a long-lasting destructive behavior.
Begin giving your puppy treats and toys as an incentive to go into the crate when it's not mealtime. Praise your puppy for going into the crate and stay in the room with your puppy when you close the door. Increase the time your puppy spends in the crate gradually while you stay in the room.
Leave the room while your puppy is in the crate after he begins getting more comfortable spending some time in the crate while you are there. Stay where you can hear the puppy. Return to the room after about 15 minutes and open the crate only when and if he is not whining or scratching. Gradually increase the time you spend away from the room where your puppy's crate is located.
Leave the house for short errands that take up to only a couple of hours while your puppy is in the crate. When you return, allow your puppy to stay in the crate for a short time before taking her out, remembering not to take her out of the crate while she is whining, scratching or anxious.
Gradually increase the amount of time you are away from home while your puppy is in the grate. Because a 5-month-old puppy has not reached full maturity, it won't be possible for her to last all day in the crate without eliminating. Allowing him to eliminate in the crate can delay house training. Plan a lunch break in your work day to take your puppy on a walk or hire a dog walker. After your puppy is about 1 to 3 years old, he may be able to stay in a crate throughout a workday.