How To Crate Train A Puppy In An Apartment (Answered By Trainer)

How To Crate Train A Puppy In An Apartment

Living in an apartment with a new puppy can bring on some anxiety, especially if you are a first-time puppy owner and you are worried about leaving your puppy alone.

Even experienced puppy owners can have a little bit of anxiousness when it comes to their puppy potentially wreaking havoc on the apartment, or getting into something they shouldn’t.

Crate training your puppy can not only help prevent your puppy from potentially damaging the apartment (and causing you to lose your deposit) but also helps keep them safe and can help aid in the house training process.

But can you crate training a puppy in an apartment? And how do you crate train a puppy in an apartment?

You can crate train puppies for apartment living, in fact, it’s beneficial for their safety, speeds up the house training process, and keeps them from damaging the apartment. To crate train them, you should follow a basic crate training process using positive reinforcement training methods, and remember to pick a good location for their crate.

In the article below, we’ll discuss why it’s beneficial to crate your puppy in an apartment setting and exactly how to do it with a step-by-step plan using positive reinforcement and reward-based training methods.

We’ll also discuss some things to keep in mind when crate training your puppy in an apartment, and how the same methods can also be applied to adult dogs when crate training them in an apartment.

Can You Crate Train A Puppy In An Apartment?

Yes! You can absolutely crate train your puppy in your apartment. In fact, it’s one of the most beneficial things you can do for your puppy. Crate training your puppy in your apartment will not only help keep him safe and secure while you are away, but it will help keep your apartment protected and your landlord happy.

Crate training can help with the house training process, and can limit accidents within your apartment. When your puppy is not able to find places to potty in the house because he is restricted to his crate, then he is more likely to understand that you want him to potty outside whenever you come home and take him out to use the bathroom.

During the teething stage, puppies can become quite destructive and will chew on anything and everything, potentially causing hundreds of dollars worth of damage to your apartment. With a crate, your puppy will not have access to your apartment, and you can keep him happy with safe chew toys within the crate.

While crate training a puppy can seem like a daunting task, and it may initially be a little stressful for you and your puppy, with patience, positive reinforcement, and lots of tasty rewards, you can ensure that your puppy finds her crate an enjoyable and comfortable place to be.

How To Crate Train A Puppy In An Apartment

Crate training your puppy is a fairly straightforward process, however, the length of time it can take can vary based on the individual puppy and how consistent you are with the training plan.

For an apartment, you want to take a little extra care because you don’t want to accidentally irritate your neighbors with your puppy’s cries if you try to ask for too much, too soon.

Just like with a human child, it takes patience and small steps to make the crate into a place that your puppy not only tolerates but turns into a place that they actually want to be in.

Below are a few basic steps to begin the crate training process in your apartment, but keep in mind that you may need to adjust the steps based on your individual puppy and situation.

Step 1: Pick A Good Location For The Crate

The first step in the process is actually picking a good location for the puppy’s crate to be. Depending on your apartment size, your options may be limited as to where you are able to place your puppy’s crate, you may only be able to choose between your bedroom and your living room, but ideally, you want to pick a location that suites both your needs and your puppy’s needs.

If you have an anxious puppy, you may want to choose a place that is a little more private. If you have a puppy who is more of a social butterfly, it might be better to choose a location that is more central to what’s going on in the home.

There are a lot of additional things to consider when picking the ideal crate location (temperature, noise level, and so on), and you may need to move it around as you go through the crate training process, but as long as you make sure you are always associating the crate with positivity and fun then your puppy should have no issue with where you end up placing it.

Step 2: Introduce Your Puppy To The Crate

Once you’ve picked a good location, you’ll want to start introducing your puppy to the crate. The most important thing to keep in mind at this stage is to go slow.

This can be really difficult (especially if you are under a time constraint) but if you don’t make the crate into a positive place at this point, then you risk making it into a negative place and you’ll ruin any chance of your puppy willingly going into it in the future.

One of the best ways to do this is to leave the crate door open and allow your puppy to investigate it on his own. Every time you see him show interest in it, praise him and toss him a treat. If he goes into the crate on his own, give him a big jackpot reward!

You can also put treats, toys, and other fun things into the crate to encourage him to investigate it. By adding all this fun and excitement to the crate and giving your puppy the opportunity to choose to go into the crate of her own free will rather than forcing her, she’ll be more likely to form a positive association with it and the crate training process will go much smoother down the line.

In the video below, you’ll see an example of one possible “crate game” you can play with your puppy to help encourage their interest and positive association with the crate:

Step 3: Start Closing The Crate Door Briefly

If your puppy is happily going into their crate and seems comfortable, you can now start experimenting with briefly closing the door behind them. For some puppies, this might just mean slightly decreasing how open the crate door is and for others you may be able to close it all the way.

As soon as you close it (or decrease how wide the opening is), you’ll want to immediately open it again and then praise your puppy and give her some treats or playtime. If your puppy shows any signs of anxiety, then back it up a step and maybe wait another day before trying this step, or instead of closing it just decrease the opening instead.

If your puppy seems comfortable with the door being closed, you can gradually increase the length of time the door is closed, but you want to remain within sight of your puppy. I usually suggest 30 second to 1 minute increments to my clients, depending on their puppies.

Some puppies are really comfortable in crates and this process goes quickly, whereas other puppies can become quite anxious once the door is closed and can only handle a few seconds at a time. Providing a food-stuffed toy during this stage of the process can really help!

The key things to remember here are that you want to be really mindful of your puppy’s body language and anxiety level, and to always try and let them out before they become agitated as you are really trying to teach them that being quiet and calm is what gets them out of the crate.

If you wait to release them until they are already crying and upset, then you will be reinforcing that behavior and they will learn that crying will get them out of the crate. While this part of the process can sometimes be quite lengthy, it will really help in the long term and result in fewer issues later on.

Step 4: Leave Your Puppy Briefly

The previous step could take you a few days to get through, or it could happen very quickly, but if your puppy seems to be quite content with you closing the door for a lengthy period of time, then it’s time to move on to the next step.

For my clients, I usually suggest they aim for the puppy staying quietly in their crate (usually with a fun chew toy or food-stuffed toy) for at least 30 minutes while their owner is within the room. Depending on your puppy, you can briefly exit the room for only a few seconds or you may be able to leave for up to a minute.

As soon as you return, as long as your puppy remains quiet and calm, immediately release them from their crate and give them a jackpot reward. Again, providing a fun toy while they are within the crate will help this process go smoother.

If your puppy begins crying as soon as you leave the room, then you may have to back up a step. As long as your puppy remains relaxed and quiet, you can gradually increase the length of time you are gone.

Step 5: Crate Training Is Complete…Mostly!

If your puppy is willingly entering her crate without fuss, is happy to stay in there while you go about your day, and is not super hyper upon your return (which can also be a sign of crate anxiety), then you’ve completed the hardest part of the crate training process!

As your puppy ages, they will likely hit some hiccups with the crate and you may have to review some of the steps. The learning process for puppies and dogs can be quite complex, and they will often go through several stages of “two steps forward, one step back” throughout their puppy and adolescent period. While it may seem like they are suddenly misbehaving again, in many cases this is a normal part of the learning process!

As long as you are patient, persistent, and always make sure you are associating the crate with rewards rather than punishment, then your puppy will quickly get back on track with the crate training process. Over time, things with your puppy will get easier but just as with human children, we must be responsible pet parents and help our puppies understand what is expected of them.

Things To Keep In Mind When Crate Training Your Puppy

The crate training process can be unique to each individual puppy in general, but apartment living presents some unique challenges. Here are some additional things to keep in mind when crate training your puppy in an apartment setting.

DO Remember To Be Patient

Unfortunately, the crate training process can be one of the most time consuming parts of puppy ownership.

But the benefits of crate training far outweigh any potential downsides and setting aside just a bit of time now can really set your puppy up for success and lead to a much happier and healthier relationship with your puppy (and your neighbors!) down the line.

Following a good puppy crate training schedule can help you with a myriad of things related to new puppy ownership, including house training, teething, impulse control, and other obedience skills.

Over time and as your puppy ages, you’ll also be able to start working on trusting your puppy to stay outside of the crate overnight, and eventually full time if that is what you wish and if it is safe for your puppy to do so.

DON’T Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Puppies can be a lot of work! Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether that’s from family, friends, or neighbors. Especially in an apartment setting, I usually encourage my clients to let their neighbors know that they are currently training their new puppy.

Being open and honest with neighbors can help some of the anxiety clients may feel if they are concerned about any noise from their puppy. Most dog-friendly apartments have dog-friendly tenants, so as long as your puppy isn’t going crazy with the barking and crying 24/7, then your neighbors will likely be very understanding of the crate training process.

Neighbors can also be good sources when it comes time to socialize your puppy, or if you need someone to assist you with puppy sitting if you have to leave and haven’t yet completed the crate training process.

A local, reputable dog trainer who utilizes positive reinforcement training is another great source to help you with the crate training process, especially if you have a puppy who is a little more anxious or fearful.

DO Make It Fun

Dog training in general should always be a fun experience for both you AND your puppy, and the crate training process is no different. Puzzle toys, food-stuffed toys, and crate games are all good ways to help make the crate a fun place to be.

Depending on your puppy, you may even have to get a little bit creative with the process and come up with some unique ways to help make the crate fun for them!

You also want to make sure the crate itself is comfortable for your puppy, and including mats, blankets, or towels can create a more cozy area. Just make sure there’s nothing in the crate that poses a choking hazard.

You should also make sure the crate is big enough that your puppy can comfortably stand up and turn around in it but that it’s not so big that they can create a separate bathroom area (which can impede your potty training process).

DON’T Ask For Too Much, Too Soon

With all dogs, but especially with puppies who are still within the critical socialization period, you never want to push them past their limit and ask for more than they can give.

Using punishment to force a puppy to do something could create a lifetime fear of the crate at best, and potentially trigger other behavioral issues such as reactivity at worst. While we humans can become frustrated when things don’t happen instantly, we must always remember to take a breather when we notice ourselves becoming frustrated with the crate training process.

While it may be tempting to try and speed it up and just leave our puppies in their crates to “cry it out”, this method has the potential to create a negative association with the crate and could cause a setback with the entire crate training process.

Similarly, using any kind of punishment or yelling at puppies to be quiet in their crate will also create a bad association with the crate. While it may initially take a little bit longer, following a reward-based method for the crate training process is better for the long term and will lead to lasting results and a happier, mentally healthy puppy.

Can You Crate Train An Adult Dog In An Apartment?

Adult dogs can also be crate trained in an apartment! Dogs of any age can be crate trained, and you would follow the same process as outlined above, though you’ll likely find that most adult dogs get through the crate training process much quicker than a puppy.

For some adult dogs, specifically, those who may have experienced trauma or have a history of anxiety, the crate training process may take a little bit more time and you may have to make some adjustments.

Anxious adult dogs are also more likely to make escape attempts. If you have a pup like this, I’d suggest reaching out to a local dog trainer who can help assist you.

For anxious adult dogs, it may take a different type of crate, calming supplements, or a prescription medication from your dog’s vet to help them out. Other times you might just have to be a little bit creative!

One of my own adult dogs is a Houdini dog who comes from a traumatic background and would just bulldoze his way out of crates, causing injury to himself and rendering the crates unusable. I spent months, hours of time redoing the crate training process, and hundreds of dollars in crates, calming supplements, and vet bills trying to find something that would work.

In the end, I discovered that it was not the crate itself that was his issue, but the fact that he was separated from my other two dogs who were next to him in their own crates. I purchased an XXL crate designed for only the largest of dogs, and I now crate him with one of the other dogs and he has not attempted an escape since!

In apartment settings, crate training an adult dog can be especially important because anxious adult dogs can quickly cause a catastrophic amount of damage to an apartment, and they may also escape from the apartment itself.

Anxious dogs also tend to find crates a good place to escape to when they are feeling overwhelmed, so if you’ve got an anxious or fearful adult dog and you live in an apartment (which is an incredibly overstimulating environment for most dogs, let alone an anxious or fearful dog), it may well be worth it to crate train your pup.

Closing Thoughts

Whether you’re a first-time puppy owner or you’re a lifelong dog owner, crate training your puppy in an apartment can be one of the most beneficial things you can do for your pup.

While it can seem a little intimidating at first, with patience and persistence (and lots of tasty treats!) you can set your puppy up for success and ensure that they will always have a positive relationship with their crate, leading to a happier, more harmonious relationship with you and your neighbors.

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