We advocate crate training for our dogs, or any new puppy. Crates should be used to keep your puppy safe and out of trouble when you are away from home, sleeping, or preoccupied with something that precludes you from being able to completely supervise your new puppy. Initially some people believe that crating or kenneling your dog is cruel, but if you do a bit of research, you will learn that it is a safe and humane training tool.
Crating your dog allows you to go about your required business knowing that your beautiful new puppy is safe and sound until you can once again return to him/her. Imagine being out, coming home, and finding that your puppy has broken or chewed something valuable or close to your heart, eaten something and is now either poisoned, has a bowel blockage, or is dead from something lodged in its throat. What a horrible scenario. Now imagine coming home to your puppy in his/her crate, the house is just as you left it, your puppy is healthy, and both of you are thrilled to see one another. I think everyone would agree that the second scenario is preferred.
Crate training is not only useful for keeping your puppy and your home safe, it also aids in housetraining and in training against unwanted chewing. It is the best way to keep your new pup safe while traveling in a vehicle, and it is a wonderful way to keep your puppy quiet following spay/neuter or other surgery. As well, the crate can become a private place for your dog. It is quite simple to instill the rule that when the puppy is in his/her crate, the puppy is left alone. This is valuable in giving young pups their much needed rest time, and it also teaches young children to respect this time.
How does crate training help prevent unwanted chewing? When your puppy is in his/her crate, he cannot chew on your belongings. Puppies chew for a lot of reasons: boredom, teething, exploring, or just because they are puppies. If your puppy is properly supervised, you can teach him what he is allowed to chew (i.e. toys, bones) and what he is not allowed to chew (i.e. your family heirloom, the poisonous houseplant, shoes, carpets, etc.). When your puppy chews, he is deriving a reward. He is either no longer bored, his teething pains feel better or he's having fun. This teaches the puppy to chew whatever he finds when you've gone out the door and he's a little anxious, or when he is bored. As time passes, you then have an adult that will chew, and this is not pleasant. If, however, through training and proper supervision, your puppy has learned what he is allowed to chew, then when he needs to satisfy the urge, you will have a non-destructive dog who understands what his toys are.
In addition, and perhaps most importantly, if raised properly, dogs don't mind their crates. Their crate becomes a space where they can rest and spend time comfortably. As you train your dog to be left alone in the house, his crate door can be taken off for him to come and go as he pleases.
How to Crate Train Your Dog
When you first bring your puppy home you should already have your crate. Set it up in an area central to the family, but not in heavy traffic areas of your home. I recommend the kitchen, near a door leading to a fenced yard where your puppy will go to relieve him/herself. It is helpful to have one in your bedroom next to your bed also, but you will need to carry the puppy if he needs to go out in the middle of the night. The day you get your puppy home let him explore the crate. Put a doggy biscuit and an interesting toy into the crate. Let the pup wander in and out of the crate (you may have to coerce it to go in a couple of times) at first leaving the door open. Several times through the day, take your puppy back to where the crate is and repeat the toy/cookie routine. Praise your puppy (Weimaraners thrive on praise) for going into the crate in a quiet, happy voice. Praise your puppy for playing in the crate. After your pup has entered the crate a few times, put a brand new exciting toy into the crate, lure your pup in and close the door. Just for a few minutes. If the puppy whines, ignore him. If the crying persists for more than 5 minutes, scold him with a gruff voice, saying 'no' or 'quiet'. Once the pup is quiet for 30 seconds, give lots of praise and open the door. It is important to wait until the puppy is quiet to take him out of the crate. If you allow him out when he is whining, you are rewarding the unwanted behavior of whining.
Patience is the key to the effective crate training (and all training, for that matter).
Wire or plastic? What size crate? What do I put in the crate?
We prefer the plastic crates. They simulate a "den" environment and better protect your puppy, particularly when traveling. The size of crate for Weimaraners varies depending on the size of the dog (males are usually bigger). We recommend no smaller than 24W x 26"H x 36"L (or 400 size) for females and 28-30"W by 30-32"H x 40"L (or 500 size) for males.
With respect to bedding, we recommend putting an old, single layer blanket (nothing with stuffing) in the crate for your puppy. Some pups chew their bedding. To help your new puppy feel a little more secure put an old teddy bear that has any button eyes and nose removed and re-stitched securely.
Do not feed your puppy in the crate unsupervised. As well, do not provide water in the crate, as food and water will cause the puppy to have pee and poop. You can leave the pup with a safe toy or two (nylabone, kong, rope toy) and perhaps a doggy biscuit. Do not put your dog in the crate wearing a collar, or put rawhide, pig's ears or squeaky toys inside. Remember, you want him to be safe.
For how many hours and until what age are Weimaraners crated?
When you first get your new puppy he will be 8-12 weeks of age. At this age it is advisable to have your pup in the crate for no longer than about three hours before letting him out to relieve himself, have a little play and a cuddle. Once your pup reaches 12-16 weeks, about four hours is the longest you will want to crate him. It is not advisable to leave your dog in his crate for longer than 4 hours regardless of age once your get past the 16 week mark. Should you find you must leave your pup for longer than this, then be kind and have a neighbor or relative come in and let your puppy out and spend a little time with him.
There is no exact age when your pup will miraculously be able to be left loose in the house unsupervised. Each dog is different. We have had some pups who are trained and trustworthy at 6 months of age and others who can't be trusted at even 2 years of age or ever! Personally, we would continue with your crate routine until your dog is twelve months old. At this time you can "test" the dog. Leave him out for very short periods of time when you are preoccupied. Watch what he does. Then increase the time spent out until he stays out while you are sleeping. If he shows himself trustworthy, then you can begin to "test" him when you go out. Only ten minutes at first. Then an hour, then two or three. Do not rush to getting your dog "crate-free" as bad habits can still be formed.