French Bulldog Crate Training – The ultimate guide
It is possible to raise your puppy without a crate, but it can be a very useful tool. You can compare it to a cradle for a baby: a safe place to sleep. A puppy playpen is also not necessary, but it can give a lot of peace by removing the need to ‘have to play police officer’.
This has become a very extensive post about doing French Bulldog crate training. First I will discuss the usefulness of the crate and the use of a puppy playpen and in the second part, I explain how crate training works with an easy to follow step-by-step plan.
Is a crate and/or puppy playpen handy for you?
Most puppies are not good at taking a rest.
Apart from exceptions, they stay awake for so long that they get over their sleep and get tired. Common complaints are that the puppy will bite or bark even more than usual. This is sometimes described as ‘the puppy attacks me out of the blue’. This is very normal puppy behavior and is due to that fatigue.
If your Frenchie puppy doesn’t suffer from this and he sleeps enough on his own, then a crate is not necessary. If not, a crate can help your puppy take a rest. There is not much space in a crate, which means the puppy cannot really play. In addition, it is a kind of den, especially if you have a closed crate or a rug hangs over it. As a result, fewer stimuli come in, which makes your puppy less awake.
The “nest effect’ has the added advantage that many puppies feel very safe in a crate. If the hustle and noise in the house are just too much for them, they also have the option to withdraw.
Once your puppy can lie in the crate with the door closed, he knows that nothing is going to happen. That gives peace of mind because then you don’t have to jump out of your basket enthusiastically every time someone is standing on it. And that is a good first step to learning to be alone. Because it is only when your puppy no longer follows you everywhere that he can learn that you will always come back after you have left and he will not develop separation anxiety.
Finally, it is useful to allow your puppy to get used to the crate at a young age. Because if he ever gets so hurt that the vet recommends crate rest (it happens more than you think), then it is nice if your Frenchie feels comfortable in it. That’s why it’s important to start with French Bulldog crate training as soon as possible.
The puppy playpen
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Sometimes a crate is used as a box so that your Frenchie puppy can be safely alone for a longer period of time. But a crate is actually too small for that. Even if you buy a very large crate, where your dog can sit and stand. Because he still can’t walk around and move really easily. In this situation a puppy playpen is better: This is a large fence that is open at the top. Perhaps you recognize it from the breeder, who also often uses a playpen that contains mother dog and puppies.
A playpen is a safe place where the puppy can play and browse around without needing your attention. In the playpen, you only put stuff from your puppy. This way your stuff will stay intact and your puppy can really go its own way. A puppy playpen is therefore useful if you want to be able to leave the puppy alone.
But people who are at home a lot can also benefit from a puppy playpen. Preventing undesirable behavior is often the best solution. By using a puppy playpen, he cannot do naughty things to get your attention, that gives both you and your puppy a rest.
How much space do I have to sacrifice?
The ideal size of a crate depends on the size of your dog. For French Bulldogs a Medium size crate is usually a good size. The intention is that as soon as he is fully grown your dog can stretch out and sit up straight. A larger crate is not better, because it is made for sleeping and not for walking around.
With a puppy playpen, it is intended that your dog can walk around nicely. That is why I would keep at least four times the dimensions of the ideal crate, more is better. Pay attention to a puppy playpen, because you don’t want your puppy to jump out in a few weeks. It is therefore wise to choose a puppy playpen that is higher than your puppy once it is fully grown.
But I do not want a crate/puppy playpen
It is sometimes a bit daunting that a large part of your room will be occupied by a puppy playpen and a crate. Fortunately, it is only a temporary solution, so as soon as your dog is through “puberty”, everything can be sent out.
Where this is different for each dog, in French Bulldogs it is often about one year old. Starting with French Bulldog crate training as soon as possible is important if you want to book fast result.
What exactly do you need and where do you put it
What can you look out for when buying a crate:
There are three different types of crates: the travel crate, the transport box, and the wire crate. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, I’ll describe them here so that you can choose the one that suits you best.
A travel crate is made of fabric. It is easy to set up and take with you. You can find real examples of travel crates here.
These crates can easily be bitten, and are therefore not suitable for some puppies. I myself used one to take with me on vacations when my Frenchie was still a puppy. You will not find a lighter and easier to carry crate.
A transport box is much more robust. These crates are made of plastic or metal. As the name suggests, these types of crates are often used to transport an animal. There are variants that have been specially designed for the car and variants that have been specially adapted to be allowed on the plane.
These crates are sturdy enough to use as a fixed crate. Some dogs like that it is a kind of hole because all sides and the top are almost completely closed. But there are also dogs that find this annoying. And admittingly, this type of crate really stands out in your room.
A wire crate is the most popular option. That is because it is the most flexible to use. He is sturdy, a puppy cannot just chew through it. And an added benefit is that most wire cages are foldable, so you can take them with you when needed.
A wire crate looks lighter, both for you and your dog. And if your dog wants a den or nest, you can put a rug or large towel over it. So if you are looking for a crate for in your home that you can take with you when you go away for a weekend, then this is probably your best option. A wire crate is for sale in most major pet stores, or online, for example via Amazon.
What to look for when buying a puppy playpen
As mentioned before, you want a puppy playpen that is so high that your puppy cannot just stand out. In addition, you must pay attention that the material is not easy to chew. A wooden puppy playpen is very nice to start with, but then you don’t have to mind if it contains puppy teeth. The advantage of heavier material is that it does not easily shift if your dog gets up against it.
Also, pay attention to the type of door: If your playpen is so high that you can no longer easily walk over it, you do want a door which you can easily get through to your puppy.
If you are handy, you can make a puppy playpen yourself, for example from elements that are made for a fence in the front yard. Or plasticized chicken wire in a slatted frame for a budget-friendly option.
If you choose a crate it is nice for your puppy if he does not have to lie on a hard surface, even in a puppy playpen it’s handy to have a bed or pillow. But a pillow sometimes explodes ‘just like that’. A good alternative is a fat bed; that is a thick, washable rug that looks a bit like long pile carpet. That is a lot stronger and less fun to demolish than a pillow. You can better purchase that nice cushion or cute basket if your puppy is a little older and has forgotten his puppy and adolescent pranks.
It’s nice for your puppy if he always has water available. Especially in warm weather, such a little Frenchie runs the risk of drying out. But a water bowl in a small room with a puppy is often not that handy. Many puppies use it to bathe. You can also buy containers that you can hang on the crate. Or even more convenient, for the real wild Frenchie puppies is a drinking bottle that you can hang in the crate. That is a kind of large guinea pig bottle but then designed for dogs.
In addition, provide suitable chew material in the crate and chew and play material in the puppy playpen. Toys that keep your puppy busy, for example with squeaky noises, are more suitable to give in the playpen than in a dense crate. Then you prevent your puppy from getting frustrated because he wants to run, but can’t.
Chewing is calming for dogs, so that is a better way to spend time in a crate. The Kong, for example, is a very popular chew toy. Please make sure that your puppy cannot tear and eat pieces of the chew toy. One puppy is stronger and more destructive than the other and therefore there is a separate toy for careful and strong chewers.
Chewing toys may, of course, be eaten, but remember, you know your pup: There are very greedy Frenchie puppies trying to swallow “the prey” at once, without chewing it into pieces. This creates a risk of choking and clogging. It is better to offer these puppies things that even they realize will not fit at once in their little mouth. These snacks also become smaller as a result of chewing, so before they ever end up in danger of swallowing, you exchange them again.
Where do you put the crate and run?
There are people who have a crate and a puppy playpen at home. Ideally, the crate is then attached to the playpen, as in the picture above (I know, I’m a real artist 😂). Or you put the crate inside the playpen. Because if your puppy finds out that he is tired, he can come to his crate to go to sleep.
The ideal place is in the part of the house where you are the most, somewhere where the entire room can be overlooked but is not always passed by, like the living room.
The latter is especially important if you only place a crate because then the chance that your puppy wakes up every time is the smallest.
A puppy playpen is of course quite large, so just choose a place where it fits and take the ideal shape into account when purchasing. So you have octagonal playpens, as in the picture, but also rectangular and even flexible that can be set up in an L-shape.
French Bulldog Crate Training: How to use a crate
So you have decided that you want to start with French Bulldog crate training, you have purchased one and now he is waiting in the room for your puppy to use it. Your puppy will have to learn this and I recommend tackling this step by step. There are of course ‘success stories’ in which the pup was in the crate with a closed-door from day 1 during the day. But there are also puppies that walk around the crate with a big bow to prevent them from suddenly being ‘locked up’.
I will give you a step-by-step plan, with which you can teach your puppy how to close the door in about a week. Below are a few tips to increase your chance of success.
Ensuring that the crate is fun for the puppy
The more fun your puppy has in the crate, the easier it will go when you ask to get in.
Pay attention to the use of the crate as a punishment. It is best to put your puppy in the crate when you are completely finished with him because he tries to tear down your house because of the tiredness, just try not to show how you feel (probably a bit angry 🙃). So first take a deep breath, guide him to the crate and sit quietly with him while he chews on a bone. If this does not work yet, you will have to solve it differently and you will have to keep practicing with your puppy so that you can use the crate in the future.
Not too long
Make sure your puppy is not in the crate for too long. You can best see it as a bed. If your puppy is ‘really’ awake, because he has slept enough, then it’s time to let him out of the crate. This way your puppy learns that a crate is a nice place to sleep.
It is also useful to instruct everyone, including children, to leave your Frenchie puppy alone when it is in its crate (even though it is super cute to see). This also applies to a possible basket.
Some puppies really love nests. If your puppy has this you will notice it automatically. My Frenchie, for example, enjoyed lying under the curtain when she was still a pup. Other nests can, for example, be under the couch or under chairs. A big empty crate purchased for growth can then feel too open for your puppy. You can then make the crate denser by placing rugs over it and reducing its size with sturdy cardboard boxes. Reducing the size is also a trick that often works if your Frenchie puppy regularly has accidents in the crate. Of course, you still have to let him out regularly enough to pee in the correct place. But the smaller the crate, the less your puppy will move and the less pressure there is on the bladder.
Now we are going to start the real “French Bulldog crate training”.
Keep building up the time in the crate
Before we gradually build up the time in the crate it is good to know that there is a big difference between being in the crate during the day and at night. Where many puppies want to be in the crate at night without any problems, most puppies find this difficult during the day. That makes sense when you think about it. At night it is much easier for a puppy to see that it is time to go to sleep. It is quiet, dark and far less interesting things happen than during the day. The crate is a very useful tool to teach your puppy to take his rest during the day, but it is not more than a tool. You still have to help your puppy learn to appreciate this.
Every puppy is different and you will also notice this during the potty training. I’ll give a step-by-step plan below in which the pup learns to lie in the crate with the door closed in a week, but some pups will be able to do this in a day and others will need several weeks for it. This variation is nothing to worry about. The experiences that your puppy has had with the breeder and his character play a role in the learning process. For example, a quiet puppy who is already used to a crate by the breeder will want to get in faster in his new house than an energetic puppy who always had the whole house at his disposal.
Carefully choose the moments when you will practice the crate. Make sure your puppy has lost his worst energy so that he doesn’t feel the need to run while you ask him to stay put. But don’t make him tired either, because puppies can easily get over their sleep and then become hyper.
Give your puppy the chance to pee and poop just before you start training so that you know for sure that this does not bother him. This way you know for sure that your puppy will only ‘complain’ if you try to go through the steps too quickly.
If your puppy whines or you notice in another way that he doesn’t like it in the crate, then let him out and repeat the previous step a few more times. You often get the furthest by daring to go back occasionally.
The step-by-step plan
From the 1st day: place the crate with the door open in the room. Sometimes hide some toys or treats in the crate, so that your puppy is rewarded if he happens to look in the crate. Please note, you do not have to lure him into the crate. Your puppy chooses whether to go in or not.
Around the 2nd day, maybe later: As soon as your puppy sometimes chooses to go into the crate, you can give him all his food in the crate. Stay there while your puppy eats and leave the door open.
Around the 3rd day: If your puppy eats its food quietly, without behaving differently than it would in another place, continue to the next step. As mentioned before, every puppy follows its own pace, so if this is earlier or later than the 3rd day, it will not matter at all. You can now move the door back and forth while your puppy is eating. Keep the movements so small that your puppy will not be bothered and will continue to eat.
Around the 4th and 5th day: As soon as you can move the door freely while your puppy is eating, (the step that is most difficult for most puppies) follows, you are going to close the door for a moment. Always close the door for a short time and then open it again. In the beginning, you can do this several times while your puppy eats. Gradually you keep the door closed for longer periods of time. Until you can leave the door closed the entire time your puppy spends on eating his food bowl.
In this step, the door is always open again before your puppy has finished emptying his bowl. If you notice that your puppy stops eating, or indicates in another way that he finds it exciting or frightening, then you close the door for a shorter time, or you go back to moving without closing it.
Around the 6th and 7th day: The door will now remain closed for a while after your puppy has finished eating. Do this a little longer after every meal but still keep sitting by it. In this phase, it is better to practice (in some cases) with a snack that will take your dog longer than with a meal. Because you can give the snack the moment you think it’s ‘bedtime’.
Around the 8th day: If your puppy really comes to rest when the door is closed, you can carefully walk away. Stay in sight in the beginning, then stay out of sight longer and longer until you can just walk away. Make sure that you only let the puppy in for a longer time if it is really time to go to sleep. Now you can also help your puppy go to his crate if you think he could sleep.
And what if my puppy starts to whine/howl during one of the steps?
If your puppy is going to wine in the crate you can let him out immediately.
Usually one of the following two reasons is the cause of the whining/howling. Or you try to keep your puppy in the crate for too long. Then it is better to take a step back and leave your puppy locked up a little shorter the next time. This way you avoid whining/howling and the crate remains a nice place.
If your puppy indicates that he needs to go to the toilet, then, of course, you want to give him the opportunity to do this in the right place.
If your Frenchie puppy really doesn’t want to be in the crate
One puppy will get used to a crate faster than the other. But sometimes you really don’t seem to get any further. In that case, you can check whether one of the points below is the cause and immediately read and apply the corresponding solution.
You don’t pass the step of ‘the 1st day’, because your puppy doesn’t enter the crate by itself?
Many puppies are curious and will explore the entire house and therefore the crate on their own. But ‘many puppies’ are of course not the same as ‘all’. If your puppy does not have such an exploratory urge and therefore doesn’t accidentally come to the crate where you have hidden the cookies, then as an intermediate step you can put the crate somewhere central in the room and make it fun by laying a trail of cookies or treats that leads to to the crate, and so rewarding him for going to it. Always remove the rug after a short time. As soon as your Frenchie puppy becomes enthusiastic about seeing the rug, place the rug back in the crate. There is a good chance that this is just the boost that your puppy needed, so that he will lie down comfortably on the rug again, but this time in the crate!
Is the crate perhaps too large or too small?
A crate is large enough if your puppy can lie stretched out in it and sit upright. If the crate is too small for that, you want to buy a larger one. Otherwise, your puppy is not comfortable and then, of course, he will not fall asleep easily. Because puppies grow very fast in the beginning, a young puppy will have lots of space in a crate that will fit nicely in puberty. A crate that is too large does not encourage you to lie down quietly and if you are already busy, you prefer to rush through the entire room. If your puppy may be bothered by the fact that the crate is still too large, you can temporarily make it smaller with sturdy cardboard boxes.
Has your puppy possibly had bad experiences in the crate?
For example, because the crate was used as a punishment in the past. Or because your puppy was once very shocked while he was in the crate. Then it’s easier to buy another crate and build it up quietly than to try to train it out. It is best to replace a wire crate with a transport box and vice versa.
Does your puppy react very strongly to stimuli from outside the crate, for example passing people or certain sounds?
Then take another critical look at the location of the crate. If possible, move it to such a place that your puppy can still see the room, but you don’t have to walk straight past the crate if you want to go somewhere, in other words, to a quiet corner of the room. Sometimes it helps to cover the crate with a rug or towel so that your pup receives fewer stimuli from its environment. Quiet music as background noise can also help to reduce ‘unexpected’ sounds.
Does the dog possibly have separation anxiety?
Some puppies think it’s a scary idea when you go out of sight. If you always leave your Frenchie puppy as soon as he is in the crate, he will link this to getting left alone. This, in turn, will cause him to find the crate scary because he will think that you will then ‘leave’ him. If this seems to be the case with your puppy, you will treat it as two separate training goals. In that case, you practice the potty training without leaving the room. In addition, you will work on the separation anxiety by constantly walking away and coming back again before your puppy gets scared. Ultimately, the crate is a good tool for dogs with separation anxiety, so as soon as your puppy sits down in the crate, you can start using it again during training. Make sure that you do not always leave when your puppy is in his crate, and from time to time stay with him.
Puppy pee/poop in the crate
Many puppies will try to keep their sleeping place, in this case, their crate, clean. If your puppy does urinate in the crate or poops in it, try temporarily making the crate a little smaller. This can be done by placing cardboard boxes or big pillows in them, for example.
Don’t forget to thoroughly clean all the rugs and the crate itself. Special cleaning products can be purchased in the pet shop. A puppy smells a lot better than we do, and the smell of feces encourages him to go back to that spot and do it all over again. And try to prevent accidents in the future by removing your puppy from the crate and giving him the opportunity to do his needs if you see that he needs to pee or poop.