Crate Training a Shihpoo Puppy


One of the top reasons we got our first Shihpoo, Titus Rex, had to do with our son’s hope to have a sleeping buddy on his bed, providing comfort in the dark at night. Unlike efforts with previous puppies we had, we chose to crate train our Shihpoos from the beginning, even though it required patience on our son’s and our part.

How does crate training a Shihpoo puppy work?

Crate training fits a Shihpoo’s natural instinct as a dog to use a den as sleeping quarters, a hiding space and a place of security. Never use a crate as punishment, but rather provide your Shihpoo with space just large enough to stand and to turn around in.

Details of crate training a Shihpoo

Shihpoos are so darn cute that you may want them nearby 24/7. With a nickname like “the teddy bear puppy,” you will probably want to have your Shihpoo sleeping on your bed as well.

To raise a healthy and emotionally strong Shihpoo puppy, you need to give him or her healthy food, get him or her plenty of daily exercise, provide your puppy with love and attention, and offer your puppy the opportunity to retire from your company to its own crate when it needs some Shihpoo alone time.

A Shihpoo’s wolf ancestors, as do their modern-day cousins, seek out and use dens for several purposes. First and foremost, dens are the family rooms, living rooms, and bedrooms of the canine community. A dog’s instinct tells it to find a small and cozy corner or space where it can cuddle up to sleep safe and sound.

Additionally, dens offer the wolf and its canine cousin a place of security where it can be safe from larger predators. Consequently, crates make fantastic

As its home, the den is not a place where the dog or the wolf will defecate or urinate. Shihpoos, likewise, instinctively keep their crates (or kennels) clean and poop-free.

When to Start Crate Training Your Shihpoo

The short answer to when you should start crate training your Shihpoo is “now.” Whether you just brought home an eight-week-old fur ball or you have rescued a senior Shihpoo, make the crate a part of your dog’s integration into the home.

There is no bad time to offer your Shihpoo the feeling of safety and security that he or she will feel in a crate. If, however, you have rescued a Shihpoo or adopted a puppy that has been inhumanely kept in cages for long periods of time (which happens in horrendous puppy mills), you will need to be extra sensitive in the type, location, and method of introduction you choose for the crate.

Introducing a Crate to Your Shihpoo

In spite of the Shihpoo’s instincts to seek out a den (or its household equivalent of a crate), do not assume that the puppy will automatically enter and stay in his or her crate without training. Merely setting a crate in the corner or under a desk, opening the door, and giving the “Bed” command does not guarantee crate training success.

To introduce your Shihpoo to its crate, have a bag of training treats at hand. We prefer America’s Vet Dogs. Break them in halves, thirds or even quarters to avoid overloading your puppy on snacks during your training.

Start by placing the crate in its permanent (or at least expected) location. Next, open the crate door. Now, begin playing with your puppy outside the crate. Play tug-of-war, fetch or hide-and-seek with your Shihpoo in front of its crate.

Offer pieces of training treats here and there during the playtime, and begin to place one now and again in front of the door to the crate or just inside the crate door. Do not hover near the crate door in a way that might appear you are about to trap your puppy in the crate.

As the puppy gets comfortable moving in and out of the crate entrance to retrieve its treat, become placing the morsels further and further inside the crate. Repeat these sessions every hour or two. Do not close the crate door on the first or possibly even the second or third such training sessions.

Once your puppy is comfortable going in and out of its open crate, crack the door shut momentarily while providing your Shihpoo with another treat. Open the door within 5 or 10 seconds. If the puppy attempts to push on the door sooner, open immediately. Your goal is to make the puppy comfortable in its crate, not induce feelings of captivity.

Your Shihpoo’s Open-door or Closed-door Crate Policy

Shihpoo families will want to decide up front whether they will have an open-door or closed-door crate policy. If you plan to have your puppy with you 24/7/365, an open-door crate might work. Shihpoos should not be left alone to roam your home for long periods of time, so a closed-door crate generally works best if you work or need to leave your puppy home alone for several hours at a time.

Open-door Crating

Open-door crates are just what they seem to be: A crate with no door. Open-door crating means your Shihpoo can go in and come out whenever he or she so wishes.

Sleeping with Your Shih-poo on Your Bed
With an open-door crate, expect a visitor on your bed from time to time

Open-door crates are great for homes where the puppy is king or queen of the roost. When your puppy is tired, the crate will offer a comfortable and safe sleeping cave. When your puppy is overwhelmed with visitors or other pets, the crate offers secluded privacy. When your puppy feels threatened, the crate offers protection.

When open-door crating, location is important. The crate cannot be in a bedroom or any other room whose door is closed from time to time. Your Shihpoo must be able to access the crate 24/7, so kitchens and family rooms are good places to consider. You may also consider placing the crate under a table or between taller pieces of furniture to add to the feeling of the den.

The main advantage of open-door crating involves its simplicity. Like a laid back parent who trusts his or her teen to make the right choices, you offer your fur baby freedom and choices.

Disadvantages of open-door crating include lack of control or discipline and a puppy who thinks and acts like an alpha. If you give complete freedom to your puppy with no rules to follow, you should expect him or her to feel above the rules.

Shihpoos are easily trained to be sweet and gentle companions. Like most dogs, they tend to reflect their mama’s or papa’s mood and personality. When you get tired and ready for bed, your puppy will likely settle down for the night also. However, when a dog has the run of the home, there are no guarantees of any type of behavior.

Closed-door Crating

A closed-door crating policy means you set the times for your puppy to be in his or her crate and you close the door behind him or her each time. Once the puppy is in the crate, he or she stays there until you decide it is time.

Closed-door crating offers Shihpoo mamas and papas complete control over their puppy’s schedule and activities. Closed-door crating means you choose when and how often your puppy takes a nap and for how long.

The disadvantages of closed-door crating should not surprise anyone. Closed-door crating can lead the puppy to fear the crate and feel as though crating is a punishment. Puppies may sooner or later offer push back and fight crating all together.

When it comes to the question of whether to leave the crate door open or closed, there is a happy middle ground: the hybrid crating option. This is the method we use. Our puppies are happy to be closed in their crates at night and at nap time because we do not leave them in for extended periods of time. For the most part, they enjoy the security and peace of mind the closed-door crates offer.

In addition to our puppies’ crates, we have a two-room wire “apartment” in our laundry room with an open door throughout the day so the dogs have somewhere to go if they feel the need. We sometimes find our first puppy in their hiding from his more exuberant younger brother. Most older siblings can relate.

Choosing the Right Crate for Your Shihpoo

Besides deciding upon the open, closed or hybrid door policy, choosing the right crate for your pup will be an important decision. Don’t just go with the cheapest crate. Consider the following issues before making the purchase.

Size of a Shihpoo’s Crate

When you first bring home an eight-week-old Shihpoo, even a small crate will look cavernous. To a 3-lb puppy, that small crate will feel like the inside of the Chartres cathedral.

We placed a sleeping pad in the crate of our youngest Shihpoo, and he loved sleeping in there. In the mornings, we would sometimes find him belly up, zonked out to the world. He often did not want to get up, he was so cozy.

By the time our puppies hit about 10 lbs, we got them a medium crate. There will be no need for a large crate or pen. They can stand up and turn around in their medium crates, and they are completely potty trained in their crates by age four months.

Shihpoo Crate Materials

Dog crates are made of three basic materials: metal, plastic, and fabric. Metal crates are generally made black wire, although I have seen pink (pictured) and blue wire crates as well as metal cages and even some luxury models that have wooden corners and roofs. The wire crates can usually be collapsed for easy storage or transportation.

The first crate we bought for our oldest Shihpoo was a small, black-wire crate we found on Facebook market place.

Plastic crates offer a bit more form-fitting comfort. They typically have handles on top and are wider in the middle than the bottom or top. Plastic crates are no so open to the outside world like metal wire crates are. This offers the puppy greater privacy, which can also lead to a greater sense of security for the puppy.

We typically prefer plastic crates (see our recommendation here)

Fabric crates can be made of nylon or, less commonly, canvas or even cotton. With their sewn-in wire rims, fabric crates are extraordinarily light while being a cinch to “pop up” and collapse.

Fabric crates serve very well for Shihpoos on the go. If you plan to tote your puppy around with you, you will want to consider a fabric crate, although a plastic one may work also, if not as conveniently.

Fabric crates also seem to offer the puppy a softer, less harsh environment.

Not surprisingly, fabric crates, being collapsible, can be far less effective at containing a rambunctious puppy.

Shihpoo Bedding in a Crate

Once you have a crate, you may wonder what to put into it, besides your Shihpoo. First of all, make sure you have made your puppy’s bed a soft one. Whether you add a sleeping pad or a couple of soft towels, give you little teddy bear something to soften up his or her crate floor.

For most Shihpoos, the bedding will be sufficient. Besides, there should not be room for much else. Our youngest sleeps with a fluffy soft pad, and that’s it. Our older puppy, Titus Rex, is a taller Shihpoo than our youngest, Stark, and has a bit larger crate. We typically give Titus the “bed” command around 8:30 or 9:00, at which time he runs to his crate, jumping and twisting on his way from excitement. He loves bedtime.

Around his first birthday, soon after moving Titus into his medium crate, he fell in love (sometimes a bit too literally) with one of our son’s actual teddy bears. He got ahold of it one day and carried it into his crate.

Yes, our teddy bear puppy now sleeps with his own teddy bear. Because he has the room, and because he is long past his chewing and tearing phase, we let him keep his stuffed animal.

Otherwise, there is nothing in his crate but his nylon sleeping pad. Since my son opens his puppy’s crate when he heads to bed around 9:15, and Titus jumps up onto the bed for the night, we don’t worry about much else in the crate. He mostly uses it for naps during the day.

Shihpoo Crates vs. Apartments

Very similar to our puppy apartment

I have referred several times in this and other posts to our puppy’s “apartment.” An apartment is typically a two “room” wire crate. The idea is you place a sleeping pad in the smaller room for your puppy to rest in and a potty training pad in the other for your puppy to use during training.

Our sweet neighbor has a tiny 4-lb Yorkshire Terrier who outgrew his apartment. She has lent it to us, and our puppies use it as a refuge during the day. Sometimes, our youngest naps in there since it is in our laundry room where we can control the light and the noise.

Cost of a Shihpoo’s Crate

More often than not, you will likely make a decision about your puppy’s crate based upon its price. This does not mean you are a bad puppy parent or that you do not care about your Shihpoo. It does mean you are pretty normal.

Here are a few options to consider when looking for a crate for your new furiend.

Do you have to buy new or are you okay buying a gently used crate? Find a recommendation for a new crate here. Expect to pay between $30 and $100 for a new crate.

For used crates, ask around or, if you are careful and thorough in your research, you can find affordable dog crates for just $5 or $10 nearby. We have found crates on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist that we got for $10 and were able to pick up the same day. The main downside (which is worth it to us) involves having to wash the crate thoroughly before using it.

Shihpoo Crate Training Schedule

Once you have the right crate for your Shihpoo and your puppy is comfortable with spending time inside, begin working on a schedule that works for you and the puppy.

If you have chosen the open-door crate policy, a schedule will be less relevant, although you should still encourage your puppy to take regular naps.

Young Shihpoo puppies can sleep as much as eighteen hours a day, which means an eight- to twelve-month-old puppy may sleep up to 10 hours at night and then have four 2-hour naps or even three 3-hour during the day.

If your furball sleeps from 10:00 pm until 7:00 am, you might consider two-hour naptimes in the crate at 8:00 am, 12:00 noon, 4:00 pm and finally at 6:00 pm. If trained as a puppy to nap regularly, your adolescent and adult Shihpoo will continue to enjoy naps in the crate every day. Our Shihpoos still take two to three two-hour naps a day and seem to love the quiet time away from each other and the noise. Only rarely will either of them whine while crated and only then usually because they didn’t go potty outside when we let them out before being crated.

As a reminder, NEVER use your puppy’s crate as a place for discipline or punishment. “Go to your room” and “Go to your crate” are not healthy parenting behaviors and not healthy for your little one.

Related Questions

How often do you feed a Shihpoo? Puppies younger between two and four months of age typically eat three meals a day. From five months on, Shihpoos will be fine with two meals a day. If you leave food bowls continuously out for your Shihpoo to eat whenever he or she is hungry, exercise your puppy every day.

How long after eating does a Shihpoo poop? For Shihpoo puppies six months and younger, expect to send them outside to do their “business” after five to ten minutes after eating or drinking. Letting adult Shihpoos outside 10 minutes after eating and drinking is recommended.

Todd Christensen

Founder and lead blogger at ShihpooCentral.com, Todd loves his family's two Shih-poo puppies, Titus Rex and Stark Antonio (aka Sir Titus Whitus and Baron von Wigglebutt). He and his wife have four wonderful human children as well, and he doubles by day as a financial educator facilitating budgeting, credit building and debt elimination workshops.

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