How to Crate Train a Puppy

May 22, 2017
How to crate train a puppy

I am not a dog expert and don't pretend to be. We've had our fair share of ups and downs with Bosun. This blog post is just to share with you how we crate trained our Labrador puppy. There are many things that in hind sight I'd do differently, but the way we crate trained went really well and I am 100% happy with it!
When we got Bosun in October 2015, one of the things Rick and I both agreed on was the use of a crate. We have both experienced that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach through friends/family’s dogs where you come home after a couple of hours out and the dog has helped himself to something off the worktop, or chewed up the remote control or widdled on an electric socket.
This is really something that we did not want to happen to us. For one, it puts you in a bad mood and your puppy will associate you coming home with being angry. You cannot tell a puppy off for chewing something unless you catch him in the act. There is literally no point in telling him off for chewing your slippers 3 hours later because he will have no idea what it is he’s being told off for. Something that I use in all aspects of dog training with Bosun is not to set him up for a fail. He doesn't get the opportunity to chew expensive items, therefore he doesn't get told off for it.
Another reason for crate training, is that it really, REALLY assists with toilet training. You see, a puppy’s instinct is not to toilet in his bed. Therefore, if he can't get out of his bed, as long as you don't leave him in there until he's bursting, he won't toilet in there. See what I'm aiming at here? If you want to read more about toilet training specifically, you can read my blog post on that here.
A crate gives your puppy a place of his own, a constant place of stability. It's where he can feel safe. Now, when we travel with Bosun, we take his crate with us and he settles for the night with very little fuss. I find that when travelling with dogs, if they don't have something familiar then it can take a lot longer for them to settle.
And do you know what else? Vets will love you for it. Bosun has been to the vet for an operation and the nurses pointed out that they knew he'd been crate trained because when they left him in the individual crates that they use while the dogs are waiting for their operations, he just went to sleep. Dogs that are not crate trained will often freak out at being left in these crates at the vets and bark and howl and just generally make the nurses jobs just that much harder. Not Bosun, he was as good as gold.
And my final point, and possibly the most important, is for his own safety. According to a recent  article from the Express, some of the more unusual things according to vets that have been extracted from dogs’ stomachs include a barbie’s head, a needle and thread, carpet and a riding crop. I'm assuming those dogs were fine, but the owners could probably have done without the vets bills…and it all could have been solved by ensuring the dog wasn't able to get to those things in the first place…yeah…in a crate!
So, what follows is a list of tips and tricks for helping your puppy transition and getting the best out of your crate.


Choosing a crate...
So this will depend on the breed of dog you have and your budget. There are millions of different crates out there. Look at the reviews before you buy, and buy the best your budget will allow. If you buy a cheap crate and you have a high energy dog, it's possible they could bend the crate and end up hurting themselves.
At first, buy a smaller crate that is taken up entirely by his bed. As I keep mentioning, his instinct is not to toilet in his bed. If you have a massive crate with a bed up one end and play space at the other, it leaves space for him to toilet at one end. And this will not help with toilet training at all! With Bosun, we bought a small puppy crate for him when he was little, and then upgraded to a big boys crate when he got older. I appreciate that this isn't practical for everybody money-wise, so what you can also do is buy an adult crate straight away, and then use a divider to partition off one end, and then remove it as he grows. A dog should be able to comfortably stand up, and turn around in his crate space.
Make sure the bottom is solid plastic, this makes it 100 times easier to clean if there are any accidents. I've seen some crates with wire bottoms…well…I can only imagine what would happen in the event of a number two explosion...
A lot of crates give the option of buying a bed that fits the size of the crate. I can highly recommend this. I would recommend buying two, with zip off covers. That way, you can wash one and have the other one in there. I would also recommend buying a roll of vet bed for emergencies, in case you wash both beds and need something else to put down quickly. Whether your dog messes in the crate or not, I'd recommend washing his bed once a week anyway to keep everything smelling fresh.
Your puppy needs access to water 24/7. Some people recommend taking their water bowl up after a certain time to aid with toilet training, but I think this is terrible practice. If you're doing toilet training right, you shouldn't need to restrict fluid. Choose a heavy based water bowl for in the crate, if it's a light, flimsy bowl then the puppy will easily tip it over and get his bed wet, which isn't nice for him. I also don't recommend those bowls that clip onto the side of the crate as I've heard horror stories of dogs getting their faces stuck in the clips. I'm sure it's unlikely to happen…but you never know. We use a non-spill travel bowl for in Bosun’s crate and it works a treat.

When you bring your puppy home…

Have the crate already set up where you intend for your puppy to sleep. Choose a quiet corner somewhere that’s not too drafty and not next to a radiator. You don't want the crate to be somewhere that’s high traffic with people constantly walking past, kids playing near it or the front door nearby. Peace and quiet are essential for this process. As much as possible.
Be sure not to have the crate near anything that can be pulled in and chewed, such as curtains, electric cables, shoelaces etc.
When you first bring your puppy home, you shouldn't allow him to explore the whole house at first anyway as it can be a bit overwhelming. Better to have one or two rooms for him to explore first, one of which will have his crate in it. Have the crate door open and make the place inviting. Have a soft squishy bed in there, have a bowl of water and a few toys. Once he's done his own exploring, do some interaction with him around the crate, teaching him how amazing this new place is. Chuck a few treats in there for him to find, throw a toy in there.

The first night…
So I will tell you this now, the first night will be HELLISH. You will not get enough sleep and you will be driven to despair. That puppy will cry his little heart out. First off, you need to understand why he's doing that. This is more than likely the first time he will have been by himself ever in his life. He was born and brought up with his litter mates, and then brought home where he spent the day with you and possibly your family, then he's suddenly by himself in the dark. He thinks he's been abandoned by his pack, and he is scared. The best thing you can do in this situation is start as you mean to go on. So here's what you're going to do…
Just before your bed time, take him out into the garden for a wee. He won't have learnt his toileting routine yet so you'll need to stand out there with him for a good 5/10 minutes until he goes to the toilet (remember big praise!). After a few weeks, he will have this toilet routine down and know that this is his last opportunity for a wee for a while.
Give him a last snuggle and encourage him into his crate. And it's very important that he learns to take himself into his crate. We have never, not even once, ever placed Bosun in his crate. He had to learn to do it himself, and how did we do this? Treats. The way to a Labrador’s (and most dogs) heart is through his stomach. Throw a treat in his crate and use a consistent command. We use “in your bed” in a happy, upbeat voice. When he's in, tell him what a good boy he is and shut the door. Turn the lights out, and go to bed. This is when the crying will begin.
How long will your puppy cry when you leave him? Every dog is completely different. Bosun only cried for about half an hour for the first few nights and then it reduced. You have to ignore it. It will break your heart, but it's important as it teaches him stability. If you go down stairs to comfort him because you think “oh, just a little snuggle to comfort him won’t hurt, then your puppy learns that you come running when he cries, in a very similar fashion to trying to get your four year old to stay in their own bed. I won't mention any names, but someone I know ended up with a German shepherd with extreme separation anxiety because, and I quote, “she just wouldn't settle at night, unless she slept in the bed with us”. Yuh huh. Start as you mean to go on. It will help in the future.
So this point sort of ties in with the toilet training element of things, but remember at this stage he's already programmed not to toilet in his bed so you want to use that instinct. For the first few nights, only leave him for two-three hours at a time because he still has a tiny bladder and won't be able to hold it for the full eight hours. If you leave him for so long that he's forced to wee in his bed because he can't hold it, then it's all downhill from there. Once the smell of urine is somewhere, he will always see it as a place that’s acceptable to urinate. (Dogs noses are a lot more sensitive than ours so even after many washes and scrubs, they will still be able to smell it).
Set your alarm for 2am, 4 am and 6am roughly and spent 5/10 minutes outside so he can wee. Remember big fuss, then back indoors “in your bed” and lights out. More crying probably, then asleep. After a few days, you can start to leave a longer and longer gap at night until he's sleeping all the way through. But if he ever has an accident, go back a step and start doing more toilet breaks in the night.
If you've been asleep for a few hours, and then your puppy starts crying out of the blue, this may well be a signal that he needs a wee so don't ignore this. If he is telling you that he needs to go to the toilet then that is fantastic so hurry downstairs and take him outside!
I can very proudly tell you that using this method, Bosun has not had a single accident in his crate to this day, ever. He was sick one time…but that's irrelevant.

When should you use a crate?
At night, when everyone is asleep.
When you go out, although a young puppy should not be left by himself for more than a couple of hours.
When they're really young, you should use it whenever they are unsupervised. If you're going for a shower etc. As they get older, you'll be able to leave them on their own unsupervised without the crate  for certain periods of time. And then as they get to adult stage, you may well want to do away with the crate completely. But this is completely down to the individual. Basically now, if we go out Bosun takes himself into his crate and doesn't feel right if he's not in his crate when we’re not here. So…yeah…

So that's the basics of it really, some puppies take longer than others to get the hang of it but it's a case of waiting it out usually. I will now write a general list of hints and tips for crate training that didn't really fall into a category but are really important and you need to know anyway.

Never use the crate as a punishment. It could be very easy to get angry when your dog has done something, scream and shout and force him into his crate in anger. This is a very bad thing. His crate is his safe, happy place and you do not want him to associate his crate with bad energy. Also, it will make crate training really hard if he doesn't want to go in there because he thinks he's been naughty.
Make sure any children in the family know not to wake the puppy up when he's in his crate. New puppies are exciting and fun. Children want to play with them, and that's great. But puppies need a lot of sleep, and the puppy should hopefully learn that his crate is a safe place that he can go to sleep away from the noise and energy of the rest of the house. It will unsettle him if every time he's sleeping, a child comes along, wakes him up and forces him to play. It's also not very healthy for the puppy. This is also a good way to teach your child some boundaries.
Do regular maintenance on the crate, check the hinges etc. Sweep out and disinfect the bottom tray. Check for rust.
This is personal preference, but when they're young I personally wouldn't leave any soft toys in the crate with them as there is a choking risk (they do rip soft toys apart, it's unavoidable). You can leave hard rubber Kong toys in there, or something that Bosun absolutely LOVES are these deer antler chew toys from Stagler. They last forever and are really good for their teeth.
Once your dog is toilet trained, depending on the breed and space available you might be able to set up a play pen to keep them contained while you’re out if you want them to be able to have some space but don't want to risk them chewing stuff. Or you can use those toddler stair gate things to separate out parts of the house. Really it’s all about keeping your dog safe, stable and happy.

When all is said and done, remember that all dogs are different and everyone’s lifestyle is different too. You know your dog, and you will know if there’s anything amiss. Just keep assessing the situation and remember that nobody is perfect…but you can give it a damn good go!

Do you have any stories/questions/advice about crate training? Leave me a message in the comments.

Planning my Garden 2017

February 22, 2017

Hello friends,
As I am editing and completing this blog post, I am listening to the winds of Storm Doris gathering outside. I'm trying to remember if there are any stray pots lying in the garden, have I left any half filled compost bags out? Is the wheel barrow secured? Are any newly filled pots balancing precariously somewhere? And yet only a few days ago, I was contemplating beginning to sow some seeds.
You see, I follow many a gardener/allotmenteer on social media and am getting jealous and agitated by the amount of people who are already sowing. Alas, they are mostly southerners. Being a northerner now, I have to accept that my sowing activities must take place later. And the weather was warming up a bit so I got a bit hopeful…but I am glad I was not hasty.
My dear FiancĂ©e last week came home with a rather magnificent gift. Jewellery? Perfume? Clothes? No, I would tell him off for wasting money on these things. My dear Fiancee came home with a trailer load of scrap timber from the scrap yard. Although why it was in the scrap yard is beyond me. It's wonderful, strong timber and the weekend just gone, we got to work creating some new vegetable beds with it. They have turned out beautifully. Not bad at all for £10. We’re not ready to go just yet however, we need to extend the dog/rabbit/hare proof fence to go around the new beds. We also need soil. But that should be fairly easy.
So I have been planning. What am I going to grow this year? Which bed will it go in? How will I start them off? I haven't got everything figured out just yet, but I've got a fairly good idea.


My first year in Northumberland I grew garlic in pots as I had very limited space or knowledge. They did really well and I was very pleased. You see, I am a bit of a garlic fiend…and cook it with everything. So then last year I decided to grow more garlic than the previous year, but in one of the beds. And it turned out completely pants. No idea why. I harvested hardly any. Pest? Fungus? Bad soil? Pfft who knows, so this year I am going back to growing in pots. And I am already getting healthy green shoots. I was then naughty and went out to the garden centre and bought more garlic. I may have to buy more pots…


Ahhh Onions, my second favourite allium. I also eat a lot of onions, specifically red onions. I've grown onions both years that I've lived here and both years have done very well. I experimented the second year with putting more onion sets in the bed, and just ended up with smaller onions. So it's possible that Onions might be going into one of the new beds this year to try and get them nice and fat. We’ll see.


In our first year here, we bought a green house and grew some lovely cordon tomato plants in it. Then that winter…the storms came. We lost our greenhouse, and it was sad. I couldn't bring myself to re-invest or try and fix the greenhouse so we just left it for the time being and didn't try to grow tomatoes again. This year I am going to try some bush varieties of tomatoes in smaller grow houses. I've not tried bush varieties before, and haven't been able to find anyone who has so not sure how they'll turn out. I will keep you posted. Essentially, they grow short and wide rather than tall and thin. Sounds fairly straight forward…


Parsnips are my absolute favourite vegetable. Love them, love them, love them. I experimented with growing some parsnips last year and did very well and was very happy with them so I am going to try growing them on a larger scale this year. I am very excited.
I am also going to try growing some carrots this year, but not the boring orange ones. I want to experiment with the different coloured rainbow carrots. I've also read that marigolds keep carrot fly away so we will see.


So I have never grown potatoes before and was excited to receive some free seed potatoes with a certain gardening magazine that I subscribe to. I had to learn about ‘chitting’ and what not. Well, they are currently ‘chitting’ on my windowsill right now, and there are actual sprouts forming! Who'd have thunk it? I plan to grow them in the grow bags that they came with in the kit.


When we moved into our little stone cottage, we were very fortunate to have many fruit trees and bushes already established here. We have 3 apple trees (2 cookers, 1eater), a plum and a pear tree. We have many raspberry canes and black currant bushes too. These were way waaaaay out of control, not having received much love and attention. So I've been pruning and feeding and taking care and ended up with lots of russet apples but not many cookers, and a few raspberries and a couple of pears. I have taken even greater care this year and have high hopes for our fruit yields this summer.

So that's what I have planned so far. This is a very early stage of planning and I have no doubt that I will change my mind 100 times before I decide where to put everything.
I also intend to try and grow some sweet peas to make the place look pretty. All in good time my dears, all in good time.

What do you folks have planned for your garden?


January 20, 2017

This is my review of Longbow Girl by Linda Davies.

This was such a feel-good, easy reading story. If you’re into some Young Adult reading, a little bit of fantasy and some kick-ass girl power then this is a story you should take a look at. Rick bought this for me as a present because I recently completed a beginners archery course and am really loving my archery right now. So here is my review of Longbow Girl.

Merry Owen is a teenager who has been brought up by her father to be an absolute boss at archery. (Little bit of archery humour there…boom boom). The Owen family have lived at their little farm in Wales for hundreds of years and in every generation there has always been a master longbow man. There has always been a constant family feud with the family who own the estate and the Black Castle (the de Courcy  family)  adjoining the Owens’ land ever since the times of Henry VIII. But Merry and James De Courcy are best friends and don't let their family feud stop their friendship. Meeting up, frolicking and complaining about how rubbish this family feud is is usually the order of the day.

The Owen farm is in danger of having to be sold due to an incident where their prize stud stallion was killed by The Black hunting hounds. But luckily Merry finds an old book that could be worth a lot of money on their land…but then she's knocked unconscious in the snow and  it’s stolen! Drama

Merry finds a secret river cave, which she swims through and finds herself going back in time! She accidentally ends up getting her ancestor arrested and then needs to compete in an archery competition so that the Owens don't lose their farm…but back in time.
Can Merry save the day? And the farm? Will we find out who’s stolen the book? And will James’
parents ever accept his lifelong dream to be a professional footballer for Manchester United? You'll have to read to find out!

As I mentioned before, I really love the feel-good can do attitude of this book. It took me right back to my childhood when I would literally just devour hundreds of adventure books. It's very much in that sort of genre. I think it's something a little bit different, as there aren't too many books out there about female archers. (Are there? Correct me if I'm wrong).

 I loved the whole rural, farming horsey element of it too. It was totally up my street. I love that the girl heroine in this book is smart and prepared for all situations. She doesn't need rescuing. She doesn't come across a male hero that rescues her. She doesn't accidentally discover a way out of her situation. It's her brains, skill and wit that solve her problems. She's skilled with a bow, a knife and in horsemanship. She's my kind of girl.

I think possibly Davies could have found a better way for Merry to go back in time rather than just swimming through a magical river cave, and I found it a bit unbelievable that this magical river cave would take her back to this exact point in history..but maybe that's just me. I also think that James could have had a better lifelong dream than playing football for Manchester United. Being that the book is set in Wales, I feel his aspiration should have been to play rugby for Wales. Also, I hate football. Just putting that out there.

I also love that romance wasn't a huge factor in the book, I think there's a brief moment towards the end, but it's not a huge part of it. Too many authors think that every single adventure story needs some sort of a romantic relationship and you end up slapping your forehead at them. But it was very nice to see that a girl and a boy CAN just be friends.

Over all I really enjoyed this book and will probably read it a few more times. This is
also a classic example of when you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. By the cover, I thought it was some sort of an African theme, but it's really not.

Have you read Longbow Girl? Or do you have any book recommendations for me for 2017? Let me know in the comments!

This post contains affiliate links.
Longbow Girl

My Goals for 2017

January 18, 2017

Hello everybody!
I'm going to start off with a picture from last year when we actually had a winter. Remember that? Snow and stuff? So don't be fooled into thinking Northumberland looks like a winter wonderland right now, because it doesn't. It's basically a muddy mess...anyways...

Really I suppose this post is coming a bit late…I mean really everybody does these sorts of posts on 1st January right? Well I wanted to make sure that I got this absolutely perfect. I wanted to really think about what I want to achieve in 2017 and figure out how I was going to do that.

I'm not calling these resolutions, I don't really like the term New Years Resolution. It kind of infers to me that you have some sort of problem that needs resolving. Well, I don't think like that. I don't have problems, I have goals. I have dreams. I have things I want to achieve. One of the first things you learn about how to set goals is about setting small achievable steps yes? So that's what Im going to do.
Some great things happened in 2016 but I kinda felt like it was a bit…floaty? Is that a thing? I felt like we just floated along.
2017 is our year, and the year we are going to make things happen. Yeah.
I have some general areas that I want to improve, and a few specifics within those areas so I've broken them down into handy bullet points.

Improve Health and Fitness

Workout three times a week – And by ‘workout’ I mean activities that really get the heart racing, such as a video workout, jogging, swimming or whatever. Doing just 20 minutes of high intensity activity three times a week makes a huge difference.
Get my five a day EVERY DAY – Most days, I do manage this anyway but there it is known for me to go for a few days eating very few green things and this is really REALLY awful! The key to good health is about being consistent.
Drink 1 litre of water EVERY DAY –Again this is fairly self explanatory.I have got into a habit of drinking water when I wake up, before every meal, before a bath and a bit before bed. Now when I say ‘drinking water’ that it supposed to be a glass…but sometimes it's just a few gulps. I need to get into the habit of making sure it is a glass every time, and lots more in between.
Keep my weight under 10st- this isn't just necessarily about the weight but more…just how I feel. I feel at my best when I'm between 9st6-9st10. This is what I tend to weigh throughout the summer as my workload grows dramatically and I spend a lot more time on my feet. In the winter I spend a lot more of my work day sitting down…and eat a lot more stodgy food such as pies and stews (homemade of course, but stodgy none the less). So naturally I gain weight…and tend to end up over 10 st and I just don't feel confident any more. So my goal is to work just that extra bit harder in the winter to make sure I don't gain those comfort pounds. Fluctuating weight wise isn't good for you anyway. I've explained in past posts that I'm not really that fussed about weight and skinniness in general, but I do want to feel my best.

Improve Finances (yeah don't we all…)

Pay off wedding- from the moment we got engaged we set up a budget and a saving plan. And boy have we been saving! I think we've done pretty well. The wedding is in May and I've got a very organised spread sheet depicting who wants paying on what date. Everyone wants paying roughly 4-8 weeks before the wedding and I think we’ll have enough to cover them. We both have emergency credit cards in case we have to pay for something unexpected last minute. Or in case we need to spend some of our savings on an unexpected outgoing. This goal is definitely achieveable.
Fill in monthly spread sheets- depicting incoming and outgoing money's. Then use these to try and figure out where we can save, if possible.
Keep our household bills down- there are definitely things that I can do a little bit more of like turning off a light when I leave the room etc. We plan to invest in a tumble dryer this year (yaaaay!) which might sound counter-intuitive, but at the moment we have to run a dehumidifier in order to dry laundry on an airer in the spare room and that usually takes about 24 hours. It's incredibly juicy and uses a ridiculous amount of electricity. A tumble dryer that only takes half an hour will save us a huge amount of power.
Meal Prep!- I actually really enjoy doing this and do a little bit already, but I want to take this to the next level! Meal prepping will save us money. You plan out your meals by the week and then do a food shop according to those ingredients. I don't know about you, but my shopping tactics at the moment involve looking at something and thinking ‘yeah I can use that’, chucking it in the basket and then throwing it away a week later because I didn't use it. I exaggerate slightly, but that does happen to more items than I'd like. Bad Ellie.

Run the household more efficiently!

Create a cleaning schedule – my cleaning schedule at the moment is extremely haphazard. I do things when they look like they need doing…or when I remember. This is not an efficient way to run a household. I need to create a schedule of things that need doing daily, weekly and monthly.
Cupboard rotation- I am so terrible for this. I buy some new cans of soup, put them at the front of the cupboard, consume them and then put new ones at the front again. Then 2 years later I dig around at the back and find out of date soup! Not the way forward.

Be better at gardening

This year I plan to plant more vegetables (I'll blog about that at a later date). I found and bought this handy yearly vegetable planner by Charles Dowding that has loads of helpful information in it, and I feel that I can do better than the onions and parsnips that I nurtured last year.
Keep on top of weeding regularly – Little and often is the key. You achieve far more by doing just 5 minutes of weeding a day, than by spending half a day every 2 weeks. Every day I just need to suck it up and get on with it.
Do more preserving – if you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I already do quite a lot of preserving, but I know I can do more. I had to waste a lot of apples this year because I didn't preserve them fast enough. I felt awful. It won't happen again I can assure you.
Get chickens - I've wanted chickens ever since we moved to Northumberland but it's just never been the right time. So we decided that we were going to get them this year, hopefully in March…but we’ll see what the deal is with this DEFRA ban on allowing chickens outside because of avian flu. Hopefully it will have blown over by then. Fingers crossed.

Help Bosun to be a better dog

Basically there’s only one goal here, and that's training, training, training! A lot of Bosun’s flaws are purely because we haven't taught him correctly or haven't carried on with training in that particular area. This year, I want to make his recall perfect and I want him to stop chasing deer. Those are my goals for Bosun for this year. I don't think it's much to ask. But apparently he thinks it's a huge ask...

So these are the things that I really want to work on and achieve this year. I know I can do it, these things are all within my power to achieve. Have you guys ever read the poem Invictus? It is one of my favourites and I am going to leave you here with the last two lines

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.

Who else has set some goals for 2017? If you've written a blog post, leave me a link in the comments section and I'll go and check it out,

Welcome Back!

January 10, 2017

Hello and a happy good morning to you wherever in the world you may be today!
All's been quiet around here over the Christmas period, because quite simply, life got in the way.
Rick, Bosun and I took our annual holiday trip down to Dorset to spend with the family and blogging got put on the back burner somewhat.
Now we are back in Northumberland and blogging is back on the table! I have many posts planned on all different topics, so keep your eyes peeled and check back soon!
Much love!

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