Have you ever wondered if you should train your dog to use a crate? Maybe you just purchased or adopted a new puppy or dog and you want them to have a secure place to rest. Or maybe you want to protect your house from your rambunctious or anxious pup when you’re gone.
Sometimes crating is portrayed as cruel since you’re confining your dog to a small space. The truth is, however, that crating can be a useful training tool as well as providing a safe environment for your dog.
No matter your reason for wanting to crate your dog, it does not need to be a painful process. In this article, we’ll explain how to effectively train your dog to crate and how to make it a positive process for everyone involved.
What are the Benefits of Crating?
Crating offers several benefits for dog owners.
- Easy transportation
Transporting a dog can be a nightmare. Often dogs will negatively associate transportation with experiences such as going to the vet, a boarding kennel, or somewhere else. Crating, however, can help your dog look forward to these trips instead of dreading them.
Crating makes it easy to transport your dogs wherever you need to go.
- Safe haven for your dog
Every dog gets anxious at some point. A crate often creates a safe haven that’s only for them. It becomes a place where they feel safe and protected from external stressors such as noise, children, holidays, weather, and other stimulants.
It’s as if your dog has their own bedroom, somewhere where they can retreat and relax with their toys and blankets. They can sleep without being troubled by the outside world.
Finally, if you can’t always keep an eye on your dog, it gives you the peace of mind that your dog won’t get into trouble if they’re high energy or prone to mischief.
- Protects your dog and your home while you’re gone
Dogs are active, energetic critters by nature. Many are easily bored and require stimulation otherwise they will create their own entertainment. Unfortunately, this can mean that, if left alone, they can destroy your house.
Additionally, crating your dog while you’re out of the house ensures that they don’t get into places where they could easily access toxins or poisons or where they could get injured.
Crates provide a great opportunity to train your new puppy. It helps to limit access to specific places in your house until your puppy is housetrained and knows what not to chew on, where not to mess, and where it’s okay to go.
A crate can also be a great place to help calm an excited or anxious dog. It positively conditions relaxed behavior and teaches them to expect some down time.
- Preparation for boarding
Boarding is stressful for any dog. They can become overwhelmed by new sights, new scents, and new sounds from a completely different environment than they’re familiar and comfortable with.
How to Choose the Right Crate
Choosing the right crate for your dog could be daunting if you haven’t shopped for one before. Most pet stores carry crates of differing sizes and materials.
A general rule of thumb is that you should purchase a crate that’s large enough so that your dog can comfortably turn around. I’d also add that your dog should be able to comfortably lay in it with a blanket or other soft material with some toys.
In terms of materials, you’ll find three types: fabric, wire, and plastic.
Fabric crates tend to work well with smaller dogs. They’re light, portable, and can go just about anywhere. They work best with well-trained dogs since sturdiness and security aren’t inherently built into their design. Rambunctious dogs will easily break loose if they’re unsupervised.
Wire crates are among the most popular on the market today. They’re sturdy, economical, and lay flat for easy storage, making them a great choice. They come in a large range of sizes, and the openness of the walls lends itself well to dogs who still like to see what’s going on around them.
Wire crates also sit well in corners or other compact spaces in your home. If your dog requires more privacy, simply place a blanket over the crate.
If you’re looking for something sturdy and secure, look no further than a plastic crate. Often comprised of at least two pieces, the walls usually connect together with clasps. Solid walls give shelter and privacy to your dog. Coupled with a blanket or pad, it forms a safe, comfortable environment for your pup.
Plastic crates, however, don’t always collapse easily into smaller pieces to store. You’re usually stuck sticking them in a closet or garage.
Where to Place Your Dog’s Crate
Where you place your dog’s crate is important. You want your dog to associate it with a safe, positive place. On the other hand, you do not want it so far out of the way where your dog fails to use it.
Choose a quiet spot away from high-traffic areas such as hallways, children’s play areas, and the kitchen. High-traffic areas might stress your dog out if they can’t get away from situations or encounters that scare or alert them. A quiet corner or somewhere in your living room might be a good place.
Place the crate in a location where a comfortable temperature is maintained. You wouldn’t want your dog too warm or cold, would you?
How to Crate Train Your Dog
Crate training your dog should be a positive, encouraging experience for both you and your pup. As with any training, it will take lots of love, treats, pets, encouraging words, and patience for crate training to be successful.
1. Introduce your dog to the crate
The first step is to introduce your dog to the crate. The goal of this step is to get your dog acclimated to the sight of a crate. Place the crate in an area that your family frequents such as a dining room or a living room.
Toss some of your dog’s favorite toys and treats along with a blanket in the crate. Gently lead your dog over to the crate and let them explore it. Some dogs might enter the crate to retrieve their toys and treats, some might simply smell it and go away. It’s important to speak to your dog in a happy, upbeat tone so they slowly learn to associate positive things with the crate.
If your dog refuses to go into the crate at first, that’s okay! It’s perfectly natural. Simply encourage your dog with treats, words, and toys until they enter it. Once they do, praise them with words and a treat.
Keep in mind that this process might take a few hours or a few days. The most important thing is to be patient.
2. Feed your dog meals near the crate
This next step is pretty simple. Move your dog’s food bowl near the crate. Keep their regular feeding schedule, and let them eat near the crate. They’ll learn to associate the crate with feeding, and this in turn means a more positive experience for them.
Once your dog is comfortable eating near the crate, try putting their food bowl in the crate. First place it at the back of the crate. If your dog is reluctant about entering, then put it closer to the opening. Praise your dog when they finally eat in the crate.
Over time, your dog should become comfortable standing and eating in the crate. When this happens, you can close the door to gauge their reaction. First, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. Try keeping it closed for longer with successive meals.
It’s possible your dog will start to whine when left in the crate. As heartbreaking as this might sound, don’t give in and let them out. Otherwise, your dog will learn to associate whining and whimpering with your giving in.
3. Condition your dog for a longer duration of time
Once your dog is okay with remaining in the crate during feedings, it’s time to leave them in for longer periods of time.
To do so, put your dog in the crate with a treat, and then sit near them for a few minutes. Then, get up and go do something else in your house. Again, if they start whining, do not return and let them out.
Once a few minutes pass, return to your dog and sit next to them again for a short time. Then let them out. Repeat this process several times a day, slowly and gradually increasing the duration of time your dog spends in the crate. Don’t forget to praise your pup and give them a reward!
Over time, you’ll be able to leave your dog for longer and longer spans of time.
4. Different situations
We highly recommend crating your dog for different situations once they’re fully acclimatized to their crate. This way, you’ll be able to discern which situations your dog might still need help with and expose them to different scenarios.
If you plan on crating your dog during the day, you’ll want to develop a process. Give your dog a pat and a treat when they enter the crate prior to your departure. Upon your return, let your dog out, but only when they’re calm. Don’t reward excited behavior by releasing them immediately upon your arrival.
However, you also do not want your dog to associate crating with loneliness. When you’re home, continue to crate from time to time for short durations.
You’ll also want to try to crate your dog at night, especially if you don’t want them hogging your bed. Start by placing the crate near your bedroom so you can easily get to your dog. If you own a puppy, your puppy probably will need to go outside at night. If they whine, then certainly let them out to avoid an accident!
Once they’re sleeping through the night, you can move the crate to your preferred location.
Dos and Don’ts of Crate Training
- Do be patient with your dog.
Each dog takes to crate training differently. If you’ve crate-trained dogs before, don’t expect the experience to be the exact same with each dog. Make sure to give your dog plenty of love and praise for everything they do right.
- Do use as a form of humane punishment.
Some perceive crating as a horrible, confining experience for dogs. It doesn’t have to be. You can treat it as a humane form of punishment insofar as using it to calm down an excited dog.
- Do purchase a crate that’s large enough for your dog. They should have room to move around and lay down.
- Do use a mat or a blanket on the floor. Don’t make your dog sleep on a metal or plastic floor! That’s not good for them.
- Don’t keep your dog locked up for more than eight hours.
And even then, we recommend having someone to check on your dog and let them out if you need to. If you have a puppy, they should spend no more than 5-6 hours in a crate.
- Don’t expect immediate results. Crate training takes time, patience, and dedication.
- Don’t let your dog out if they whine or cry when training. If you do, they’ll learn to associate noise-making with them getting their way. That’s the opposite of what you want!
Crate training your dog doesn’t need to be a negative experience. Crating your dog offers many benefits including training puppies until they’re housebroken, calming excited dogs, keeping your dog out of mischief, and many more.
Crate training should be a rewarding experience for pup and owner. If you invest the time in properly training your dog, you can take them different places with ease, leave them alone during the day, give them a place to relax and rest, and keep them out of harm’s way.
In this article, we showed you how you can effectively and safely crate train your dog. Good luck!