As pet owners, we all want a well-behaved dog that doesn’t tear things up and goes to the bathroom outside. Dog crate training is an important part of that, as it creates a safe environment for your dog and a space that belongs to them. While many people view crates through the human lens of being “caged up,” dogs are naturally den animals and most enjoy being in small, enclosed places. A crate provides them with a feeling of security, and when trained to use them from an early age, crates can help calm anxiety. In this article, we’ll cover the steps to crate train your dog and make it an enjoyable experience for both you and your furry friend.
Before we dive into the “how to’s” lets breifly discuss the “not to’s”:
- Don’t use the crate for punishment: Crates should never be used as a punishment for misbehavior. Instead, use treats to encourage your dog to go in the crate until they love going in on their own.
- Don’t leave your dog in the crate for too long: A dog who’s crated all day and night can become depressed or anxious. If you have to leave your dog alone for long periods, consider hiring a pet sitter or taking your dog to a daycare facility.
- Time limits for puppies: Puppies under 6 months of age shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time, as they can’t control their bladders or bowels for that long.
Choose the Right Crate for Your Dog
Finding the best crate for your dog is key. You want to get one that’s durable, comfortable, and flexible with whatever training you’re doing. When selecting a crate for your puppy, it is important to choose a size that will work for them as both a puppy and an adult dog. The crate should be just large enough for the puppy to turn around comfortably, but also be suitable for them as an adult dog. To accommodate growth, look for a crate with a built-in divider that can be adjusted as the puppy grows.
We suggest looking for a crate with a built-in divider that can be moved further back in the crate as your puppy grows. Wire crates are most likely to have this type of divider, which makes them a good one-stop purchase for puppy owners.
- Ample air movement and ventilation
- Divider panels for adjusting size
- Collapsible for easy storage and transport
- Dogs can see their environment, reducing feelings of isolation
- Easy to clean with slide-out trays and allow odors to escape
- Potential for dogs to whine or cry due to feelings of separation or stress
- Crate cover may reduce air circulation
- Smaller dogs and puppies may need better insulation to retain body heat
Promote a comfortable state
Creating a positive association with the crate is crucial to successful crate training. It’s important to remember that the crate should be seen as a benign place, and not something to be feared or avoided. To establish this association, start by introducing your dog to the crate when they are calm and relaxed. Gradually increase the time they spend in it, starting with short periods of time and working up to longer periods. Be sure to reward your dog with treats or toys for entering the crate, creating a positive experience.
However, one common mistake that many people make when crate training is making a big deal out of the crate. This can actually create excitement or anxiety around the crate, rather than the calm and relaxed mindset you want to encourage. Avoid spending excessive time saying goodbye to your dog when you put them in the crate, as this can cause unnecessary stress. Similarly, when letting your dog out of the crate, simply open the door and walk away without making a big fuss. By treating the crate as a neutral part of daily life, your dog will be more likely to view it as a safe and comfortable place to rest.
Determine How Your Dog Will Be Most Comfortable
Some people use dog beds or towels to create a comfy environment, but that may not always be the best option. Depending on the dog you have, they may tear a dog bed apart or they may use it to pee on. It’s not a bad thing for them to just sleep on the crate mat itself. Dogs actually do prefer hard surfaces.
Treat The Puppy After They Go Into the Crate
Don’t stop the treat party! Once your dog is comfortable entering the crate, continue rewarding them with treats. Consistently giving them “crate cookies” when they go in can show your appreciation and reinforce positive behavior.
Try feeding your dog their meals in the crate to help them associate it with positive experiences. Start by placing the food bowl just inside the crate and gradually move it further in over a few days. Even if your dog only sticks their head in at first, it’s a step towards building a positive association with the crate.
It’s important not to immediately close the crate door once your dog enters it, even if they go in willingly. Using treats or meals to lure your dog into the crate and then shutting the door right away isn’t proper training – it’s trapping them. During the initial stages of training, your dog should have the choice to either enter or decline without feeling trapped. If they decline, it means that the behavior is too difficult for them, and you should make it easier. Also, your dog should be allowed to freely exit the crate during these early training sessions.
Watch The Crate Time
Your dog needs time outside the crate to play, eat, and use the bathroom. Dogs don’t want to soil where they sleep, but if there’s too long of a stretch without a walk, they might end up doing so. Make sure to take your dog out for regular potty breaks and playtime, and avoid leaving them in the crate for extended periods of time.
Creating a schedule for your dog can help them get used to the routine of going outside for potty breaks and playtime. Try to take them out at the same times every day, and establish a feeding schedule to help regulate their bathroom habits. You can also incorporate crate time into their schedule to help them get used to being inside.
Incorporating the Crate into Playtime
Incorporating the crate into playtime can help your dog associate it with positive experiences. You can play games like fetch or hide and seek, using the crate as a safe space for your dog to retreat to. You can also use the crate to teach your dog new tricks or commands.
This is all about safety! Your puppy should never have a collar or really anything on when they are in the crate.
Set Your Puppy Up To Be Successfull
Gradually increasing the amount of time your puppy spends in the crate is an essential part of the crate training process. It’s important to take small steps and not rush the process. Leaving your puppy in the crate for an extended period right away can cause anxiety and set back the training progress.
If you need to leave your puppy for a longer period, try practicing crate time during the day when you’re at home. Start by leaving your puppy in the crate for a few minutes while you’re in another room, then gradually increase the time as they become more comfortable.
It’s also a good idea to provide your puppy with things to keep them occupied while they’re in the crate. Interactive toys, chews, and treat-dispensing puzzles can keep your puppy entertained and help them associate the crate with positive experiences.
Using a camera to monitor your puppy while you’re away can also be helpful. This allows you to see how they’re doing and make adjustments if necessary. Playing soft music or leaving the television on can also provide some comfort and distraction for your puppy while they’re in the crate. With patience and consistency, your puppy will learn to associate the crate with a positive and safe space.
Be Patient Its a Long Ride
Crate training can be a challenging process, so it’s important to prepare yourself mentally for the journey ahead. Be patient and expect that it will take at least six months of consistent training to see results. Keep in mind that your dog may have setbacks and may not progress in a straight line, but with perseverance and a calm demeanor, you can help your dog succeed.
Remember that crate training is a gradual process, and you should take small steps towards success. Don’t rush the process by leaving your dog in the crate for long periods of time right away. Start with short absences and gradually increase the duration as your dog becomes more comfortable. Consider using a wireless camera to monitor your dog’s behavior while you’re away and leave some soothing background noise like soft music or a radio playing to help your dog feel calm and secure. By staying consistent and patient, you can help your dog develop a positive association with the crate and make crate training a success.