Crate training is the practice of preparing a pet to accept a dog crate as a familiar and safe location. While some may view it as “caging” that is not its purpose and should not be used as such. It’s a quiet and safe place for them to go when the environment becomes overwhelming. Dogs are natural den animals and when crate training is done properly it will be a place your dog loves.
Crates Prevent Destructive Behaviors
While your dog is learning what’s a chew toy and what isn’t the crate can keep them away from your favorite shoes or couch cushion while you’re gone.
Crates Give Dogs a Place to Hide from Kids
Your dog won’t always be in the mood for playtime with kids, especially if you have an older dog. You can teach your kids that the dog is off limits when inside the crate. This gives them a place to escape to that they know they won’t be bothered in.
Crates Offer Security During Emergency Evacuation
If you have to evacuate, putting your dog in a crate would be helpful and is sometimes required. If your dog is trained to be comfortable in a crate, he/she will feel more secure in a chaotic situation if they are in their safe space. No matter what hotel or shelter you end up at they can feel comforted in their familiar den.
Crates Make Vet and Grooming Visits Less Stressful
Dogs can already become anxious at a vet or grooming salon. Dogs that are comfortable in crates have one less thing to stress about. If your dog needs to be monitored after a procedure the vet will have to crate them. The groomer will also crate your dog while they wait for pick up. If the crate is a safe memory for them, they will feel more at ease in these environments.
Step 1: Choosing the Crate
There are kennel crates which are more enclosed and therefore offer more privacy and security. Then there are wire crates which will still give the dog a feel of a defined enclosed area without feeling too isolated from the family. The type of crate preferred depends on your dog’s personality.
The crate shouldn’t be too big to avoid them going to the bathroom inside. They should however be able to stand up and turn around in the crate comfortably. You can place a crate mat inside or a plusher dog bed depending on your dog’s preference.
Step 2: Introducing the Crate
When you bring the crate home its important to let your dog inspect it on their own terms and for the door to remain open. Placing the dog inside before they’ve sniffed it out and shutting the door will cement that your dog will hate the crate. Crate training takes time and patience. If your dog seems unsure or disinterested, then throw some of their favorite treats inside to encourage them to check out the new space. Not only will this get them in the crate, but they will be rewarded for being inside. Positive experiences are the key to crate training.
Step 3: Crate Games
To ensure your dog sees this as a positive place you can play crate games. Use your dogs favorite toy and aim to throw it inside the crate. A game of fetch will instill a new positive experience with the crate and get your dog more comfortable going in and out on their own. This is especially helpful if you have a dog that is not food driven.
Step 4: Your Dogs First Crate Time
Ensure that your dog is free of leash, harness, collar, and tags. The last thing you want is for your dog to get snagged on the crate and become scared. The positive enforcement you’ve been trying to build up will be out the window. Even after your dog is crate trained it’s safest to keep your dog naked while in the crate, so they don’t get stuck and injured trying to free their hooked tags while unattended. Choose a time when your dog is calm. Then choose a command such as “Get in bed” to call your dog into the crate. Put a treat or a toy inside to make them feel more at ease. For the first time with the door closed it should only be for a couple minutes and you should stay in the room. You don’t want them to associate the crate with being alone every time. Just let them relax while you sit on the couch quietly. As long as they are not whining calmly open the door. You don’t want to excite them while they are in an enclosed space where they can’t be jumping around.
Step 5: Increasing Crate Time
Gradually increase the amount of time your dog is inside the crate over the next week. You can go from two minutes up to thirty minutes. If he/ she is doing well start to go into the other room so they can’t see you during their crate time. Something as simple as putting them in their crate while you prepare dinner should be fine. Then let them out as soon as you’re done. Make sure you don’t let them out if they’re whining. If the door is opened while they whine, they will start to do this regularly thinking its how they can get out every time. Over the following few weeks continue to increase the amount of time in the crate at your dog’s comfort. Remember that the crate must remain a positive space so never use it as a timeout area or punishment. If the dog sees it as a negative tool they won’t want to go in next time.
Step 6: Crating While You’re Out
Once your dog sees the crate as a positive safe space for them you can begin to put them inside the crate while you’re gone. Don’t prolong the goodbye. Place them in the crate before you retrieve your keys, so they know they are not going with you. Place water in the crate. You can also put in a stimulating toy to keep them busy, such as a Kong toy filled with treats that will take them time to get out. Make sure any treat or toy you put in the crate is one that doesn’t require supervision. To begin start with shorter outings and work your way up to longer amounts of time. Be sure to not leave your dog inside for too long. If you know you will be gone for more than four hours, then you should arrange for someone to come by to take them out for a walk and bathroom break. Dogs should not be left in crates too often. They require lots of exercise and social interaction. The use of a crate while you’re gone is best for puppies who are not trained yet. The rest of the time the crate should be used as a safe space for your dog.
Be sure to give your pet a well-balanced schedule of exercise and interaction when using the crate. Remember to be patient. Each dog is different. Yours may take to crate training quickly or may need more time to become accustomed to it. Follow these steps for help in housetraining as well as preparing your dog for a life free of crate fear.