Crate training your dog is an essential part of housetraining. Not only does it teach your dog how to behave in your home, but it also offers a comfortable, safe place for them if they feel overwhelmed. Both new puppies and older dogs can be crate trained, however, the earlier you do this the more effective it’s going to be.
There are many benefits to crate training for both you and your dog. For example, it will let them know where (and where not!) you expect them to go potty. It will also prevent them from chewing on your possessions and furniture when you’re not around, and finally, it will keep them safe when alone and when traveling.
Your dog’s crate is designed to be a safe place, and therefore, they have to feel secure and have some peace and quiet when in it. Therefore, for the wellbeing of both you and your dog we’ve put together this essential guide to crate training your dog, featuring some of our top tips.
Types Of Dog Crates
There are a few different types of dog crates, including fabric, plastic, and metal, each all comfortable and safe. Your dog’s crate should be large enough for them to stand up and turn around in, so if your pup is still growing, go with a crate size that will accommodate their adult size.
Step by step guide to crate training your dog
NB: It’s incredibly important to remember that you should never ever use your dog’s crate as punishment. Using the crate as a punishment will not only upset and confuse your dog, but it will also undo all of the hard work and training you’ve invested so far.
step one: introduce your dog to the crate
The first thing you’ll want to do when crate training your dog is the introduction. Start slow and let your dog get comfortable with it first. Your dog needs to think of the crate as a safe and happy place, so first impressions are crucial at this beginning stage.
We recommend placing your crate in a social part of your home as this is a great place to make your dog feel more at ease. Once you’ve done this, put a soft blanket inside and take the door off – the trick here is to make the crate look as enticing as possible! Furthermore, you’ll want your dog to understand that a crate is a safe place for them, as opposed to a frightening, enclosed cage.
Some dogs will understand this quite quickly, but others may need a bit of convincing. If this is the case, slowly call your dog over to the crate in a positive, happy voice. Once you’ve successfully done this you can place a trail of your dog’s favourite treats into the crate. This should make your dog feel more comfortable, and hopefully, they will follow the treats into the crate. Just remember that this process could take anywhere from a few minutes, to hours or even days, so try to be a patient as possible!
Step Two: Feed your dog in the crate
After introducing your dog to its crate, it’s a good idea to try to associate the experience with something positive – and what’s more positive for a dog than food! To successfully do this step, start by giving your dog its meal inside their crate. If your dog is still somewhat nervous, you can place its meal towards the entrance of the crate. This positive association will make your dog feel at ease and will create a positive linked emotion.
Once your dog has comfortably entered the crate and is eating, you can then close the door until they are finished. The first few times you do this, open the door as soon as they have finished and with each meal leave the crate door closed for a few minutes later. We recommend leaving your dog in its crate for about 10 minutes or so after eating.
You may find that your dog is beginning to whine to be let out. If this is the case, you may have increased the length of time too quickly, so next time, try leaving them in the crate for a shorter period. However, it’s essential that when they are used to this routine that you don’t let them out when they begin whining. If you do, they will learn that by whining they will get out of the crate and will therefore keep doing it.
Step Three: extend your dogs time in the crate
Once your dog is comfortable in its crate, and there is no sign of fear or anxiety, you can begin to slowly extend how long they stay in there. While you are at home to supervise, start by encouraging your dog to enter the crate, and once they have done this you can praise them, give them a treat and then close the door.
Next, you’ll want to stay by the crate silently for a few minutes before going into another room. When you return, sit quietly again for a few minutes before opening the crate and letting them out. Keep repeating this process a few times a day, slowly increasing the length of time you are away.
To ensure crate training success, always leave your dog with a chew toy or something to play with. Once your dog can remain calm and relaxed for 30 minutes or more, it will now be time to try keeping them in the crate overnight and when you leave your house. When training your dog to stay in the crate for longer periods, it is essential to make your departures and arrivals as reserved as possible. Too much emotion can lead to anxiety and stress, and you’ll want to avoid this at all costs.
Finally, if training your dog to stay in the crate at night, it is initially a good idea to keep the crate as close to you as possible, as you’ll be able to hear them whine if they need to be let outside to go potty.
step four: Responding to whining
Many people find that when they first leave their dog there will be a bit of winning, however, it may be difficult to establish if they are whining to be let out or whining to tell you that they need to be let out for a potty break. The easiest way to distinguish between the whining is to wait a little while and see if it continues. Then take your dog outside but be strict and make it a ‘business only’ trip. Once you’ll do this you will be able to see if your dog was testing you or not.
Safety Tips For Crate Training Your Dog
When leaving your dog in its crate, take off all chains and training collars. If left on, this could become very dangerous for your dog. However, if you must leave a collar on, choose a safer ‘break-away’ type collar.
Puppies that are six months or younger should not be left in a crate for more than three or four hours at any given time. When pups are this young, they cannot control their bladders and bowels for that period. The same also goes for more mature dogs that are being house trained.
Never tease your dog in its crate and never let children push their fingers through the panels.
Avoid leaving your dog in its crate for long periods. Every dog needs to get exercise and human interaction, so if they are not receiving this, they may become depressed or anxious.
Never ever leave your dog in its crate in a hot room, in direct sunlight both inside and outside, or in a car on a sunny day.