You can feel good about crate training your dog! Dogs have a natural instinct to lay in their own den, a place where they can sleep, stay out of danger and keep their family close by. A crate will help your dog to feel safe and secure, and at the same time, you can feel good knowing that your house will still be in order when you return.
The main reason to crate train your dog is to help with housetraining. This is because dogs very rarely will soil their dens. Crate training is the perfect way to prevent your dog from bad habits, such as chewing on furniture. A crate gives your dog limited access to your home, while keeping them safe and comfortable. In addition, a crate is a safe way to transport your dog by car.
Before You Begin
Although crate training is worthwhile, there are a few things to remember before crate training your dog. Logically, the first rule of thumb is to not leave your dog in the crate for too long. You should never crate your dog all day and all night. Crate training a puppy should involve keeping them in the crate for no more than 3 or 4 hours at a time. This is because most dogs cannot control their need to relieve themselves for longer than this.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, you should never use the crate to punish your dog. If you do, the dog will see crate training as a negative, will become afraid of the crate and may refuse to enter it. Use the crate to limit access to your home, until you can trust them not to tear up the house. After that, entering their crate should be something they do by choice.
The size of your dog’s crate is very important. The crate should be big enough that your dog can stand up and turn around inside of it. If you use a crate that is too large for your dog, thinking this would be nicer for them, this may backfire on you. Your dog may choose to relieve themselves in one corner, and go lay in another corner, which defeats the purpose of crate training.
Step One: Getting Your Dog Acquainted to the Crate
- Begin by putting the crate in a familiar and comfortable area, NOT somewhere away from the family
- Make the crate more inviting by putting a soft blanket inside of it. Keep the door open to encourage your dog to explore it on his own.
What if your dog doesn’t go near the crate? Begin by talking to your dog in a pleasant tone of voice. Leave a trail of treats, a few in front of the opening of the crate, and then some inside of the crate. If they are apprehensive of going in, don’t force them to. Continue tossing treats into the crate, until your dog becomes comfortable with walking all the way in. If treats aren’t doing the trick, try his or her favorite toy. Be aware that it may take a few days for them to go in of their own accord.
Step Two: Put Your Dog’s Meals Inside Their Crate
The idea is to continue creating a positive association with the crate. If your dog will already go inside of the crate, place their food all the way at the back of the crate. If the dog doesn’t want to enter, put the food bowl far enough in that they have to come inside a little bit. Each time you try, you can put the bowl back further. Once you see your dog is comfortable eating in the crate, try closing the door. After they are finished eating open the door right away. Each time after this, you can try keeping the door closed a little bit longer after they have finished eating.
What if your doggie is whining about being inside the crate? Don’t let him or her out, until they have stopped the whining. Otherwise, they will learn that this is an easy ticket out of the crate when they want out.
Step Three: Try a Little More Time
After your dog is eating comfortably in their crate, it is time to keep them in their crate for short periods of time while you are at home. Here is what to do:
- Call your dog over to the crate, in a pleasant tone of voice. Give them a treat when they come.
- Speak a command, such as “kennel.” Point to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand.
- After your dog goes inside the crate, give them the treat and plenty of praise. Close the door.
- Stay near the crate for around 10 minutes, then go to another room for several minutes. Come back to your dog, sitting quietly near them for a few minutes.
- Let your dog out of the crate.
Repeat this process several times every day. With each time, leave them in the crate a little bit longer, and increase the amount of time that you stay out of the room. After your dog will stay in the crate for 30 minutes without you in their view, you can begin crating your dog for short periods of time, or letting your dog sleep in the crate at night.
- Don’t make a big deal when you leave the house. Departures should be short and sweet.
- When you come home, don’t approach your dog too enthusiastically. The idea is to keep everything low-key.
- It is a good idea to crate your dog for short time periods when you are at home, so they don’t associate being in the crate with them being left alone.