Crate training is the process of introducing your puppy to this special happy place where good things happen. This is a place puppies look forward to for sleep, relaxing and treats!
Dogs have a natural instinct to seek out and stay in a den. Therefore, a crate can be a safe haven for a dog. Pregnant dogs often hide in corners when labor is near to create a denning environment. As well, some of your puppy’s earliest memories go back to that same corner playing with littermates. Just as importantly, this den-like space is vital to dogs when they get sick or injured.
A crate-trained dog will stay calm inside the crate with no fuss or stress – even when you are not around. Therefore, it is important to introduce your dog to a crate in a positive manner to create a calm environment.
Benefits of Crate Training
- Provides comfort during anxiety-inducing situations such as thunderstorms, parties, fireworks and other stressful events
- Speeds up the house-training process
- Protects your puppy from getting into dangerous objects in the household
- Makes it easier for your dog to travel in the car
- Prepares your puppy for crate time at the vet, groomer or boarding kennel
- Helps with post-surgery recovery after critical procedures such as spaying or neutering
Few Reminders before You Start Crate Training
- Please understand that a crate is not a quick fix to change undesirable behavior. In fact, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated when crate training is not done properly.
- Never put your puppy in the crate as a form of punishment. This can make your dog feel afraid and anxious.
- Be conscious on how long that you should leave your puppy in the crate. On average, a puppy can hold his bladder for one hour for each month of age. Do not exceed the time for crating that your puppy can hold his bladder.
- Do not leave your dog in the crate for exceeded periods of times. Just like humans, your pup needs exercise and interaction to prevent anxiety. If you are going away, hire a pet sitter or take your dog to a daycare facility.
- The crate is not your dog’s permanent home. Crate your dog only until they are housebroken and not chewing on inappropriate items which could be harmful. After that, allow them to go in and out voluntarily.
- Crates are not meant for sharing. It belongs to a single pup and should be treated as his own special place.
- Choose a crate that’s big enough for your dog to comfortably stand up, turn around, and stretch out. Bigger is not always better! When a crate is too big, your dog might not hesitate to pee or pooh inside.
- If you are crate training a puppy, choose a crate that features adjustable partitions. That allows your crate to expand as your puppy grows. You can also look for crate rentals from animal shelters. When your puppy reaches adult size, then you can invest in a permanent crate.
- Line the bottom of the crate with a soft mat or bedding. You want to make your pet as comfortable as possible while they are inside. Just make sure that your pup is not eliminating on the bedding.
- Remove all accessories before allowing your puppy into the crate. Collars, leashes, and other trimmings can be choking hazards.
- Do not place the crate under direct sunlight, next to a radiator or on a cooling vent. Check to see if there are power cables, electric cords, or poisonous houseplants around your crate. A curious or bored puppy might be tempted to reach for these hazards from inside the crate.
The Step-by-Step Crate Training Process
Crate training can take days or weeks depending on your dog’s age, history, and personality.
Step 1: Introduce the crate to your puppy.
Place the crate in an area where you can spend time near your dog. Open the crate door and let your puppy explore freely. Do make sure that the door stays open so it won’t hit your dog.
Some dogs will voluntarily stay and sleep in the crate right away. If your puppy hesitates, here are a few steps to follow:
- Toss a few treats in so that your puppy goes into the crate. Once he is in, praise him and allow him to move in and out of the crate.
- If your puppy refuses to go all the way in, don’t force him. Make sure that the treats that you toss in are extra special treats that he does not get on a regular basis.
- Continue inviting your puppy with treats and durable toys until he walks calmly all the way inside. This process may take a few minutes or several days.
Step 2: Feed your dog inside the crate.
Now that your dog is familiar with the crate, you can start feeding him in the crate. Place the food bowl near the crate and go further inside as your pet gets comfortable.
Once your puppy is comfortably eating inside the crate, you can try closing the crate door. After each successful feeding, leave the door closed a few more minutes.
Step 3: Practice crating your dog on command.
By this time, your dog should be eating inside the crate with no signs of fear or anxiety. You can now try to put him in the crate on command.
- Call your puppy to the crate. Toss a treat into the crate.
- When your puppy enters into the crate, give him a command such as “crate” while he is in the crate. Practice this several times.
- Soon, your puppy will understand that the word “crate” means to enter the crate. So, when you say “crate” your puppy will happily enter his crate.
- Once he is willingly entering the crate, now you can briefly close the crate door after he enters.
- Once you close the door, allow your puppy to sit in the crate for a short period of time. It is important to vary the times. You can go into another room while your pup remains in the crate.
- Only let your dog out of his crate when he is quiet. If you let him out when he is fussing, he will learn to fuss or bark to get out of the crate.
- Repeat this process several times each day. You can put a Kong filled with goodies inside of his crate when he enters to make it an even more positive experience.
Once your dog can stay quietly for hours, you can try crating overnight.
Step 4: Crate your dog at night.
Put the crate in your bedroom or a nearby spacious area. You should be able to hear your puppy whine when he needs to eliminate during the night. Then, you can take him out when he needs to potty.
Once your pup is sleeping comfortably inside the crate, you can now move it to your preferred location.
Step 5: Crate your dog when you leave the house.
Now that your dog can spend time crated without feeling anxious, you can try leaving the house.
Put your puppy in the crate on command and with a treat. Since you may be gone longer than usual, leave a few secure toys and his Kong inside so he does not get bored.
Don’t make a fuss when you leave. Prolonged and emotional goodbyes can only increase separation anxiety in your pet.
Just like departures, arrivals should be low-key. Give your dog a warm welcome when you return home. Do not reward overly excited behavior.
Continue to crate your dog from time to time when you’re at home. It prevents your pet from associating the crate with being left alone.
If your puppy whines or cries in the crate, do not let him out until he stops. If he realizes that he can get out of the crate by whining, he will keep whining or crying.
When your puppy is whining at night because he needs to eliminate, take him to the designated place outside. After he eliminates, place him back in the crate so that he does not expect playtime in the middle of the night.
· Separation anxiety
Note that the crate is not a remedy for separation anxiety. It might even cause injuries if your dog tries to escape. Fortunately, you can get advice and training from a professional. Get in touch with an animal behavior specialist today at Positive Paws.