There are several reasons why crate training is beneficial for both you and your dog.
- When you get a new puppy it’s a great way to help with potty training.
- For an older dog, it provides a haven in potentially stressful situations.
- It makes travelling in a car safer and more secure for your dog
- Useful for keeping your dog confined when you are not able to supervise him.
- A crate provides a way of taking him places where he may not be welcome to run freely.
Types of Crates
There are several different crates to choose from, including a wire cage, a plastic pet carrier, and a soft-sided canvas or nylon crate. The wire crate is the most used. It allows your dog to see what is going on around him. This type of crate is collapsible and easy to transport. Whichever type of crate you choose to use, size is important. The crate should not be too large. Your dog should have enough room to lie down comfortably and turn around.
Step 1: Introducing Your Dog to the Crate:
Crate training should be kept very positive and upbeat. Take it in very small steps – it may take a few minutes or even several days, but don’t rush it. Put something soft in the bottom of the crate and place it where the family spends a lot of time. Make sure the crate door is securely fastened open, so it won’t hit against your dog and frighten him.
Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping small food treats near it, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. Do not force him to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If he isn’t interested in treats, try tossing a favourite toy in the crate. Until he seems comfortable with his crate, keep the door open and let your dog wander in and out as he wishes.
This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days.
Step 2: Feeding Your Dog His Meals in the Crate
After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding him his regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, put the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If your dog is still reluctant to enter the crate, put the dish only as far inside as he will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed him you can place the dish a little further back in the crate.
Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat his meal, you can close the door while he’s eating. At first, open the door as soon as he finishes his meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer until he’s staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If he begins to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time try leaving him in the crate for a shorter time.
Step 3: Crating Your Dog at Night
Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night, and you’ll want to be able to hear your puppy when he whines to be let out. Older dogs, too, should initially be kept nearby so that crating doesn’t become associated with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with his crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer. Healthy puppies can have their water taken from them a few hours before bedtime to help decrease the frequency of potty trips they need to make during the night.
The “Don’ts” of Crate Training
There are a few simple rules to keep in mind to make crate training successful. First, never use your dog’s crate to punish him. Your dog should consider his crate a happy, comfortable, and safe place. If you use his crate to punish your dog, chances are he will be fearful and anxious when left in it.
It is also important that you never let your dog out of the crate while he is whining or barking. He should be completely calm before you release him. Opening the crate while he is barking or whining simply teaches him that if he makes enough noise, he will be let out. Making this mistake can lead to many sleepless nights as you wait for your puppy to settle down.
Finally, never leave your dog crated for longer than he is physically able to hold his bladder or bowels. You cannot expect the impossible. Puppies can usually hold it for no more than 3-4 hours. An adult dog who has never been house trained should also not be left for longer than 3-4 hours. Older dogs may be able to hold it a little longer. Dogs should not be left crated for more than this length of time without being taken out for exercise, playtime, and time to cuddle with you.
Is Crate Training Cruel?
Many people are concerned about whether it’s cruel to leave their dog in a cage for any amount of time. Most dog trainers agree that it is no crueller to leave your dog in a crate than it is to leave a baby in a playpen or crib. Crates allow dog owners the peace of mind of knowing their dog is safe when they are not there to supervise.
Also, dogs are known to be den animals. They like having a safe and secure place to call their own. If crate training is done correctly, crates can provide this haven. Dog owners often report that their dogs continue to seek out their crates long after house training has been accomplished. For others, once the dog can be left alone for several hours without having an accident or becoming destructive, they stop using the crate and allow their dogs free run of their homes while they are out.
Crate training your dog may take some time and effort but can be useful in a variety of situations when needed. If your dog is to be in the crate for a limited period, it is not necessary to place food or water in the crate.