Crate training is a great tool to have in your tool belt for your dog. Crate training can be a great way to help with anxiety and deal with behavioral issues. Crate training isn’t for everyone. Not everyone like the idea of their dog being locked in a small contained space. But many dogs find comfort in their crates, and so do their human companions.
Crate training is the ideal for house training your puppy. Dogs do not like to use the bathroom where they sleep, so this can help train them to hold it until they can go outside.
Rules for Crate Training
- Do not use the crate for punishment. The crate is meant as a safe and private space for your dog.
- Do not use the crate all the time. Full grown dogs can stay the night, or the day, in a crate. But a dog left in a crate all the time will become depressed and can get anxiety. Your dog needs exercise and human interaction.
- Puppies under 6 months old should not be left in a crate for longer than 2-4 hours. They are not able to hold their bladder longer than that.
- Crate your dog only until you can trust them not to destroy your house. After that, it should be a place they go to voluntarily.
Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog’s age, temperament, and past experiences. It’s important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don’t go too fast.
How to Crate Train
1. Introduce the Crate
Put the crate somewhere where the family spends a lot of time, like in the TV room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate and take the door off. Give your dog time to explore the crate at their pace. Some dogs will be naturally curious and want to sleep in it right away. If your dog isn’t curious then try bringing them over to the crate and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. You don’t want them to be scared. Make sure the door is open all the way so it doesn’t hit them and accidentally startle them. Try putting some treats near the crate, then just inside, and then all the way in the crate. If they refuse to go in all the way, don’t force them. Keep putting the treats into the care until your dog will walk in on their own. If they do not want treats, try putting their favorite toy in the crate.
2. Meals in the Crate
Once your dog has gone in the crate on their own, start giving them their regular meals near the crate. If your dog is still reluctant to enter the crate, you can use their meals as a way to tempt them inside. After they start eating their meal near the crate, move their meal inside the crate so they are eating in the crate. You can close the door while they are eating but make sure to open it as soon as they are done. You don’t want your dog to feel like you lured them into a trap.
Each day leave the door closed a little bit longer after they finish eating until they are in the crate for 10 minutes after a meal. If your dog starts whining about the door being closed you may be extending their time in there too quickly. Next time try to leave them in for a shorter time and have them get used to that. Do not let them out of the crate when they whine, otherwise, you are teaching them that the way out of the crate is to whine. Even if they are whining, you must wait for them to stop before letting them out.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
Now that your dog is eating regular meals it is tie to put them in the crate for short periods of time when you are home and they are not eating.
Call them over and give them a treat. Start using a command like “kennel” or “crate” and point to the inside of the crate with the treat in your hand. After they go in, give them the treat and praise, then close the door. Sit near the crate for 5-10 minutes, then go into another room for a few minutes. After a few minutes in another room, return and sit near them for a few more minutes. Then let them out and give them a treat. Repeat this process several times a day, increasing the length each time. Once your dog will sit quietly in the crate for 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can start leaving them crated when you are gone for short periods or let them sleep there at night.
Every dog is different this may only take a few days, or it may take a few weeks.
4. Crating When You Leave
If your dog is able to spend 30 minutes in a crate without getting anxious then you can leave them crated by themselves for short periods.
Put them in the crate with your usual command. Since you will be gone, you may want to leave them with some toys or chews in the crate. Make sure to vary your “getting ready to leave” routine. So sometimes put them in right before you go out the door and other times do it 5 or 10 minutes before you leave. This will help reduce any anxiety surrounding your departure. You can crate them up to 20 minutes before you leave.
When you come home don’t be overly excited to see them. Keeping your arrival low key will decrease their anxiety about you being away. You should also leave them in the crate for a few minutes after your return. This way they do not associate the crate with being left alone. You want the crate to have a positive association.
4. Crating at Night
In the beginning, you may want to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby, especially if you have a puppy since they may need to go outside to go potty. If they are near you they will feel more comfortable sleeping in their crate. Put them in the crate as per usual, shut the door and then go to bed.
After you dog is sleeping through the night you can start moving the crate towards your preferred location. Do this slowly so the move doesn’t cause them any stress.
Once crate training is done, the crate will be a place of safety and security for your dog. After vet trips, he may retreat to his crate. If he is not feeling well, he may want to stay in his crate. His crate will likely be her preferred place if he is having anxiety. Because this is his space, keep kids out of it. When your dog is in there, that is his time and he should not be disturbed.