Crate training is based around the natural instincts of your dog. In particular, the major benefit for both dogs and their human counterparts is that they are much more unlikely to soil the area they recognize as their bed. This can lead to much happier discourse between you and your canine companion, as well as a much cleaner household and a happier dog, overall.
Taking the time to crate train your dog can lead to an improved life for both you and your pup. So why do so many people feel that they can’t crate train? For a lot of owners, they have mentioned that crate training feels mean or even “cruel”, but we can assure you that is not the case. Most dogs will feel a greater sense of security when using the best crate for their size and – with the right training- your pet will come to recognize their dog crate as just another part of their routine.
Why Choose Crate Training?
While we’ve already mentioned a few of the benefits of crate training, the actual results of training your dog to use their crate depends entirely on how you train and what you’re looking for the outcome to be. Some people keep their crate up purely for longer trips out, while others use the crate as a dog bed, too. No matter your preference, some of the advantages are as follows:
- Less separation anxiety– When trained correctly, your dog will come to know their crate as a safe space that allows them to be secure. This lessens the likelihood of anxious chewing, scratching, self-injury and howling, among other symptoms.
- Restricted access to other areas of the house– Just like kids, puppies can wreak all kinds of havoc when left unsupervised. Restricting their access when you’re not around means that you’re much less likely to return to absolute chaos!
- Travelling becomes easier– Using a crate while traveling means that your dog is much less likely to injure themselves through their excitement and in case of an accident. Once trained, they are also much less likely to be anxious about making journeys, allowing you to focus on driving.
- Housetrain your dog much quicker than without crate training – arguably one of the most difficult aspects of dog-ownership is the initial house-training! Since the use of the crate plays on their natural desire to sleep in a clean space, crate training uses your dog’s instinct to ensure that they are much less likely to urinate and/or defecate indoors.
- Spares the lectures– Scolding your dog isn’t a pleasant experience. Especially if you return to find a mess since this might have been caused in the morning when you left for work. So telling your dog off at the end of the day doesn’t seem exactly fair!
- Gives your dog space– having their own, dedicated personal space allows them to retreat when life gets a little too much for your four-legged friend.
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Select the Right Size Crate for Your Puppy
Your first step is to find the best size crate for your dog. To do this, you’ll need to consider several factors. First, it’s important that your dog has enough space to be comfortable in their crate- they will need to be able to sit, stand and turn around comfortably.
Likewise, you’ll also need to be sure that the crate isn’t too large, as your dog will likely treat his or her crate as just a small room and use one corner as a toilet while sleeping in the other. Dog.com recommend an added 2-4 inches to their length and 4 inches to the width of your pup to ensure a comfortable fit.
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Choosing the Right Location for Your Dog Crate
As with dog beds, the key to finding the right place for a training crate is somewhere that is neither too busy, not too quiet. Man’s best friend is a pack animal, so they always want to feel like part of the family (and most dog owners want their dog to feel like part of the family, too!). Keeping your dog crate in an area that avoids heavy footfall but is still within earshot of their loved ones is your best bet.
A quiet corner of the living room is always suitable, as your dog will sleep soundly, knowing nothing can creep up on him or her. Likewise, the calmer area of the kitchen is also a good idea, if your family spend a lot of time in there. Essentially, you’re looking to place your dog’s crate somewhere that they can easily look to you when they want but can avoid human contact when they’re feeling stressed or tired.
Preparing for the Crate Training Process
Like all good things, crate training takes a little time and a little effort. The results won’t happen overnight, especially with older dogs or over-excited pups, but they will be worth it. Be consistent, be authoritative and be calm- and both you and your dog will enjoy the benefits of crate training in the long-run!
Take your time to familiarise yourself with the training process and be ready to give your dog (and yourself!) lots of praise. Follow the steps in order and, if you find yourself struggling a little, don’t be afraid to take a short step back to readjust and come forward again when you and your dog are ready.
Common Crate Training Mistakes to Avoid
The most important part of the crate training process is that your dog feels comfortable with their new space. Remember, this is a place of respite that allows your pup to refuel, eat-up and feel safe. Three factors are the most important parts to remember, here:
- Don’t leave your dog in their crate for too long– As well as being suffocating for your dog, leaving your new pal along for too long in one space will only increase the likelihood of them getting comfortable with the idea of using their crate as a toilet, as well as a bed.
- Don’t use the crate as a method of punishment– Your dog should associate their crate with safety and security. Using your crate as a way of scolding your pet means that they will be unlikely to ever want to stay there, and leave your dog feeling unhappy and punished, even when they’re only in their crate for practical purposes.
- Do be consistent with your training- Like us, dogs are creatures of habit. By having set meal times, bedtimes and commands, your dog will be much more receptive and train much more quickly than with an inconsistent routine.
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Let Your Dog Get Comfortable With Their Crate
This step can take a little time, yet it allows for the rest of the training period to go much faster, so allow your dog to get themselves comfortable with their crate and reap the benefits later!
Start by keeping the crate in a comfortable spot for the whole family (as mentioned earlier, this is somewhere that is neither too busy, not too quiet) and let your dog have a sniff around, and generally associate themselves with this new piece of furniture. Adding your puppies favorite blanket- or better yet, something with their mum’s scent, if you have it- into your crate will make their new space all the more inviting.
Confident pups are likely to head straight in and have a rest, while some may take more time to become familiar with their crate. If it’s the latter, follow the next step and remember- they will eventually get there, so try not to worry too much about this phase!
Helping Your Dog to Get Comfortable With Their New Crate
Depending on your dog, you may find that treats can be a very convincing way of having your puppy enter their crate! Meanwhile, other puppies may be more inclined to have a wander if you “happen” to find yourself playing close to their crate area. The general idea is to keep letting your puppy become more familiar with their dog crate and to associate it with pleasant feelings.
Never force your puppy into the crate. This will have the exact opposite effect of what you want and eventually lead to your dog outright refusing to go near the one thing designed to make them feel secure.
Feed Meals to Your Puppy in Their Crate
The key here is to start with their food near the front of their crate- even just outside of the crate door, if your dog is particularly nervous about their new bed-space- and slowly have the bowl move into the crate. Eventually, the plan is to have your pup’s food at the back of the crate, meaning your dog will associate their crate with food- a huge selling point to any canine-companion.
Once your puppy is happy eating their food at the back of their crate, very calmly close the door while they’re eating. Once they have finished their food, open the door again and allow your furry friend to head back out. If your puppy whines, it’s OK to leave them for a minute or two as they may be acclimatizing themselves to the closed door. That said, if they continue to whimper or whine after this, then open the door and start again in a few days.
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Increase the Time Your Dog Spends in Their Crate
Once your dog is comfortable with eating with the door closed, it’s time to start crate training without treats to keep them occupied! Each time your dog finishes their meal, leave their crate closed for 2 minutes, gradually increasing this time each day. Eventually, 10-minute lock-ins will be absolutely no problem for your puppy. If your pup is showing any signs of anxiety during these 10 minutes, take a step back and allow this part to extend over a few more days.
This is the part where you start to develop commands that your pup can associate with entering their crate. Using a little treat or toy, decide on a word that your dog will connect with their crate. Examples of this include:
Once your dog has entered their crate, give them a treat and shut the door. Depending on your dog’s anxiety levels, you can sit by them, quietly, or leave the room for a few minutes. As previous, if your dog whines, let them have a grumble for a couple of minutes and – if it continues- go back and open their door. The goal here is to be able to leave your puppy for around 30 minutes without any anxiety (both yours and theirs).
Place Your Puppy in the Crate Before You Leave
Once you have hit the 30-minute goal, you should now be able to leave your dog in their crate while you leave the house. Ideally, this should be done several minutes before you leave the house. As an example, once you decide you’re leaving, use your command to have your puppy enter their crate, then grab all your bits and pieces and leave.
Try not to make a fuss about leaving your dog alone, as this can sometimes translate to more anxiety for your furry family member. Instead, you can remain silent or simply say “be good” or “bye” to let them know you’re exiting.
It is also a good idea, while they’re training, to pop your pup in their crate from time-to-time, even when you’re not leaving. This way, they don’t associate their crate with you being away from them.
Night-time Crate Training
Once all of the above has been completed without too much upset, the final step is to have your pup crate-trained for night-time. The easiest way to implement this is to follow a similar process to leaving the house. That is, using your command to have your dog enter their crate, then leaving them while you go to bed.
If they have a little moan, determine whether they need the toilet or are simply disgruntled. If it’s the latter, leave them to it, unless they become very anxious. At which point you should take them for a night-time wee and then pop them back in their crate.
Successful crate training can lead to a much happier bond between you and your pet since a lot of the stress can be negated through such a simple tool. Not only will you be happier once your puppy is fully crate-trained but your dog will be too! While the initial process can be stressful for you both, the benefits certainly outweigh the cons. Especially if you follow this guide since neither you nor your dog should become too anxious during the process.
Always remember not to use your crate as a punishment, or to lose your temper with your puppy pal. After all, you’re both trying your best! And keep in mind: be consistent, be authoritative and be calm.