Crate training a dog is s a great way of teaching boundaries of the house and for keeping them safe, if you have a new puppy or dog. It is also much easier and safer to confine your puppy or dog when you need to, if they are crate trained. Traveling in the car, visiting the vet or keeping your dog settled after injury or surgery, is so much easier when they are crate trained. Crate training a dog is also an effective way of toilet training them. Here are some tips to successfully crate train a dog or puppy.
Make The Crate Their Happy Place
Teach your dog that their crate is a happy, safe place. If they relate to their crate as their “security blanket” and they like spending time there, you won’t have problems. If the crate is uncomfortable and used as punishment, your dog will hate it. The crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down. Crates can be plastic, wire or collapsible fabric.
Dogs like small, enclosed spaces when they are feeling insecure. By their nature, mother dogs and their puppies, injured or sick dogs will seek out enclosed spaces to hide and feel safe. Your dog will appreciate an area where they can escape and know they won’t be bothered.
Using The Crate
The key is remembering that the crate should only be associated with positive experiences. And training should always move at your dog’s pace. Vary the length of time your dog spends in their crate, especially when initially crate training a dog. This will prevent your dog from learning to “expect” to be let out after a certain amount of time and reduce issues like whining or scratching.
Introducing The Crate
Put the crate in a central part of the house (living room, near the TV, etc). Make the crate inviting and comfortable. Leave the door open. Your dog will probably go over an investigate. When your dog goes near the crate, reward them by throwing a food treat into the crate or near the entrance. Do this every time they go near it. If your dog settles down inside the crate, reward this behaviour by praise or food rewards. This will teach your dog the crate is a wonderful place to be, full of goodies, praise and fun. Don’t shut the crate door just yet. Initially your dog should learn they can come and go as they like, reinforcing it’s a good place to be.
Feeding In The Crate
Start by giving your dog their regular meals in the crate or chews. Place their food bowl in the crate and encourage them to go in. If your dog voluntarily enters the crate at dinner time, start asking your dog to go into the crate and then put their food bowl down inside the crate. As your dog becomes more comfortable eating in the crate, start introducing closing the door. Start by closing the door while your dog is eating their meal, but make sure you open the door again before they are finished. Gradually leave the door closed for a few minutes at a time after they’ve finished eating. Soon your dog should happily stay in there after eating.
If your dog whines; ignore it. Only let your dog out, or reward them, when they are quiet. If you let them out when they are whining during crate training a dog, you will reinforce the whining behaviour.
Increasing The Length Of Time
Once your dog is happy in the crate for about 10-15 minutes after eating, you can start to confine them in the crate for longer periods. Start introducing commands, like “crate” or “bed”, to get your dog to go into their crate. As the dog enters the crate, give it a treat, praise them and then close the door. Quietly sit nearby for a few minutes and reward them for remaining calm, quiet and happy. You may even want to open the door and give them a treat-dispensing toy (like a Kong) for being so good. Then you can try continuing with your daily activities and returning regularly to reward your dog with praise or a food treat, for being calm and quiet inside their crate. Start with short sessions, gradually increasing the length of time that you leave your dog inside the crate. This may take several days or weeks.
Once your dog is happy spending time in its crate, you can introduce them to being in their crate at night. Make sure your dog has toys or treat-dispensing toys in the crate at night to settle them into a routine. Keep the crate in a central area so the dog feels comfortable and settled. With young puppies or senior dogs, you will need to take them out for toilet breaks during the night. Night time crating should be an easy transition if you’ve made your dog’s crate a fun and an enjoyable place to be during crate training a dog.
How Long Should A Dog Be Left In A Crate?
Adult dogs should never be left in a crate for more than 6-8 hours. Puppies 17 weeks and older can handle up to 4-5 hours in a crate at a time. Young puppies shouldn’t spend more than 2-3 hours in their crate without a toilet break or less depending on their age.
Leaving them home alone in a crate for long periods of time can be harmful to your dog’s mental and physical health. They should not spend all day in their crate while you’re at work and then again at night when you go to bed.
By following these hints to crate training a dog, you can teach your dog or puppy to love their crate. Your dog’s crate can be their place to escape for a rest or to take a break from kids or other dogs. It is also a portable home that will always be familiar to your dog, no matter where you are.
Fur Get Me Not offers private behavioural consultations and can help you with crate training a dog. Find out more about our services here.