Crate Training Your Dog 101

Owning a well-behaved dog that will not use the carpet for a bathroom or tear your home to pieces is the wish of every dog owner. There is one method you can use to accomplish both ideas according to Dave Miller from Cozy Crates – crate training.

Crate training your dog will teach them how to be responsible and independent while you are gone or otherwise occupied. And while a lot of naysayers believe that a dog crate equals being imprisoned, it is important to remember that dogs don’t think the same way humans do about this type of confinement. For a dog, a small, enclosed space provides them with a sense of calm and security. Many dogs, once crate trained, will head there on their own when they are feeling stressed out or anxious.

Crate training is a process that takes time-days, weeks, or even a couple of months. How long it takes in your situation will depend on your dog’s age, past experiences, and temperament. It’s important to take your time and be patient with your dog while they learn to enjoy time alone in their crate.

If you are planning to crate train your dog, read on for the best way to go about the process.

1. Finding the right crate

If you are buying a crate for a puppy that still has plenty of room to grow, consider what size they will need as an adult. That way, you won’t have to buy a new crate when they outgrow the first one. When the crate is too big for your puppy, use some type of divider to make it somewhat smaller until they can grow into it. While you may think bigger is better, dogs may use the corner of a crate for a bathroom spot if they are able to move away from the mess.

You’ll also want a quality dog crate that is comfortable and sturdy. Experts recommend airline or kennel crates for dogs that enjoy sleeping in the dark, as they are more enclosed than wire ones.

2. Make it a comfortable spot for them

Most dog owners add comfy dog beds and blankets in the crate to make a cozy environment for their pets. However, this may not be the best option for a young puppy who is being potty-trained. They may use the bed to urinate on, or they could think it is there for them to chew on. If you can’t keep a dog bed in the crate, don’t worry. It’s still okay for your dog to sleep directly on the crate mat. As they get older and better-behaved, feel free to re-introduce new bedding into the crate.

3. Make the crate calm and inviting

Your dog needs to associate their crate with relaxation and napping. They won’t want to immediately go into their crate when they are in the middle of playing or running around, so choose your times carefully when you start training them. When you are introducing a crate to your dog, only bring them into it when they are in a relaxed and calm state of mind. They will begin to look at the crate as a cozy place to take a break. Establishing the right mindset will make it easier in the long run.

4. Introduce him to the crate

The dog crate should be set up in an area of the house where your family spends a good bit of time, such as the living room. When you first introduce your dog to his new crate, be gentle and calm. As stated above, wait until he is relaxed and quiet. Then, lead him over to the crate using a gentle tone and touch. Before allowing him into the crate, make sure that the door is fastened open. You don’t want it to hit your dog, frightening him right off the bat! If he does not want to go all the way into the crate at first, it’s fine-you never want to force your dog to enter. Just try again later.

5. Use treats and toys as positive association

Make sure you have your dog’s favorite treats on hand or a toy they love to play with. Toss one or the other into the crate, and gently encourage your dog to go in after it. Experts recommend using a KONG toy once your dog begins to get used to being in his crate. These toys can be filled with treats that make your dog work to get at them. Having one of these in the crate will allow them to associate that particular time with something enjoyable.

6. Always keep track of the time

Every dog needs plenty of time outside of their crate to play and socialize. Also, your dog will need to be let out at various intervals to use the bathroom. Dogs generally will not go where they are sleeping, but they might if they are left in a crate for too long.

When your dog is first introduced to his crate, keep him in it for short periods at first. You may also wish to start crate training by placing their food bowl in the back of the crate at meal time. Once they are done eating, let them remain in the crate for at least ten minutes at a time. You will also want to designate a certain command to the act of going into the crate, such as “sleep” or “crate” or something similar.

7. Slow and steady wins the race

Once your dog is comfortable going into his crate for short periods while you are still in the house, it is time to increase the time frame. Just don’t make a huge jump all at once. Consider going out for a cup of coffee and come back in half an hour. Gradually increase the time he spends in the cage alone. It’s also a good idea to give your pup a small treat when you come back to let him out.

Remember, your dog may not take to crate training right off the bat. Always be calm and consistent in your methods. Your dog will eventually learn that it’s okay to go into his crate when you are gone if you take the time to teach him the right way.