Training Tips: Crate Training
By Hannah Stein
Crate training is based on a dog's natural instinct to create a den. As a training tool, crates are a great way to potty train, set up house rules and manners, and give your dog a safe zone.
Before we begin, keep these thoughts in mind:
1. The crate is NOT a punishment, it is their safe space and home.
2. Dogs should not be crated for too long. Make sure your dog is getting proper exercise and social interaction on a daily basis. If you are keeping your dog in the crate all day while you're gone, they should not be crated again all night because this is too much time in this small space. Your dog may be happiest staying at doggy daycare instead of home alone in a crate.
3. Puppies cannot be crated for longer than the amount of months old they are (3 months = 3 hours) because they will need to go potty.
4. The best use of the crate is making it a place they want to go voluntarily, not on your command.
Choosing the Right the Crate
There are 3 main crate types: plastic, wire, and soft. Plastic crates are portable and sturdy, making them good for travel. They may be easily destroyed by escaper dogs who are persistent enough to chew the plastic off. Wire crates are easily folded and great for storage. If your dog gets distracted by being able to see you through the wires of the crate, then you can place a blanket over the create to make it a dark den. Wire crates are the most popular option, but also usually the more expensive choice. Soft crates are the most easily destroyed by desperate pups, so they work best with calm dogs or dogs who are used to being in crates. Soft crates are convenient and lightweight for travel.
How to Train Your Dog to Use the Crate
Step 1: Introduce the crate
Place the crate in a space where the households spends a lot of time (like the living room, dining room, or family room). Bring your dog over to the crate. To encourage your dog towards the crate, use treats (or a toy). Put a treat on the outside of the door. Next, place treats at the front of the inside of the crate. Once your dog is comfortable with the crate at that point, toss the treat further inside to the end of the crate. Encourage your dog to fully enter the crate to grab the treat.
Step 2: Feed meals in the crate
Position your dog's meal at the front the crate. If your dog is comfortable with that, place the bowl at the back of the crate. Feeding meals in the crate allows your dog to feel more accustomed to being inside the crate. Over time, begin to close the door behind your dog. The first time you close the door, only keep it closed until they are finished eating. As each feeding goes by, increase the amount of time you keep the door closed. If they are whining to get out of the crate, decrease the incremented time spent in the crate.
Step 3: Longer Crated Periods
Call your dog over to the crate and give a treat. Give a command like, "crate." Point to the inside of the crate and give a treat. Once the dog enters the crate, give another treat and close the door. Leave the room for a few minutes and then return, open the crate, give a treat, and let your dog out. Repeat this process gradually increasing the amount of time they are in their crate.
Step 4: Use the crate when you leave
Once your dog will stay inside the create for thirty minutes, start leaving the house with your dog in its crate. Don't make the departure emotional and long. Simply say goodbye and, if you would like, maybe give a little treat.
Step 5: Use the crate at night
Start by leaving the crate near where you sleep, like right outside of your bedroom. You'll want to be able to hear your puppy whine if they need to go potty. When your dog begins to sleep through the night, you can move the crate to where in the house you would like to permanently keep it.
Have any crate training questions? Leave a comment below!