This has worked well for many dog owners because it takes advantage of your dog’s natural instincts as a den animal. The crate becomes your dog’s den, where they can find comfort and you know they’re safe and secure and not getting in trouble while you sleep or are gone.
The main use for a crate is to house train because dogs don’t like to soil their dens. The crate will limit access to the rest of the house while they learn the rules. Crates are also a safe way to transport your dog.
Things Not to Do
Puppies under six months of age shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than a few hours at a time. Never use the crate as a punishment. Your dog will come to fear it and will not want to enter. It should be a place they go voluntarily. Don’t leave your dog in the crate too long. A dog that’s crated all day and night doesn’t get enough exercise or interaction. Your dog should not spend most of their time in a crate.
Choosing a Crate
When selecting a crate, it should be just large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around. If your dog is still growing, choose a crate size that will fit its adult size. You can block off the excess crate space as they grow so you don’t need to buy multiple crates. There are two popular types of crates, plastic and collapsible metal. Below are a few examples and at the end of this article, you will find other recommended options. Crate training often takes days or weeks. 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.
Introduce Your Dog
Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the living room. Put a blanket or towel in the crate. Tie the door open and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If not bring them over to the crate and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. Entice your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats nearby and just inside the door then all the way inside. Take your time at this, they may refuse to go all the way in at first but over time they will. Do this until your dog will walk comfortably all the way in the crate to get the food. You can also try this by occasionally throwing in their favorite toy. This may take a few minutes or several days.
Meals in the Crate
After introducing your dog to the crate, you can start feeding near the crate. If your dog is easily entering the crate, place the food dish all the way in the back. If they are reluctant, put the dish only as far inside as they will go without becoming fearful. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back. Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat, you can close the door while they’re eating. Open the door as soon as they finish eating. With each feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer until they’re staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If they start to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too fast. Try going back to shorter time periods. If they whine or cry in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they will learn to whine to get out.
Longer Crating Times
Once your dog is eating their meals in the crate with no fear, you can crate them for short time periods when you are home. Call them over to the crate and give them a treat. Give them a command to enter, such as “bed.” Encourage them by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them the treat, and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for about five minutes, and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return and sit quietly again for a short time, and then let them out of the crate. Repeat this several times a day, but increase the length of time you leave them in the crate and the length of time you’re out of the room. Once your dog will happily spend time in the crate for about 30 minutes with you out of sight, you can begin leaving them crated when you’re gone for short time periods or letting them sleep there at night. This may take several days or weeks. You could also leave a few safe toys in the crate. Don’t make a big deal of your departure. Praise your dog briefly, give them a treat for entering the crate, and then leave quietly.
When you return home, don’t reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to them in an enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals mellow so you don’t get them excited. Make sure to crate your dog now and then for short times when you are home so they don’t associate crating with being left alone. You then can start to extend the time they spend in the crate when you are away.
Crating at Night
Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. It is a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies usually need to go outside during the night, and you’ll want to hear them when they whine to be let outside. Older dogs should also be kept nearby so they don’t associate the crate with isolation. After some time you can gradually move the crate to another area. If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to figure out if they’re whining to be let out, or if they need to go potty. If you’ve followed the training procedures, then your dog hasn’t been rewarded for whining so try to ignore it. Your dog might be testing you; they’ll probably stop soon. If it continues for several minutes, you might ask them if they need to go potty or whatever phrase they associate with that. If they respond and become excited, take them outside. This is not playtime. If you’re sure your dog doesn’t need to go potty, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don’t give in; if you do, you’ll teach your dog to whine so they get what they want. If the whining becomes a regular problem, you may need to start the training process over again.
If done properly this process usually goes smoothly and does not take very long. Most dogs take to it quickly and humans find it rewarding and easy.
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