Despite any horror stories you might have heard, crate training a dog can actually be fairly straightforward and rewarding process. Like all worthwhile things, it takes some work, consistency, and dedication. Understanding what crate will be best for your dog, how to begin training, and the problems to watch out for are all helpful in making crate training a dog successful.
The most important step in the training process will be making sure you choose the proper crate for your pet. You can often find them in two varieties: Collapsible metal pens, or plastic ‘kennels’ that are more commonly used for traveling.
When you choose the size of your crate, you are going to want to keep a couple of things in mind. The ideal size will be something your dog can stand up and turn around in, but not too much larger than that.
If your dog is very young or is a puppy, then you’ll have to make the decision of whether you want to buy something that will fit their needs now and upgrade later, or just buy the one you’ll need once the puppy reaches full size and let them grow into it.
If you let them grow into it, most metal, collapsible crates offer a divider that can be inserted to make the space smaller while crate training.
Now that you’ve got your crate picked out, it’s time to get your dog acclimated to it in order to begin training. They may be wary of it at first, which is fine. The key is not to rush, or they will end up associating the crate with bad things, and that can lead to destructive behaviors and issues.
Place in an area free of distraction
Ideally, you’ll want to start off by placing the crate in an area that can be designated as their space. It should be free of distractions and commotion.
Make the crate enticing
Place a favorite toy, piece of bedding, or small treats in the crate. Make it a positive experience by not forcing them into the crate before they are comfortable.
Feed them by their crate or in it
To help get your dog used to the crate would be to feed them near the crate, even going so far as to putting the food all the way inside and letting them eat IN the crate.
If they are comfortable, you can take it a step further and close the door while they eat, then let them out when they’ve finished. This can help them associate the crate with good things, instead of punishment and reprimands.
Leave for short bursts of time
Once your pet is more comfortable being in the crate with the door closed. You can now start leaving them in it for a short while without the food. Ten minutes is usually a good starting point.
Keep them busy in their crate
Once they have become fairly acclimated to the crate. Leave toys and mentally stimulating treats in their crate to help occupy their time.
Problems to watch out for
- Make sure you’re not leaving your dog in the crate for overly extended periods of time. If this is the case, look into alternate methods such as a dog walker or dog daycare.
- Keep in mind the amount of time your dog can go before needing to go to the bathroom. Small puppies shouldn’t be in a crate or kennel for more than 3-4 hours at a time max.
- There may be some whining, barking, yipping, or other form of vocalization from your dog while they’re in the crate. The key is to not reward the behavior — simply ignore it for a few or several minutes.
Ignoring the whining may seem cruel, but if you give in you will be teaching them their behavior is acceptable.
- Crates are NOT meant to help with separation anxiety — in fact, they can make it worse. If your animal has separation issues, it’s best to work with a behavioral specialist.
With these tips in mind, crate training a dog can be an enjoyable process for both you AND your pet!