Are you one of the 23 million American households to acquire a new pet during COVID-19?
If so, congratulations! Dogs are considered family members by many people. The first thing you’ll want to do is teach Fido how to sit, stay, and roll over, right?
But have you thought about crate training your dog?
Crate training 101 is the process of teaching your dog to accept a crate as a familiar and safe location. It provides your dog with a sanctuary to which they can retreat when tired, stressed, or not feeling well.
If crate training is new to you, don’t worry.
This guide will give you the best tips on how to crate train your dog.
What Is Crate Training?
Crate training takes advantage of your dog’s instincts to seek a safe place when the environment intimidates them. It teaches your dog to accept a crate as a familiar and secure location.
It is an effective tool for puppies, as well as adult dogs. However, it is not suitable for all dogs.
When done correctly, crate training comes with many benefits. Crate training may take some time and effort, but it can be helpful in a variety of situations.
When Should I Start Crate Training My Puppy?
You can begin crate training your puppy as early as eight weeks old. Getting your puppy used to the crate while they’re young helps settle them into their new home, especially those who are a little nervous.
There is no reason an older dog cannot be crate trained either. The key here is to move slowly, especially if they have had bad crating experiences in the past.
Why Are the Different Types of Crates?
As you start shopping for your dog’s new crate, you’ll notice there is more than just one type.
Unlike a kennel, crates tend to be lighter in weight. There are four types: wire, plastic, soft-sided, and wooden.
- Wire crates are collapsible for easy transport and storage
- Plastic crates are durable, ideal for families who travel via plane, often
- Soft-sided crates are better for smaller breeds, easy to set up, and teardown
- Wooden crates are “aesthetically pleasing,” fit perfectly within your home
How Do I Choose the Right Crate?
It’s time to figure how what type of crate is right for your dog. When choosing a crate for your dog, consider:
- Where you will use the crate
- How big your dog is
- How long you intend to keep your dog in the crate
As a rule of thumb, your dog should have enough room to stand, turn around, and stretch. If your dog is still growing, consider how big they will get, so they don’t outgrow the crate.
If you’re still unsure, it doesn’t hurt to get the next size up. However, if you don’t want your dog urinating inside the crate, don’t choose the crate designed for a Bernese Mountain Dog when you own a Chihuahua.
How to Crate Train a Dog: Step-by-Step
Are you ready for crate training 101? Here is a step-by-step guide to help you make the most out of crate training.
1. Introduce Your Dog to the Crate
Start by leaving the crate door open. Let your dog explore at its own pace. Toss a treat inside and reward them when they take a peek inside.
Try to keep as upbeat as possible and give lots of praise. At this stage, it’s up to your dog whether they go inside the crate or not. If they seem hesitant, give them more treats.
Take it slow. Don’t force your dog inside. Leave treats inside and play the waiting game.
2. Practice Closing the Door
Once they have had a positive experience going inside the crate, your dog may be ready to stay in there for a little longer. Place a soft toy and some treats inside the crate and experiment with closing the door while they’re inside. Once they have finished their treats, open the door again.
Keep at this step until your dog seems relaxed. If they show signs of stress, take a break and come back to it later. There’s no rush.
3. Step Away Briefly
Once your dog has conquered step two, it’s time to take things a little further. The next time you close the crate door, step out of the room. Listen for whines or barks that tell your dog is ready to come out.
They might even surprise you!
4. Work up to Longer Stays
If your dog seems okay with step three, try leaving for more extended amounts. Try one minute, then five minutes, and so on until they seem content inside.
Once you’re both feeling confident, try leaving the house for a short period, even if it’s just down the driveway.
Dos and Don’ts of Crate Training
For most families, crate training is a lifesaver. It doesn’t just benefit you; it’s also helpful for your dog. But it also comes with its challenges.
Here are some dos and don’ts to help you through the crate training process.
Do Have Enough Water
Make sure there is plenty of water inside your dog’s crate. This is especially important if they need to be in their crate for more than two hours.
Attach a no-drip water bottle to the side of the crate. You can use a bowl of water, but this can make quite the mess.
Don’t Use the Crate as Punishment
Putting your dog in the crate as punishment will lead them to associate crate time with negative experiences. You will find it hard to reverse this behavior. Your dog should enjoy crate time, not fear it.
Do Use Treats and Praise
Your dog should consider crate time as a positive experience. In the initial training stages, use treats to lead them into the crate. Once they’re inside, reward them with another.
Positive reinforcement is one of your most powerful tools for shaping your dog’s behavior.
Don’t Leave Your Dog in the Crate for Long periods
Dogs are not meant to be crated for an extended period. They need social interaction, exercise, and regular “bathroom” breaks. This is especially true for puppies who have smaller bladders.
Extended crate time can lead to behavioral problems. If you need to leave them alone for an extended period, consider hiring a pet sitter or using a doggie daycare.
Do Supervise Your Dog While Crate Training
When you first crate train your dog, always keep an eye on them. You need to look for signs of distress and ensure they aren’t misbehaving, i.e., chewing the crate. You also don’t want your dog to associate the crate with isolation.
Remember, crate time is supposed to be a fun, safe space.
The Benefits of Crate Training a Dog
Crate training 101 is an effective training tool for puppies and adult dogs. Here’s how crates can help you and your dog.
1. Makes Traveling With Your Dog Easier
When your dog is used to spending time in their crate, traveling by car is so much easier. It will reduce whining and reduce stress and discomfort. This will also help if your pet is traveling by plane.
2. Encourage Potty Training
Crate training helps streamline the housetraining process because it is easier to predict when your pup wants to go to the toilet: two birds, one stone. Am I right?
3. Keeping Your Puppy Safe
Leaving your puppy to its own devices is a horror movie waiting to happen. A crate helps to keep your curious pup out of harm’s way when you’re unable to keep an eye on them. Now you only have to worry about the cat scratching the furniture!
4. Providing a Recovery Zone
Dogs like small, enclosed spaces, especially when feeling anxious or stressed. Providing your dog with an area where it can ‘escape’ will allow them to decompress and relax.
Crate Training 101 For Dogs: Set Your Dog up for Success
Crate training a puppy takes a lot of time and patience. Whether it’s a German Shephard or a Yorkshire Terrier, it’s important not to get frustrated.
Proper crate training might take a few days or a few weeks, while some may struggle to settle into their crate at all. And that’s okay. However, if you think your pup may be suffering from separation anxiety, talk to your vet for advice and support.
As a new pet owner, it can sometimes feel too overwhelming, especially the first few weeks. Surviving the “puppy blues” will create a stronger bond between owner and dog. It’s worth it, trust us!
After you’ve mastered crate training, the world is your oyster. Read the rest of this blog for more doggy tricks and tips today.