Crate training your dog
Crate training t is a very effective training tool for both adult dogs and puppies. Here’s how to safely crate-train your dog.
Before we get started, please remember:
- You should only crate your dog for short periods of time to aid with training or to create a safe space.
- Your pup should not spend all day in a crate as this can affect their muscle development and condition.
- Young puppies shouldn’t spend more than two to three hours in the crate without a toilet break.
- Crate training should never take the place of appropriate exercise and enrichment.
- We strongly recommend working with a reward based trainer when crate training your dog.
- It will take time to train your dog to use a crate, but it can definitely be worth it.
The benefits of crate training your dog
Crate training a new dog or puppy teaches them boundaries and provides them with a safe space of their own. Dogs really grow to love their crate, because if trained properly they associate it with all positive things. Many dogs will seek out their crate when feeling uncertain or unsafe.
When you’re travelling in the car, visiting the vet or any other time you may need to confine your dog (eg. after surgery or if it has been injured), it’s much easier and safer if your dog has been trained to enjoy being in a crate.
How big should my crate be and what type should I get?
A crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down. Crates can be made from plastic (used on airlines), wire (collapsible, metal pens) or collapsible fabric. It is not recommended to leave your dog for long periods in a fabric crate unless you are certain that your dog will be happy and calm inside it.
I don’t like the look of a crate! What will my dog think?
A crate might not look very inviting, but dogs like small, enclosed spaces when they’re feeling a little unsure. Giving them an area where they can escape and feel safe will help soothe any anxiety, and ultimately make your dog happier.
Training your dog to use the crate
The duration of crate training varies. It will depend on the dog’s age, temperament, past experiences and your relationship with your dog. Here are some tips for successful crate training.
Introducing your dog to the crate
- Place the crate in a central part of your home.
- Make the crate inviting and comfortable with your dog’s favourite blankets.
- Let your pooch investigate on their own terms.
- Positively reinforce interaction with the crate with treats and encouragement.
- When your dog settles inside the crate, reward their behaviour.
- Don’t close the door in the first few interactions with the crate.
Feed your dog in the crate
- Place the bowl inside the crate and encourage your dog to enter with a command such as “crate” or ”bed”.
- When your dog readily enters the crate for meals, start asking it to go in and then place the food inside.
- Once they’re comfortable eating in the crate, try closing the door for short periods while they’re eating.
- As training progresses, start to leave the door closed for a few minutes after they have finished eating.
- If your dog whines; ignore the behaviour and only give a reward when they’re settled.
- Increase the time spent with the door closed after meal times.
Increase the length of time spent in the crate
- Once your dog is happy in the crate for about 10 –15 minutes after their meal, start leaving the door closed for longer periods.
- As the dog enters the crate, give it a treat, praise it and close the door.
- Quietly sit nearby for a few minutes and reward the dog for remaining calm and happy.
- Continue with your daily activities and return regularly to reward the dog for its calm behaviour.
- Keep increasing the length of time that you crate your dog.
- Be patient – it can take weeks until your dog is comfortable.
Crating your dog at night
- Once your dog is happy spending time in its crate with you around, you can introduce it to crating at night.
- If your dog begins whining in its crate, the best thing to do is ignore it.
- Give your dog toys to help them settle into the new routine.
- Keep the crate in a familiar area so the dog feels comfortable.
- Young puppies or senior dogs may need toilet breaks during the night – they may whine to let you know.
- If your dog is whining or seems distressed, you can try covering the crate with a blanket to help them settle.
A word of warning
Be careful that your dog doesn’t spend too much time in a crate. While it’s a good tool for toilet training puppies and preventing destruction, too much time in a crate can affect your young dog’s muscle development and condition.
By following these steps, your dog’s crate will become its safe space where they can take a break when they need to, knowing their sanctuary is there when they need it.