How does crate training benefit me and my dog? Click here to find out.
Start crate training on a day when you know you are going to be home. It is best to do when you are going to be home for a few days at a time. This will give your dog plenty of time to adjust. Dogs learn and adapt at different speeds. Some may adjust to the crate within a couple of hours and some may take a couple of days. Most importantly, make the crate a positive safe place for the dog. When your dog is in the crate it should be left alone; it is a place where the dog should be allowed to enjoy some personal space and “self” time. When the dog learns that it is a safe, positive place to be, you may find that he/she chooses to go in for a snooze or just to relax.
- Choosing a crate to fit your dog. The crate should be just big enough for the dog to stand up and turn a FULL circle. Crates come in many different styles and made of different materials. The most common crates are plastic, metal wire, or fabric with metal frame. The plastic ones work wonderfully. They are sturdy and tend to be escape proof. They can be bulky and aesthetically invasive, when using them indoors. I prefer them for travel in the car. When put in the back of the pick up truck they aid in protection from the wind, rain, and cold. Also if you are in a car accident they roll, but the dog is generally safe inside. The wire crates are more aesthetically pleasing for use indoors and are less invasive. As far as travel is concerned they are not as safe as the plastic crates. In a car accident they may collapse. In the back of a pick-up truck there is no protection from the wind and rain but you can buy water resistant and waterproof covers for them. Rust can also be an issue. In my experience the wire crates do not last as long as the plastic crates. One advantage to them is that they fold up nicely and fit in the trunk of a car, or slide into flat crevices in the house easily. I would not recommend using wire crates for dogs that tend to be escape artists. You can make them more escape-proof by zip-tying the corners. Fabric crates are great for travelling because they fold up nicely, they are light weight, and they fit in the trunk of a car. I would not recommend them for keeping your dog safe in the car. They can be aesthetically pleasing in a house, but they are NOT recommended for escape artists or dogs that like to chew! Also they are NOT weather resistant.
- Teaching the “Crate” or “Kennel” Command. Choose a Command (“Crate” or “Kennel” are traditionally used) for sending your dog to the crate. Say the Dog’s name and then the command and toss some treats into the crate as you give your command. When the dog goes into the crate give lots of praise (verbal, tactile, and more treats). After a few seconds let the dog out of the crate. Repeat this exercise multiple times until the dog goes in without hesitation. Make it fun! Teach the dog that being in the crate is rewarding and safe. The next time you give the dog your “crate” or “kennel” command, shut the crate door, but do NOT latch it. Immediately open the door and praise the dog. Repeat this process over and over again until the dog appears to be comfortable with the door being shut. When it is clear the dog understands what “crate” or “kennel” means phase the treats out by only offering a treat after the dog goes in.
- Duration. Gradually increase the amount of time the dog remains in the crate with the door shut. As the time increases to several minutes you can latch the crate shut. Remain in the room with the dog at first. Be sure to praise the dog for being calm and quiet in the crate. As the dog grows more comfortable with being in the crate you can practice going in and out of the room while the dog is in the crate. At first you only want to leave the room for a few seconds at a time and then return. This is to teach the dog that when you leave it is ok, because you are coming back. Gradually increase the amount of time you are out of the room. Each time you leave the room and come back reward the dog with a treat and verbal praise. Remember, reward only comes when the dog has been calm and quiet.
- Adjustment. When the dog appears to be comfortable in the crate and you going in and out of a room for variable amounts of time, start introducing the crate in new evironments/scenarios. For example put the dog in the crate for travelling short distances in the car. Put the dog in the crate when you are home and cooking dinner and or busy with other tasks that are not dog oriented. Pretty soon the dog will learn that the crate is a positive safe place and being in the crate could resemble a variety of situations: its bed time, time to go for a ride, mom and dad are going out , but they will be back, etc.
- Additional tips for a well-adjusted, crate-trained dog.
- When you know your dog is going to be in the crate for an extended period of time give him a special toy or treat to work/chew on. I recommend a stuffed kong or an antler. Whatever it is save it, for crate time ONLY! NEVER use the toy or treat to bribe the dog into the crate. Talk to your veterinarian or dog trainer about appropriate amounts of time for leaving your dog in the crate. It will vary based on age.
- ONLY let the dog out when he/she is calm and quiet. If the dog whines or barks, calmly cover the crate with a sheet or blanket, do NOT acknowledge the dog. As soon as the dog is quiet you can let him/her out.
- Outside of crate training, teach your dog “sit” and “focus” or eye-contact. Once your dog knows these commands and behaviors you can ask the dog to sit and give you eye-contact before letting him/her out of the crate. Think of it as your dog asking you for permission to come out, just like a child would ask for permission to go outside and play.
Please share your success stories with crate training in the comments below. If you have any other tips and tricks to crate training please share! I want to hear from you!