Crate Training Your Puppy
Crate training has gained more attention in recent years and is an effective training tool for both puppies and adult dogs. The purpose behind this form of training is for your dog’s crate to be a safe haven, a place where they feel comfortable and secure. Below are some tips on how to crate train your dog and the benefits of crate training.
Why Crate Train?
Crate training has benefits for you and your dog. It creates a space that is theirs, where they can seek solitude and comfort. It becomes a valuable aid to you when housetraining your pet, travelling or needing to confine your dog – perhaps after veterinary procedures etc.
Selecting a Crate
Different types of crates exist. They range from plastic (used on airlines), to collapsible fabric and the more commonly collapsible metal crate. When choosing a crate consider the following factors, age and size of the dog, destructive behaviours, incontinence and toilet training. These factors will help decide what style and size crate you should get. For puppies that are chewing and toilet training, a fabric crate is a less desirable option. Perhaps for dogs that are toilet trained and won’t scratch or chew their way out, a fabric crate might be better suited. Just because a fabric crate looks ‘nicer’ to you does not mean it is suitable for the dog’s individual needs.
The size of the crate is an important element to consider. Rather than picking a size that suits your puppy now, consider what will suit them in their adulthood. Find a crate that is large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in. During their puppy phase, consider an insert where you can block off a section of their crate. This will create a more comfortable size for them in their puppy stage.
Once you have found a suitable type and size of crate you can then purchase some bedding to put inside. Consider purchasing something that is machine washable to clean up any accidents whilst toilet training or adding some puppy toilet training pads.
The length of time it takes to crate train a dog will vary from each dog, there is no normal time length. Your training process should be entirely catered to your dog’s pace, making the process enjoyable – full of fun and rewards. Alternating the length of time your dog spends in the crate can help reduce the ‘expected’ length of time to be in the crate for.
Phase 1: Introduce your dog to the crate
Place the crate in a central part of the house where you and your family socialise. Your dog wants to be around you, so putting them in a place where they can see and hear you will help transition them into the crate. Once you have found an area for the crate, your dog will likely come over and explore. Rewarding their curiosity will help create the idea that the crate is a ‘good’ space. If your dog goes inside the crate and settles down, continue to reward this behaviour with verbal encouragement and treats. Whilst you dog is familiarising themselves with the crate, hold off from closing the door. The open-door policy of ‘come as you please’ will strengthen the idea of the crate being their space.
*Choice not punishment! Make the crate a fun and attractive place for your dog to be in. You want them to learn to love it. Using their crate as a space when they have been told off will associate the wrong experience with their crate.
Phase 2: Feeding your dog in their crate
This step is an incredibly easy step to help the transition of your dog growing accustomed to their crate. Begin by feeding your dog their regular meals inside the crate. Place their bowl inside the crate and encourage them to go inside. As your dog becomes more settled being inside the crate, try closing the door behind them while they eat. Initially, open the door again before they finish their meal. Then gradually you can keep the door closed for a few minutes longer each time after its meal. If your dog starts to whine, simply ignore this behaviour and hold off letting them out until they are quiet again. Keep increasing the period of time you keep them in the crate for.
Phase 3: Increasing the length of time in the crate
When your dog is happy being in the crate for approximately 15 minutes after they have finished eating, you can increase their confinement to the crate for longer. Introduce commands, such as ‘bed’ or ‘crate’. Continue to reward them for these behaviours and provide them a toy or treat to keep their interest up. Try longer periods of time and include this as part of their daily activities.
*Remember, if your dog whines simply ignoring this behaviour is best. Wait until they are quiet again before letting them out. Otherwise this will encourage them to whine until they get what they want.
Phase 4: Crating at night
Once your dog is settled and happy to spend time in its crate, you can progress to crating them at night. Having some treats and toys in the crate will help curb the initial separation they may feel and help shift them into the new routine. Keep the crate in the same central area to help your dog’s comfortability. With young puppies or older incontinent dogs, you may need to take them out for a toilet break or two during the night.
*Be careful that your dog isn’t in the crate for too long. Just like us we wouldn’t want to spend all day in our room. Your dog should not be in their crate all day while you are at work and again all night when they go to bed. Young puppies shouldn’t spend more than a few hours at a time in the crate without a toilet break.