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Crate Training

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Yellow Lab in Dog Crate

What is Crate Training?

Crate training is a useful skill that can be taught to both puppies and dogs, which can help in many sorts of situations. 

Contrary to what some people believe, crate training is not the equivalent to locking up your pet. Pets should never be crated or “locked up” as a punishment, as this will lead them to associate the kennel with poor behavior and as a time out zone. They should instead learn to love the crate because it replicates that den-like space that canines need. Dogs have a natural instinct to use a den as their very own personal safe spot. A place where they can sleep, rest, or hide without worry or interruption, whether it’s from fireworks or people running around the house. This is exactly what crates provide for your furry friends. Crates in turn can be a place of comfort and stress relief. 

Plus, you can utilize it to teach your pup some housebreaking rules and positive behavior modifications. For example, if you’re looking to use a crate for housebreaking purposes, teach your dog to not only love its crate, but respect it. If they are trained to treat their crate as if it’s a sacred place or den, one that they would like to keep clean and fresh, they’ll quickly learn to hold in their waste and only eliminate once you let them outside or onto a pee pad. 

You can also teach them to use it strictly as a place of rest and sleep, which can simultaneously save your furniture from becoming their new favorite nap spot! The den atmosphere helps pups to feel extra cozy and comfortable for better sleep quality, and more importantly, stops them from any accidents overnight like soiling the floor, wandering around, etc.

Crates can also limit their access to certain parts of the house while you are still in the process of discouraging them from destructive behaviors, such as nibbling at furniture or excessive barking and whimpering when company is over. 

How to Crate Train Puppies

  • Choose the Right Crate.
  • The crate needs to be spacious enough so that they can still turn about in it and stretch out as they sleep. If you are training a puppy, purchase a crate that they can eventually grow into, but make sure that it has divider panels for while he or she is still smaller. There are plenty of crates out there that are not only roomy, but can help you to fulfill whatever your pup may need it for. However, there are some that function better than others depending on the purpose. 

    • Wired metal cages are better as an everyday crate, especially if you’re planning to use it solely in the house. They’re good for dogs that could use more ventilation and tend to get warm easily, as well as dogs that like to be able to keep an eye on their owners and vice versa.
    • Hard plastic covered crates have just a few openings in them. This allows for less ventilation for your pup, but instead offers them much more privacy. These types of crates can usually be used as a carrier, as well, depending on its size and your dog’s size.
  • Introduce Your Pup to the Crate.
  • This step is all about your puppy’s first impression of the kennel. Make it a good one by creating positive associations between your companion and the crate. This can be done in a number of ways. You can put your own clothes inside so they have a familiar scent that they trust, or you can place toys and blankets inside for an extra cozy feel. Try luring them in by giving them treats or kibble around the crate, and also as they begin to make their way into it. If they seem to be getting more familiar with the space, try giving them meals inside the crate, too. Open the door once they’ve finished eating, and as you feed them in the future, increase the time that you leave the door closed after they’ve eaten. 

    Most importantly, do not force your pet in. Allow them to gradually explore and enter at their own pace. Once they’ve made their way completely inside for the first few times, remember not to lock it or leave them alone because they can become traumatized. Be sure to praise them verbally and with pets for any efforts they make to get closer to the crate!

  • Crate Your Dog for Longer Periods of Time.
  • Begin to encourage your canine to enter the crate. Accompany the process with verbal or physical cues, such as “Crate,” “Kennel,” “Bedtime,” or pointing. Once your pooch goes into the kennel, give them a treat and shut the door behind them. Leave them in there until about five to ten minutes has passed, and then pet and praise them when they come out. Eventually, as they become accustomed to being inside the crate with the door closed, start to leave the area where the kennel is placed. Your companion needs to get used to you being out of sight when they are inside. Repeat the process back and forth of allowing your pup to see you and not see you. When you finally let them out, take them outside or to their designated area for elimination immediately. This is how you can enforce housebreaking.

  • Crate Your Dog When You Leave.
  • If they seem to be adjusted to you being out of sight (about 30 minutes of them being inside without whimpering or whining), try going on short errand runs or a bit longer of hiatuses outside of your dog’s view. Praise them for going inside the crate and for proper behavior. However, don’t let your pup stay alone in the crate for an excessive amount of time, especially during the day, as this is not what they’re meant for. This can traumatize them and deprive them of needed sunlight, movement, and interaction.

  • Crate Overnight.
  • Send your pup to the crate with the usual visual or verbal cue. Then allow them to sleep there for the night. This will most likely be the longest period of time that your dog remains in the crate. Take note of how they react, as they may whimper due to feeling trapped for too long or needing to use the bathroom. 

    How to Crate Train Dogs

    The process to crate training adult dogs is similar to crate training puppies. Even though it may seem surprising, some dogs may never have set paws in a crate before. But because crate training is beneficial for pets of all life stages, they should still be taught. 

    Train them by repeating the similar process of familiarizing them with the crate. Place familiar toys, blankets, or clothes that they already love inside. Try to incorporate treats or meals for extra motivation. Begin to close the door once you can see that they are becoming more comfortable being inside, and then increase the duration of time that you leave them inside with the door closed. 

    Though you should have ample patience with puppies since they are young and energetic, you should have even more patience for mature dogs during training. The idea of crates may be completely foreign to them and they may interpret it as losing social interaction or punishment, so be sure to make it a positive, welcoming experience and space for all dogs alike!

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