Crate training can be a polarising topic among dog owners. Some feel it is cruel while others see no problem with it. That said, let’s not forget that many dog breeds have the instinct to build a den to spend time in. Crate training itself can be a challenge though so we are going to take a look at how to get your dog used to a crate.
Almost all wild dogs actually prefer a safe, enclosed place to sleep and take their naps. Many domesticated dog breeds have shown signs similar to this so there is no need to feel like you are being cruel when crate training your dog. The initially anxiety of crate training is usually due to it being a new object rather than being scared of the crate. Once crate training, your dog has somewhere to go when it wants to take a nap or avoid interaction with any pesky children or other household pets.
How To Get Your Dog Used To A Crate
If your dog won’t go in its crate there are a number of steps you can take to train your dog. The first step is to make sure the crate is large enough for your dog. It should be tall enough for your dog to stand up in and wide enough for it to turn around in. If you are crate training a puppy then be sure to try and get a crate large enough for their adult size. There are three main types of crates on the market that have their own advantages and disadvantages. These are:-
You can click the links above to read more about products from these specific types to see what fits your needs best.
The Training Process
At first is it totally normal for your dog to be hesitant to go in its crate. Some more stubborn dog breeds may also even flat out refuses to go in its crate. You also have to understand that this is definitely a process and not a quick overnight fix. Depending on your dogs breed, age, past experiences and temperament this process could take around a month.
There are three main points to remember throughout the whole process.
- Crate training should be a positive thing for your dog. Use positive reinforcement to reward desired behavior and try to ignore negative behavior. Always try to keep your dog calm and relaxed and never force it.
- Never end on a negative. Throughout the training process, there will be negative events. It is important to do everything you can to add in a positive event to end on.
- The process is a number of small steps that can have a number of setbacks. Try to work at your dog’sogs pace to keep it happy and relaxed.
The introduction to the crate is the most important part of the process. It is best to try and place the crate in a heavily trafficked area of your home to make sure your dog feels included and part of the pack. All high-quality modern dog crates have an easy to remove door, for this initial stage, remove the door so your dog can come as it pleases.
If your dog has a favorite blanket or dog toy, place it in the crate so something familiar is already in there. You can also put some of your dog’s favorite treats in the crate if you like to increase the initial positive experience.
Make the initial introduction and leave your dog to investigate as it pleases. Most dogs will feed their natural curiosity and jump in the crate to get a feel for this new object. Some dogs will even lay down in it at the introduction stage and take to it like its nothing major. Most dogs require some additional encouragement before they will take to the crate.
If your dog requires additional encouragement then talk to it in a calm relaxing voice. Give your dog a treat near its crate and then throw the next one into the crate. If your dog fails to enter the crate to get the treat, move it closer to the crate entrance but don’t remove it. Try to encourage your dog to enter the crate by playing with its favorite toy and then throwing that into the crate.
Feeding In The Crate
Next up, try to increase your dog’s familiarity with the crate by leveraging its meal times. If your dog is still curious towards the crate, start by feeding it in the crates immediate vicinity. Your goal is to eventually feed your dog inside of its crate, at least for a few days to help get it settled.
As your dog gains more confidence with the crate start placing its meals near the crates entrance. This allows your dog to stay half in and half out of the crate while feeding. It also allows it a quick exit if it becomes startled for some reason. Over time place its meals deeper and deeper into the cage in an attempt to increase its confidence.
Once your dog is happily eating its meal in the crate, take advantage of the distraction to close the crate door. Leave your dog to finish eating, realize that the door has been closed and then instantly open it. With each consecutive meal in the crate, extend the amount of time that the door remains closed slightly. Work towards the initial goal of having the door closed for fifteen minutes to observe how your dog reacts.
Increase The Crating Periods
Once you see no signs of anxiety or fear in your dog when the crate door is closed work towards increase crated time. You can start removing meal times from the crate and introducing a verbal command to the process too. This verbal command can be something as simple as “crate” if you prefer. Its job is to act as a precursor to let your dog know that it is about to go in the crate.
When working with the “crate” command you can also feed your dog a treat to help with positive reinforcement. When you get your dog into the crate, initially sit near the crate to offer praise and help relax your dog. Once your dog is comfortable, start to leave the room while your dog is in the crate for a few minutes. Slowly work this time period up towards the fifteen-minute mark.
Repeat this process each day, multiple times, consistency is key! Each time gradually increase the length of time that your dog is in the crate. Keep leaving the room to get your dog used to being alone in the crate.
Leaving The House With Your Dog Crated
Once you have built up the creating timeframe while you are in the house to thirty minutes its time to step it up a notch. Now you have to start to crate your dog when you leave the house. Before you leave the house, use your command to get your dog into the crate and feed it a treat.
It is a good idea is to put an IQ treat ball in the crate with your dog to help keep it occupied while you are out. If needed you can just put some of your dogs existing toys in the crate instead.
Try not to crate your dog more than five minutes before leaving the house. There’s no need to give your dog an emotional farewell or do anything out of the ordinary. The point is to get your dog in the crate and then get out of the house as quickly and seamlessly as possible. The same goes for when you return, keep your arrival low key and only give your dog a treat when letting it out of the cage if you have done in the previous phases of training. Initially, keep your trips short, an initial duration of around fifteen minutes is perfect then work up towards an hour.
Crate Training Pros And Cons
Although the advantages and disadvantages of crate training will change depending on your own circumstances, here is a list of some from our own experiences:-
- It plays into your dog’s den instincts.
- A crate can help keep a dog contained and away from harmful substances when not supervised.
- A crate can help you when it comes to potty training a puppy.
- It gives your dog its own space free from other pets or your children.
- Some people feel it is cruel.
- It may cause some physical frustration to your dog.
- It may cause some emotional distress to your dog.
- Some of the higher-end crates can be expensive.
My Dog Hates Its Crate At Night
Crate training at night is an essential part of the process if you are wanting your dog to sleep in its crate. Simply get your dog in its crate using your crate command and give it a treat. Although not essential, some dog owners will move the crate into their bedroom for night time training. Although this can help, it can also cause problems when you remove the crate with your dog crying for you.
If you have followed our process above then you should be able to get your dog in its crate and then go to sleep. When your dog needs to be let out for the bathroom it will let you know. If you have not crate trained your dog as we advise above then we advise you to restart the process as we advise.
Most dog owners who follow our process report a positive and quick training experience. A small minority have had a few problems if they have rescue dogs or dogs that have been mistreated in the past. If this is similar to you then it is a good idea to hire a local dog trainer to assist you. There are a large number of different situations a rescue dog may have been through in the past making it extremely difficult to offer specific advise.
My Puppy Won’t Go In A Crate On Its Own
This can be an extremely common problem if you approach puppy crate training without a strategy. If you manage to get your puppy into the cage it is also common for your puppy to start crying in its crate at night.
We recommend that you use the strategy we laid out above for your puppy. It is a gradual process that should slowly move your puppy towards being in its crate alone without assistance.
The Below Video May Help You With Crate Training Your Puppy
Shared under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Mike McCune – Apathy – https://flic.kr/p/c1UcQ7
Natalie Maynor – Togetherness – https://flic.kr/p/e4yn4q
Anneheathen – while she has to remain calm and quiet, stuffed Kongs are providing in-crate entertainment for Coraline – https://flic.kr/p/a4D3AU
Craig Howell – Philo in his crate house, Winky on his box. – https://flic.kr/p/5fCTrW
Taro the Shiba Inu – Tired taro shiba about to take a mid-day nap – https://flic.kr/p/bBeU1P