It may sound attractive to let dogs, and especially puppies, do what they want to do. After all, that gives them the ultimate freedom to act out their natural inclinations.
Needless to say that this is as unrealistic for dogs as it is for us. We teach our children good manners, socially acceptable behavior, hygiene habits and how to control their natural aggression.
We monitor their safety, channel their curiosity into constructive pursuits and educate them. It should be the same with our canine family members.
A happy, contented dog has learned how to act responsibly with its own kind, but also with other species, especially humans.
It has learned to inhibit its instincts to bite, to respond positively to people, to enjoy being handled, to accept restraint and to respond to our instructions. Simple obedience training is as important as any other factor in caring properly for our furry friends.
What It Means To Crate Train Your Dog
Crate training can be defined as the process of teaching your dog to accept his crate as a safe and familiar location.
If properly approached and handled, crate training can be relatively easy. However, puppies are easier to crate train than older dogs with already formed habits.
To Crate Train Your Dog Or Not
Crate training is an important part of the overall training process. Contrary to popular belief, crates are not confinement tools nor are they cruel.
As long as you teach your dog to love its crate, through positive reinforcement techniques, the crate can become your dog’s personal and safe place, just like a child feels about its bedroom.
The crate is the perfect escape destinations for dogs that are nervous, stressed and tired. Additionally, dogs have a natural inclination towards hiding and sleeping in dens. Since dogs are classified as den-dwelling animals, the crate represents the perfect den substitute.
The Benefits of Crate Training
The crate is beneficial for several reasons:
- It prevents destructive behavior – it is no secret that if left alone and unmonitored, puppies tend to get in troubles, from chewing your new pair of shows to soiling on the carpet. The best way to handle your dog without being over his head the entire time is to use a crate.
- It keeps the dog away from harmful substances – puppies and dogs love chewing and are well known for ingesting dangerous or poisonous substances (plants, tools, liquids). Using the crate is the perfect solution for preventing such hazards.
- It hones the dog’s den instincts – dogs love having a place to go after a busy day of playing, backyard digging and excessively barking. The crate nurtures the dog’s need to have a place for itself.
- It helps the potty training process – it is recommended to use a crate while potty training your puppy. Puppies are naturally clean animals that refuse to soil their homes. If in the crate the puppy will refuse to pee and poop in order to keep the hygiene on a satisfactory level. On the flip side, if the puppy is left t roam free around the house it will definitely find a remote spot suitable for relieving.
- It prevents anxiety – puppies want to feel protected. The crate’s small area is a perfect protection. If you face your small puppy with a big new house, chances are it will feel overwhelmed and anxious. Overwhelmed puppies are harder to manage.
Things To Consider When Crate Training
It should be well noted that the crate is not a magical solution for solving your dog’s common behavioral issues. The crate must be used properly and responsibly.
If the crate is misused, the dog may start to feel trapped and frustrated. To avoid such situations you need to realize that crate training comes with certain rules:
- Never use the crate time as a form of punishment as it can lead to fear and refusal to stay inside.
- Never leave your dog in the crate for too long. If the dog spends its entire day or night in the crate it will not be able to get enough exercise and human interaction. The lack of exercise and human interaction lead to depression. To reduce the amount of crate time you may need to consider changing your schedule, hiring a dog sitter or taking your dog to a daycare facility. Puppies younger than 6 months should not stay in the crate for more than three to four hours at a time.
- If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety it is not the right candidate for crate training.
- Remember that crating should be used only until you can trust your dog not to destroy the house and behave properly. After that point, the crate should be a place the dog goes into voluntarily.
Choosing The Right Crate
When it comes to choosing the right crate you need to consider two important factors – the type of carte and the crate’s size.
The main types of dog crates are:
- Wired dog crates – they are well-ventilated, easily portable, easy to clean and maintain. On the other side, they are not very attractive and not suited for dogs that can be excellent escape artists.
- Plastic dog crates – they offer higher levels of privacy and are practical for traveling. However, they are not very well-ventilated.
- Soft-sided dog crates – they are lightweight, easy to store and great for traveling. Unfortunately, they are hard to clean and easily destroyable. Additionally, soft-sided dog crates are only available for smaller dogs.
- Heavy-duty dog crates – are the perfect solution for the most clever and destructive dogs. On the flip side, they are quite expensive.
- Fashion dog crates – they are not just crates but furniture pieces that can be easily adapted to your home’s interior design. They are good looking and functional too. However, they tend to be expensive and easy to damage.
When selecting the crate’s size, keep in mind that the crate needs to be large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in.
If you have a puppy or a dog that is still growing, select the crate size that will accommodate its adult size. To make things simpler, crates usually come in sizes. For example:
- XS (extra small) crates – for dogs weighting 1-10Ibs
- S (small) crates – for dog weighing 11-25Ibs
- M (medium) crates – for dogs weighing 26-40Ibs
- L (large) crates – for dogs weighting 41-70Ibs
- XL (extra large) crates – for dogs weighing 71-90Ibs
- XXL (double extra large) crates – for dogs weighing above 90Ibs.
Crate Training Made Fun And Easy (For Both You And Your Dog)
Proper crate training starts with selecting the perfect location. It is recommended to choose a place that both you and your dog can access easily.
The crate should be close enough to be handy, but far enough not to be tripped over constantly. It would be ideal to have two crates – one in the living room, close to your sofa and one in the bedroom, right beside your bed.
Once prepared, the crate training can start. Keep in mind that depending on your dog’s age, temperament and past experiences the crate training process may last from several days to several weeks. During that time frame it is important to remember two things:
- The crate must always be associated with something positive, so the dog can perceive it as a bonus, not a penalty
- Do not go too fast – the training should take place in a series of small steps.
To make things easier, we divided the crate training process into several small and simple steps:
Casually introduce your dog to the crate
There is nothing worse than bringing your new dog home and putting it in the crate immediately.
Nobody likes being trapped, especially when the environment is new and uninvestigated. The introduction of the dog and its future crate needs to be done casually. At first, it is advised to treat the crate like it is just another piece of furniture.
Once the dog gets used to having the crate around, place some of your dog’s stuff (its blanket and a toy or two) inside the crate and leave the crate’s door open.
Then, take a step back and let your dog sniff around and explore. When the dog picks its scent it will enter the crate. Some dogs need encouragement to get inside the crate.
The best way to do that is by putting treats around and inside the crate. The goal of this phase is to get the dog comfortable with entering the grate. This step may require several days.
Use the crate for meal times
When the dog gets comfortable with entering and leaving the crate on its own will it is time to take the next step and make it comfortable enough to stay inside.
The best way of accomplishing this is by creating positive associations with the crate. Simply stated, you should start putting your dog’s food bowl in the crate.
It is recommended to place the bowl at the back of the crate so the dog will go all the way in. If your dog hesitates, start by putting the food just inside the crate and with successive meals, slowly move it back.
Another way of forming a positive association with the crate is playing. For example, you can throw your dog a small ball around the house and then start throwing it in the crate.
Start closing the crate
If your dog is eating its meals while standing entirely inside the crate, it is time to start closing the crate’s door. At first, it is advisable to open the door as soon as the dog finishes its meal.
Later on, you can prolong the inside time with each meal, by adding a few moments every time. If the dog starts whining, immediately open the door.
It is important not to teach your dog that whining equals open door. To avoid this, wait until the dog stops crying before opening the crate.
Practice longer crating periods
Once your dog stays inside the crate without showing any signs of stress, it is time to lengthen the crating period.
Encourage your dog to enter the crate by putting a treat inside and then close the door and leave the room for several minutes.
When you return, do not open the door immediately. Instead, stay in the same room for a couple of minutes and then let your dog out of the crate.
You need to keep increasing the crating time until the dog is capable of staying inside the closed crate for half an hour without your presence.
Leave the dog in the crate
When the dog is able to stay alone in the crate for longer than half an hour, it is ready to spend longer periods or even sleep in the closed crate overnight or stay in the closed crate while you are not at home.
Make crating normal
It is important, for both you and your dog, to accept crating as something completely normal and to avoid crate-related excitement.
For example, you should encourage your dog to enter the crate and praise it, but keep it brief. Additionally, when returning home, stay low-key for a while. Ignore your dog’s excited behavior at first and then open the crate’s door.
With everything being said, it can be concluded that if used properly, the crate can be an effective, short-term tool for managing and training dogs. Keep in mind that crates weighing as a permanent, lifetime housing pattern.