Crate training will take time, effort, and a lot of nerves, but it will be beneficial in the long run. Crate training can be used in a variety of situations, including limiting your dog’s access to the house while guests are around, or leaving him alone when you go to work. People often ask how to crate train a puppy.
Well, the reality is that it is not easy. But it will be useful. What crate training does is take advantage of your dog’s natural instinct as a den animal. Wild dogs consider the den their home, their safe place to sleep, hide from danger, and raise their family. For your domestic dog, the crate becomes their den.
What do you need to know before crate training?
Before we get to how to crate train a puppy part, let’s talk about some cautions and precautions regarding crate training. Or in other words, what not to do when crate training. Remember, crate training is not some kind of a magical solution to some canine behavior. If not used properly, your dog will feel trapped, frustrated, afraid, and far from happy.
Here are some cautions to remember:
- Never use the crate as a punishment, because your dog will fear it and refuse to enter the crate
- Do not leave your dog for too long in the crate. If your dog is in the crate for the whole day, he will not get enough exercise and human interaction. Lack of socialization leads to depression and anxiety
- If your puppy is younger than six months, do not leave him in the crate for more than four hours at a time. Young puppies have troubles controlling their bowel and bladder movement for long periods
- Do not use crates to try and solve the separation anxiety problem, it will only make matters worse
- Most importantly, do not lose your patience. Remember, learning takes time, and if you are consistent, your puppy will love his crate
- Last, but not least, crate your dog until you trust them. Once you trust your dog he will not destroy anything in the home, let the crate to be a place your dog goes voluntarily
Why is crate training important?
Let’s talk a bit about the benefits of crate training. We have to stress this: crate training is not a cruel technique. Breeders and veterinarians recommend it for dogs starting from a young age.
Dogs in the wild have sought out small dens for thousands of years. They feel safe and sheltered there while resting, recovering from an injury, sleeping, or caring for puppies.
Crate training is effective for house training. You cannot keep an eye on your dog at all times. Crate training will also help you leave your dog at home while you are at work.
But the biggest benefit of crate training is to prevent anxiety. Remember, dogs can feel anxious and afraid when they are left alone in a big house. Nobody is home, nothing to be heard, and it starts feeling dangerous. Being left home alone can lead to separation anxiety. But with proper crate training, your dog will feel he has a small and safe place to go where you are not home.
How to select the right crate?
Crate selection is an essential part of how to crate train a puppy process. You need to get the best possible crate. Nowadays, crates come in plastic or collapsible metal pens. They come in different sizes and sometimes shapes.
With that in mind, here are some rules to follow:
- Make sure the crate is large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around
- If your dog is growing up, get a crate that will be suitable for his adult size
- Get a well-ventilated crate that will provide enough fresh air
Step by step guide how to crate train a puppy
Before we get to the guide, we have to stress that the crate training process can take days or weeks. Success depends on your dog, and his age, temperament, as well as past experiences. Two things that are important to remember: crate training should be associated with something pleasant, and it should take place in several steps, not too fast.
Step 1 – Introduce the crate to your dog
Dogs are very territorial. They are also aware of all the objects and subjects in the home. The first thing you want to make sure is that your dog is aware of the crate. Put it in an area of your home where you spend a lot of time. For example, the family room is a nice option.
Next, put a towel or soft blanket in the crate. Bring him over to the crate, let him sniff it, and talk with a happy tone and happy voice about the crate. The door should be open but securely fastened, so that it doesn’t hit your dog.
Drop some small treats near the crate, and then just inside the crate. If your dog refuses to enter, do not force him. Drop some more treats, and wait for your dog to walk in. If treats do not work, try some toys. If you cannot succeed in this step on the first try, do not worry. You can try again, tomorrow, the day after that, and so on.
Step 2 – Feeding time in the crate
Once your dog is aware of the crate, it is your job to make sure he feels secure and safe inside. And you can do that by feeding him regular meals near the crate. Do not try to jump steps and give him food inside the crate.
Start with meals near the crate to give him a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is already entering the crate, you can put the food dish at the back of the crate. However, if he is reluctant to enter, put the dish inside, but just enough so that he can eat from the outside. Every time you feed your dog, put the dish further and further back in the crate.
While your dog is eating, do not close the door. You can do that only when your dog is comfortable standing in the crate while eating his meal. When he finishes his meal, open the door instantly. Then, gradually increase the time after feeding. Leave the door closed for 1 minute after he finishes his meal, then two minutes, then three minutes, and so on.
Step 3 – Leave your dog for a longer period in the crate
Now that your dog is eating his regular meals in the crate, and he doesn’t show signs of anxiety and fear, you can move further in the process. If there is whining while he is in the crate, do not move forward to this step.
When your dog is comfortable in the crate, give him a treat, then give him a command to enter the crate, and give him another treat. You can encourage your dog to enter by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. When he enters, praise him, give him a treat, and close the door. Sit near the crate so that your dog feels safe and secure. Then, gradually start leaving the room for a few minutes, then more, and more.
After you return to the room with the crate, immediately open the door and let your dog out of the crate. Give him a treat.
Step 4 – Crate your dog when you are not home
You can move to this step only when your dog sits comfortably in his crate for 30 minutes or more without whining. Do not force it. Let your dog be comfortable and feel secure. Only then you can start leaving him alone.
What are some potential problems?
As you can see, crate training can be beneficial and used in a variety of situations. However, there are always risks. We have to warn you about some potential risks:
- If not used correctly, your dog can feel trapped in the crate
- If he spends too much time in the crate, he will not be happy. If he is crated during the day while you are at work, do not crate him at night again