Tips for Crate Training a Dog
There are numerous reasons as to why it can be a good idea to crate train a dog, whether they’re a puppy or fully grown. And even though there are quite a few benefits that can come with cage training, for both the pet and owner, some individuals don’t realise just how much of a difference it can make.
Many individuals may think that it’s not easy to crate train a dog – and along with the fact that some people may not like the idea of putting their pet into a pen, it may not seem like the best thing to do. In general, these are the main things that put individuals off the idea of getting a cage and teaching them how to use it.
However, most find that there are a number of rewards that can come with having a crate-trained canine – and since almost any kind of dog can be taught to enjoy being inside their own den, most will find that, if they put in the effort, the owner and their four-legged friend can benefit.
What is crate training?
Some people may think that teaching an animal how to be comfortable in a cage is mean or that it’s too much hassle – but despite this, most individuals find that in reality it’s the complete opposite.
While kennel training a canine (young or old) will often require some time and effort, it’s not typically as difficult as some may imagine it to be. However, just like people, dogs are all unique – which is why it can be important to remember that some pets may take to dog crates better than others.
In addition, although some may think that it’s unfair to kennel train their dog, it can be better for both the puppy (or a dog of any age) and their owner – but in most cases, the canine will benefit more than the person. The pen can become a place to relax and rest and, for those with a family, is often somewhere where they won’t be disturbed by children and other puppies.
There are times when an individual may have no choice but to put their dog inside a cage (for example after going through surgery, when they have been injured, or when travelling) and if they haven’t been taught to use a cage, certain situations may end up being more traumatic – and they may feel trapped and start to think of the pen as a bad thing.
In this case they may make a fuss, try to escape, or even injure themselves whilst trying to get out – which is something that no good pet owner should want for their beloved animal. However, if they’re taught to enjoy being in the crate, then it’s likely that everything will be much safer, easier and more comfortable for everyone.
What kind of crate or kennel is best?
All dog-crates are different – and in most cases, the best type for a particular canine will depend on a variety of different factors.
For this reason, it can often be a wise idea to learn which kind of pen will be best for the dog in question before attempting to teach using it. Fortunately for those who are unsure about which type to get, there are a number of things that can help a person to decide which one will be perfect for their new puppy (or even an adult dog who has been in the family for a number of years).
There are a few different materials that are used for dog crates, with the most common ones being made of:
- Fabric (which are often more cozy and sometimes collapsible)
- Plastic (which are typically used on airlines)
- Wire (which are usually made of metal and can also be collapsible)
Picking the right type of pen (from the material to size) can be important for a number of reasons, as it can often determine how safe and happy the dog feels when around and inside it. For example, a specific puppy crate may be a better option for a younger pup.
In general, fabric cages aren’t the best option for those who intend to leave their canine for long periods of time, as they may try to escape if they feel trapped or unhappy – and depending on the type of cage and what type of fabric it’s made of, this can be as simple as scratching or chewing through the material.
However, they can sometimes be the best option for those who want the pen to be more of a safe haven than a place to contain the dog, as they can sometimes be more comfortable. In addition, it can be very important to ensure that the dog has enough room to lie down, stand up and turn around within the crate, too.
How to crate train a dog
The amount of time that training can take can rely on a number of factors (for example, their age, breed, temperament and more), but most find that it typically ranges from a few days to a few weeks.
However, there are two things that an individual should take care to remember if they decide to teach their pet that the cage is a safe place. Making sure that the dog doesn’t associate the pen with anything unpleasant or negative can help training to go more smoothly; as can the following steps:
Step 1 – Let them get used to the new crate
One of the first things that needs to be done when crate training dogs is to introduce them to their pen and make sure that they feel comfortable around it. This step can take as little as a minute to achieve, or even days – often depending on the animal and their general temperament.
Some may take better to being inside whilst others won’t want to be restricted – but for most canines, it is possible to teach them that the penis somewhere nice and safe where they can rest and relax (even if they do have a bit of anxiety around it at first).
There are a number of things that can be done to make this step as simple as possible, such as:
- Putting the cage in the living area, or somewhere where the dog feels happy and safe
- Making them feel safer near the pen (which can be done by stroking them or talking to them in a cheerful tone)
- Laying a soft blanket or towel in there
- Putting treats near and inside the pen (if this doesn’t work, then using their favourite toy may be a better idea instead)
Keeping the dog crate in a high traffic area of the home to begin with (i.e. in the corner of the main family room) can help pets to accept its general presence – and this can ensure that the dog is comfortable around the new cage as part of the home environment.
Step 2 – Feed them their meals in the pen
When the canine can go in and out of the crate with no stress, the next thing to do is make sure that they associate it with good things – and one of the best ways to do this is to feed them in the cage.
If they are happily going in and out by this stage, try putting their food right at the back to cement comfort. If they’re still a little unsure, it may be a better idea to put it in as far as they will go without feeling worried. It may be a good idea to put the food a little farther in each time they eat to help them move further into the pen.
Once the puppy is standing fully and comfortably inside the cage to eat meals, try closing the door whilst they’re eating. At first, open it as soon as their done (and give them praise for being a brave, good dog) but after each meal, leave it closed for a few minutes longer. It’s often a good idea to continue this until they calmly and happily stay inside the pen for around 10 minutes.
They may start to whine, which in most cases is because they feel like they’re being confined and trapped inside the pen, but this isn’t the desired effect of dog crate training a dog.
If this happens, it’s often a good idea to try leaving the crate door closed for a little less time. However, don’t let them out until they stop, otherwise they’ll learn that they’ll be let out if they start to whine (which is likely to cause issues whilst travelling or when visiting a vet).
Step 3 – Leaving them in the dog crate for longer periods of time
In general, when the pet’s able to eat their meals in the kennel with no issues, the next best thing to do is leave them in the pen for longer periods of time during the day. In most cases, this step can take days or weeks – but it’s one of the most vital parts of this kind of dog training process.
One of the best things to do when trying to get a canine comfortable with being inside their cage for longer periods of time without a meal is to call them over to the den, give them a treat and encourage them to go inside.
You could, for example, say a simple command (such as “in”) and point at the door whilst holding a treat. Once they enter, be sure to give them the treat and praise them before closing the door. If they don’t go in straight away, try putting some toys inside.
It’s often a good idea to quietly sit near the cage for about 5 to 10 minutes and then leave the room (but not the house) for a couple of minutes. Then, come back and sit quietly for a short period of time before letting them out.
Most find that doing this several times a day is one of the best ways to help them get used to being inside the kennel crate for longer periods of time by themselves. Each time, slowly increase the amount of time that you’re out of the dog’s sight and out of the room.
Step 4 – Putting them in the crate when left alone
If they can stay there without an issue for half an hour, then they may be able to calmly and happily stay in their pen for short periods of time without their owner in the house.
Before leaving, it’s often a good idea do the same as every other time – which should be more or less commanding them to go in the cage and rewarding them – although it can often be a wise idea to leave them with a few safe toys (for example, ones that they can’t choke on or cause any harm or damage with).
It can often be a good idea to vary when they are put into the pen during the average routine of getting ready to go, too. Generally, it’s okay to do this for 5 to 20 minutes before going out. Also, it’s typically a wise idea to praise them, give them a treat and leave the house as quietly as possible – but with most puppies, it’s better not to spend too long saying goodbye.
In addition, it’s also a good idea to not make too much of a fuss when returning, too. It’s often best to remain nice and calm. Although the canine can be left alone for short periods of time, they should still be put in the cage every now and then whilst the owner is there so that they don’t associate the pen with being alone and away from the family.
It’s important to note that the pet shouldn’t be left alone in the cage for more than 4 hours at a time.
Step 5 – Leaving them in the pen overnight
At this point, the canine should almost be perfectly trained and ready to be put in the crate at any time (but not too long or too often) – but one thing that they may not be used to yet is staying in the cage at night.
Although this isn’t necessary, it can be a good idea to train the dog to be okay in their pen when it’s time for bed. At first, it’s often a good idea to put the pen in the bedroom or in the hallway just outside (it can help to give them a toy or a treat).
It can be important to do this when trying to teach a puppy, as they tend to have smaller bladders and will need to be let out more often than fully grown dogs – so keeping them close by can often be important for those who don’t want any ‘accidents’. Most puppies can’t last more than 2 to 3 hours without needing to be let out.
Older pets may feel isolated in their crate if they feel like they’re confined far away from the rest of the family, which is why it’s also a good idea to keep them relatively close at night, too.
When the pet can sleep through the night comfortably, it’s possible to gradually move the cage to a more convenient area. In general, if they already associate their den with relaxation, comfort and treats, then there shouldn’t be too much difficulty when trying to get them to sleep in the pen overnight.
Are they whining because they don’t want to be in the cage?
There are times where a pet may be whining because they want to be let out of the den – but in some instances, this may not be the case.
Although they may cry because they’re unhappy sometimes, there are likely to be at least a few instances where they’re trying to tell you that they need a toilet break (keep in mind that this is more common with young pups than older dogs). One thing many people struggle with is trying to decide whether or not their canine is moaning or if they actually need something.
Most people find that, by using phrases that they’re likely to associate with going outside and potty breaks, they’ll be able to tell what they need (or want) by their reaction. If they’re especially excitable, they may need to be let out.
It may be worth it to bear in mind that admonishing a dog (especially shouting) can have negative effects – in general, any kind of anger won’t encourage them to sit happily in the confined space. In some cases, covering the cage with a sheet or even a towel can help to settle the pet, so it’s often worth a try if they continue to whine.