How to Crate Train Your Puppy or Dog

Crate training your dog is a great way to provide a safe, comfortable environment to keep him while you’re away or when you travel with him. And learning how to crate train a dog is a simple process if you take your time and allow your dog to get used to the idea at his own pace.

Some people consider crate training a dog to be mean or barbaric. However, if you take the time to see the crate from your dog’s perspective, you’ll find that crate training fulfills his innate desire for a safe place to call his own. Dogs are den animals. They want a secure, sheltered area to rest. If you’ve ever found your dog asleep in a closet or under the coffee table, this is his way of following that den instinct. Crate training can satisfy this natural urge and provide you with several benefits in the process.

Why is Crate Training So Important?

Advantages of crate training for your dog

  • Simplifies the house training process – Dogs instinctively know to keep their den clean. If you choose a crate that’s the proper fit for your dog, he’ll refrain from using the bathroom until you let him outside. Crate training becomes a simple way to schedule regular trips to his soiling area.
  • Provides a secure place to keep your dog – If you’re away from home or can’t supervise him, your dog’s crate is the perfect place to keep him safe. It can also be a comforting spot for him to rest if he’s injured or sick.
  • It’s the safest way for a dog to travel – The most secure and convenient way to transport your dog is in his crate. It keeps him protected while in the car and is a necessity for airline travel.

Disadvantages of crate training

While using a crate the right way can offer numerous benefits, using it incorrectly may actually harm your dog. The following are some dangers and disadvantages you should keep in mind when learning to crate train a dog:

  • Temptation to over-use or misuse the crate – Once your dog is comfortable with his crate, you may be tempted to keep him there throughout the day or use it as a way to punish him. Both of these can undermine the training process and keep your dog from appreciating his new den.
  • Can increase problems with separation anxiety – If your dog suffers from separation anxiety and you toss him in a crate to keep him quiet, you may make the situation worse. Crate training can play a role in rehabilitation, but without adequate exercise and conditioning, being shut in a crate will only increase your dog’s feelings of isolation.
  • Safety concerns about heat and choking hazards – Plastic or enclosed crates, if kept in a hot environment, can be extremely uncomfortable for your dog. The lack of air flow and high temperatures can lead to heat related illnesses. Also, your dog may be exposed to a choking hazard if you leave a slip collar on him while he’s in his crate or you use a crate with a door that doesn’t close tightly.

Despite these concerns, which can all be overcome with good judgment, you should crate train your dog. There’s no substitute for the satisfaction he’ll get from knowing he has a special place to call home.

How to Crate Train Your Puppy or Dog

Place the crate in a high traffic area

Your dog’s crate should be kept in an area with a lot of traffic like the living room or kitchen. Being able to see his environment while he’s in it will keep your dog from feeling isolated. Put an old blanket or sweatshirt, something with your scent, in the crate with him.

You should begin crate training puppy shortly after you bring him home. Introducing your puppy to a crate from the beginning makes house training easier, provides a safe place to keep him when he can’t be supervised, and serves as an ideal way to travel with him. The sooner the crate training process gets underway, the sooner your puppy will have a den to call his own.

If you have a wire-style crate, first cover it on three sides with a sheet or blanket to create a more den-like, protective atmosphere. Put your puppy’s crate in a room you’re often in such as the kitchen or family room. He should be able to see what’s going on around him while he’s crated so he feels like he’s part of the pack.

Making introductions

Once you’ve settled on a place for the crate, open the door and let your dog investigate. You can place a food-stuffed chew toy inside to lure him. When your dog goes inside give him plenty of praise. Keep your dog’s crate training experience positive and upbeat. You should repeat this process several times: use a treat to lure him and then give lots of praise as he enters the crate.

It can take a few hours, or even a day or two, for your dog to get used to his new den. Never force him into the crate; training should only progress when he’s comfortable. If you’re dog doesn’t respond well or you feel frustrated, take a break and come back when you’re both rested. You don’t want him to develop a negative association with being crated.

Let puppy investigate at his own pace

Put your puppy next to the crate with the door open. Set a treat or some kibble in the crate to encourage him to go inside and then praise him. Repeat this process of luring and praising for several minutes. Never force your puppy to go in the crate, which can be scary for him. The best results come by crate training puppy to enter the crate voluntarily.

Feed puppy in his crate

Once the initial phase of crate training your dog is over and he’s at ease with the new crate, you can feed him while he’s in it. Use the food bowl to lure him into the crate and then close the door while he eats. As he finishes eating, open the door again. Your dog might want out sooner at which point you can let him out but close the door behind him and keep his food bowl inside. If he paws at the crate door to be let back in, open it, let him in, and close the door again. You may need to repeat this several times during the meal.

To begin feeding your puppy inside the crate, draw him inside with his food bowl and gently close the door behind him. Open the crate door just before he finishes eating. If your puppy wants out shortly after you close the door, let him come out but keep his food bowl inside the crate and close the door. Wait for him to “ask” to be let in again. Repeat this until mealtime is over. Then take him outside to use the bathroom.

Close the door when he’s ready

Once your puppy seems comfortable going in and out of the crate, place a food-stuffed chew toy inside. If he goes into the crate to play with the toy, gently shut the door for a minute or so then open it and call your puppy. Give him lots of praise when he comes to you. Make sure the chew toy remains inside the crate when your puppy comes out. Repeat the process several times leaving the door shut for longer periods.

If your puppy whines or barks in his crate, do NOT open it right away! He’ll quickly learn that whining and barking opens the door, which can hamper the crate training process. Wait until puppy settles down and is quiet for 10 seconds, then open the door and let him out. Be sure the stuffed chew toy stays in the crate and close the door. Note how long your puppy was in the crate before he started to whine and next time keep the door closed for a shorter period.

If your dog barks or whines in his crate when the door is closed, do not open the crate! He’ll think that barking and whining is what gets him out rather than you calling him. Wait until he calms down for ten to fifteen seconds and then open the door. When you go to repeat the exercise, don’t keep the door closed as long.

Crate training tips

Keep experiences with the crate positive

Feed your puppy in his crate, gently place him inside when he falls
asleep elsewhere, and give him super-yummy, food-stuffed toys each time he’s in the crate. Also, keep comfortable bedding in the crate and make it the only soft surface in the room or playpen. All of these will encourage your pup to play,
eat, and sleep in the crate.

Only use a crate for time-outs when your puppy is comfortable in it

It is fine to use the crate as a time-out location when your puppy gets out of control as long as he’s trained to relax in the crate FIRST. Never crate-confine an untrained puppy as a punishment. When your puppy is misbehaving, first give him a warning like “uh oh”. Then if he persists in the naughty behavior, say “time out” to let him know he has made a mistake and crate him for twenty to thirty seconds, just long enough for him to calm down. Then let him out and try to interact with him. If he persists in the behavior, crate him again for twenty to thirty seconds. Repeat the process until your puppy stays calm when you let him out.

Use the crate both when you leave AND when you’re home

Your puppy will associate the crate with your absence if you put him in it only when you leave, which can cause problems. Be sure to crate your puppy for short periods while you’re home with him as well as when you’re away.

You can crate your pup in your bedroom overnight as long as you stay alert to any fussing. If it occurs, silently take your pup to his potty area. Remember, nighttime is not playtime so keep activity to a minimum.

Use the crate, but don’t abuse it

Only crate puppy for one hour during the day, and be sure to alternate crate time with playtime. If you need to leave your puppy alone for longer than one hour, use a long-term confinement area instead. Prepare a puppy-safe room or playpen that contains his crate along with bedding, chew toys, water, and a potty area. (Place wee-wee pads diagonally across the room from the crate.) Be sure your pup gets plenty of exercise before he goes in.

If you have to leave your puppy in long-term confinement for more than a few hours during the day, you should consider doggy day care or hire a pet sitter.

Learning how to crate train a puppy can be a simple process if you’re patient. And, in the end, your puppy will have a new den to call home.

Never crate your dog as punishment

Your dog’s experiences with his crate should be positive. If you use the crate to detain him as punishment, he eventually won’t want to go into it. You should use other training techniques to deter bad behavior, not crating.

Crate your dog when you’re at home, too

If you only put your dog in his crate when you leave the house, he’ll connect the crate with you leaving. Over time he can develop issues of separation anxiety or, at the least, he won’t want to be crated. You should randomly put your dog in his crate even if you don’t plan on leaving the house.

Your dog shouldn’t live in his crate

During the initial phases of crate training your dog, you should leave him alone for no more than 30 minutes. Over the course of several weeks you can increase the time, but never leave your dog in his crate for longer than 6 to 8 hours. Give him plenty of exercise before he goes in and provide several chew toys to keep him entertained.

If you find that you consistently have to leave your dog in his crate for more than 8 hours, you should consider hiring a pet sitter to care for him during part of the day.

Learning how to crate train a dog can be a rewarding experience for you and your pet and it’ll give him a comfortable place to call his own.

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