Crate Training: How and Why
Dog owners tend to either really like crate training or they think it is a very bad idea. The decision whether to crate train your dog or not is a personal one that your family will have to make. However, it is important to note that the earlier you start crate training, the more success you will have. More information about crate training and how to start the process in your home is listed below to help you make the right decision for you and your dog.
Why Crate Training
Since dogs are den animals by nature, many family use a crate to simulate a private “den” area for their dog. It can provide your dog with a place to go when he is tired or scared. It is used a lot like an indoor doghouse. The major difference is that the door of the crate can be closed at nighttime or for times when you will be away from home. This can help significantly with separation anxiety and prevent your dog from destroying your house while you are away.
Some people believe that confining a dog to his crate for any amount of time is cruel. However, many crate-trained dogs are just as happy, healthy, confident, and well developed as dogs that have not been crated. You do have to be very careful that you do not leave your dog in the crate for an overextended period of time.
A crate also offers a great way to transport your dog in your vehicle safely. Whether heading to the store, the dog groomers, or the vets, your dog will be safe inside the crate. Since your dog considers the crate his den, riding in it can help to alleviate any anxiety associated with traveling. Crate training is most commonly used when trying to housebreak a dog, but it can be used permanently throughout the lifetime of your dog.
Find the Right Size Crate
If you have made the decision to give crate training a try, the first thing you will need to do is to purchase a crate. Your crate must be large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and to lie down in, but no bigger. If you use a crate that is too small, it can have an adverse effect on the health and happiness of your dog. If you purchase a crate that is too large, your dog may use a certain portion of the crate to relieve himself, which will hinder your housebreaking training.
The best option is to purchase a crate the will be larger enough to accommodate your dog once he reaches an adult size. You will need to block off a portion of the crate while he is a puppy, and slowly increase the available space as your dog grows. You can also rent a crate until your dog reaches adult size. This way you can repeatedly trade your crate in for a larger one, as your dog grows.
Select a Location in Your Home
The next step is to find the right location in your home for the crate. You want to choose a place that is somewhat secluded, but still sees plenty of daily activity. For example, your home’s kitchen or family room may not be the best place for the crate because too much activity may hinder your dog’s ability to seek solace in his crate. On the other hand, placing the crate in the laundry room, basement, garage, or another spare room may isolate your dog too much and make him fearful of using the crate.
Remember that you want the crate to become your dog’s own personal home, so the ideal location will receive moderate traffic throughout the day. Your bedroom or any other room that is used only occasionally through the day is the perfect solution. Another benefit of placing the crate in the bedroom is that your dog will be close to you if he needs anything overnight.
Introduce the Crate
Start by only introducing the crate to your dog. Simply place the crate in its designated location, with the door open and let the dog explore the area on his own. If your dog totally ignores the crate, try placing a special toy or treats inside the crate. Do not force your dog to go into the crate. Remember that you are only trying to introduce him at this stage. It may take several days, but your dog will start to get comfortable going in and out of the crate on his own.
Slowly Enclose for Periods of Time
Once the dog has become comfortable going in and out of the crate on his own, you can start to close the door for short periods of time. A good idea is to feed your dog inside the crate and shut the door while he is eating. As soon as your dog is done eating, you can open the crate and let him out. You can also simply shut the door at other times when your dog has entered the crate on his own.
Start by leaving your dog in the crate for only a few minutes at time. If he starts to whine or becomes overly anxious, you can leave him out of the crate sooner, but you must wait for his negative behavior to stop. Wait for a short break in his whining to slowly open the door and let him out. If your dog believes that whining will get him out of the crate, he will start to use that negative behavior every time.
Over time, you should lengthen the amount of time you leave your dog locked inside the crate. Once your dog appears to be comfortable with the crate and is no longer whining or barking as you walk around the house, you can start to leave him in the crate when you leave. Start by making short trips of 30 minutes or less to see how your dog reacts to your absence.
Once ready, you can start leaving your dog in the crate for a few hours. No puppy should be left in the crate for more than three to four hours at one time. If your plan is to leave your dog in the crate while you are at work, you may need to make arrangements for someone else to come in and take your dog out for a walk during the day.
Once your dog is comfortable with his crate, you can begin to shut the door overnight. Make sure that you will be able to hear your dog from the bedroom when leaving him overnight. You can use a baby monitor if the crate is placed too far away from your bedroom door. This will alert you if your dog is having any type of anxiety or distress during these hours. Over time, your dog will learn to sleep in his crate every night and you will no longer need to shut the door.
Things to Avoid
The crate should never be used as a punishment. If this is done, your dog will associate the crate as something negative instead of as something that should be comforting to him. This will make the crate training process extremely difficult and if used repeatedly it can make using the crate nearly impossible.
The early you can start training your dog the easier it will be for him. If you are purchasing a puppy, you can start to introduce him to the crate as soon as you bring him home. However, you must limit the amount of time the puppy spends in the crate because he still needs time to socialize. In addition, your puppy will not be able to hold his bladder for more than a one or two hours at a time.
Need more info on Crate Training? Check out this article from Pet.WebMD