Whether you’ve just welcomed a new puppy into your family, adopted an adult dog, or want to control a specific behavior, crate training is a great way to house train your dog and give them a safe space of their own. This type of training can prevent anxiety and help calm your dog in tense situations, like thunderstorms. When crate training is handled correctly, a crate becomes a protected space where your dog can relax, feel secure, and truly be safe.
Choosing a Crate
Your crate should be large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down with outstretched legs. Any smaller and the crate will feel too confined, and any larger, your dog may not feel as hesitant about going to the bathroom there. Plastic crates with a metal door (known as “airplane crates” or metal wire crates are typically the best types to start with because they’re sturdy and easier to clean. For quickly growing puppies, adjustable wire crates are a good choice. With removable and adjustable parts, your crate can grow with your puppy!
Prepare the Crate
Line the crate with a comfy blanket, towel, or mat. For puppies or dogs that aren’t used to holding it, opt for waterproof and washable materials. Tie back the door so it can’t scare your dog by swinging open or closed.
Introduce the Crate
Get your dog’s energy out by taking them on a walk. Then, bring your dog over to the crate. Drop some treats near the crate, then just inside, and finally, all the way in the back of the crate. Be patient, and don’t force them to enter! Some dogs may take up to a few days to feel comfortable going into the crate completely.
Feed your Dog Meals in the Crate
Begin feeding your dog meals near the crate. If your dog is comfortable, try moving their food dish into the crate and gradually moving it towards the back. Once they are standing completely in the crate eating their meal, try closing the door. The first time you try this, open the door immediately after they finish eating. Each successive time, keep the door closed a bit longer, until they work up to staying in the crate for 10 minutes after eating. If your pup starts to whine, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, leave them in the crate for a shorter period of time and see how they do. If they do whine and cry in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they’ll learn that whining is a good way to get out of their crate.
Practice being in the Crate
Once your dog is eating meals in their crate with no signs of anxiety, you can start to confine them there while you’re home. Give them a command to enter the crate, like “kennel up” and point to the crate with a treat. Once they enter the crate, praise them, give them a treat, and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for 5-10 minutes, and then go into another room for a few minutes. Come back and sit quietly next to the crate again for a few minutes, and then open the crate. Gradually work up to longer periods of time, until you reach 30 minutes. At this point, you’re ready to leave your dog in the crate when you leave the house!
Crating your Dog when you Leave
When preparing to leave, don’t make your departures emotional or prolonged. Give your dog a treat for entering the crate, praise them, and then leave quietly. Plan to be gone for about an hour the first time, and, just like you did in the beginning, work up to longer times. Take your time through this process and make sure your dog is comfortable at each step before moving on to the next. Soon enough, your dog will love his crate and you won’t have to worry about his safety while you’re gone!