Crate Training your Dog

Crate Training your Dog

Crate train at an early age

Crate Training Your Dog

With proper introductions and training your dog can learn to accept the crate as a safe place

Why Should You Crate Train?

Crate training is necessary for many reasons. It limits the dog’s access to areas of the home until she learns the rules. It prevents her from chewing up your furniture or eliminating inside the home. It keeps her safe while you are absent. With the proper introduction and training your dog will accept the crate as a safe place. Please keep in mind that the crate is not a place of punishment or extended confinement. Crate training is an intermediate phase for a dog. In other words, once the dog has reached maturity and is completely house trained, past the puppy chewing phase and fully trust worthy in the home the crate will be phased out completely.

What Type of Crate Should You Use?

By far the best type of crate is the wire type. Plastic and fabric crates can be chewed through. Choose a crate large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in. In addition to the crate, purchase spill proof bowls that can attach to the crate (for later). Once your dog is acclimated to the crate these bowls will provide fresh water or food during your absence.


The Crate Training Process

The length of time to acclimate your dog to the crate can be as short as a few days or as long as a few months. A lot depends on your dog’s previous experiences with being confined in a small space. Puppies are generally easy to crate train, mainly because they haven’t developed issues with small spaces. This is why it’s advisable to crate a puppy from an early age to acclimate them to the crate. Adult dogs can be more of a challenge. For this reason, the training process listed in this article will be focused on adult dogs or puppies over the age of 5 months, not young puppies.

Texas Animal Guardians receives a number of adult dogs and puppies from a variety of backgrounds into its adoption program. The first step towards helping them transition from the shelter to a home is crate training. Many dogs develop phobias surrounding confinement and being shut up inside a shelter doesn’t help. Humans react the same way to being locked up. It really isn’t pleasant to be confined in a small space with no escape route. Not to mention there is no outside stimulation or companionship. This is why the crate must only be used as a temporary tool during a dog’s adjustment phase when entering a new home.

First, set the crate up and place it in an area of the home where the dog can see you and/or other family members. The last thing you want to do is make him feel isolated. Next, secure the crate door into an open position with a bungee cord or some other fastener to prevent it from accidentally closing. You don’t want him to get freaked out by a crate door closing on him. Then put some favorite toys and a chew bone inside the crate.

Introducing your dog to the crate

Hopefully you have already the article Helping your Rescue Dog Bond and Adjust — if not please do. This process is a reward-based one. It involves lots of praise and treats. The same applies to crate training. In the case of an extremely fearful dog, just take your time. Place all feeding bowls by the crate, not inside. Initially, every feeding will occur outside the crate, but next to the crate’s door. You will place yummy treats inside the crate. When he enters the crate to grab a treat, praise him. Always sit nearby while your dog is becoming acquainted with the crate.

Feeding your dog meals in the crate

As your dog’s comfort level increases, slowly begin trying to feed him inside the crate. Place the food bowl and his water bowl at the front of the crate first. Gradually begin to place the bowls further and further towards the back of the crate.

Once your dog has adjusted to receiving feedings and treats inside the crate, begin closing the crate door while he eats. Do NOT leave him. Stay with him and immediately open the door again, give him a treat inside the crate and using your “happy” voice praise him. Continue doing this over and over again (as many times as possible each day) for the next few days until he becomes comfortable being in the crate with door closed.

Confining your dog inside the crate 

At this point the next phase will begin. This phase involves leaving him for short periods of time. Feed him inside the crate, put a nice chewy toy in it. When you place the treat or food inside the crate use a voice command such as “kennel up” for him to associate with the action. Close the door and leave the area for a few minutes and return. Open the door and praise him in your happy voice and let him back out. Continue this exercise several times a day, over the next few days. You can repeat this exercise by using treats, a filled chewy toy or a new toy — anything to distract him (see note below). Always use the same voice command each time. Gradually increase the length of time you leave him. Always return with treats and praise.

IF he starts to cry or howl DO NOT enter the room. Instead wait until he subsides (even if it’s just a momentary stop) and then enter the crate area. Regardless of his behavior always praise and treat. (Note: If he does whining to be let out you might have increased the length of time inside the crate too quickly.)

Confining for longer periods of time

After your dog is comfortable being left in the crate for about 30 minutes without developing anxiety, you can being to crate him for short periods while you leave the house. Put him in the crate using the voice command, such as “kennel up”. Place treats and toys in the crate for him. Keep departures and arrivals low key. Be matter of fact about it. Continue to crate him for short periods of time while you are home. Vary your patterns for getting ready to leave by placing him in the crate 5 to 10 minutes prior to leaving. This period of conditioning can take a few days or a few weeks.

A word about chew toys

It’s always a good idea to give your dog some type of safe chewy toy to keep him occupied inside the crate during this time. Kong makes a good one that you can fill with all kinds of yummy stuff such as peanut butter, cream cheese or even ground style dog food. You can place the stuffed Kong in the freezer and it’ll give him something to occupy his mind with when you leave the room.

 Potential problems

Please keep in mind that the kennel is not a place of punishment or extended confinement. A dog or puppy should not be crated for long periods of time. A long period of time would be considered anything over 6 hours. If you work and you MUST crate your puppy or young dog for extended periods then please arrange for a neighbor, a friend or a relative to let the puppy out of the crate to exercise and go to the bathroom. A young puppy does not have the ability to hold its bladder or bowel movement. It adds extra stress to the puppy when it messes in its sleeping and eating area. (Please see our potty training section for more information on this subject.)

The crate IS NOT a cure for separation anxiety! Any dog that exhibits this type of behavior will need further counter-conditioning. An anxious dog can and will injure itself by trying to claw its way out of the crate, chew through the metal (and break a tooth) or panic to the point of salivating.

DO NOT confine your dog or puppy for over 6 hours in a 24-hour period of time. Confinement in a small space for extended periods of time is not natural, normal or desirable for a dog or, for that matter, a human. Consider what the consequences are: neurotic behavior, anxiety, space sharing issues and aggression. If you are tempted to crate a dog for extended periods of time you could actually create aggressive behavior in your dog. The dog will view the crate as its domain and react aggressively towards anyone approaching it. A crate confined dog will develop resource guarding behavior and it will not be well socialized. 



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