Crate training is an excellent tool for training your dog to be alone and not destructive, but how do you go about crate training your dog?
To crate train your dog, you need to make the crate comfortable and enjoyable for your dog. You will need to gradually leave them in there for short periods of time. With lots of practice, your dog will be able to stay quietly in the crate when you leave them home alone and while you are sleeping.
In this article, we will go over every aspect of crate training, from what it is and why people do it to the exact steps you need to take when crate training your dog. We will discuss why some dogs have problems with crate training and will give recommendations for the type of crate to get for your dog.
I have owned dogs for my entire life. I have had dogs that were successfully and easily crate trained, and some that were terrified of the crate for months before they warmed up to it. Proper crate training can help create a place for your dog that is comfortable and completely theirs. I hope that this guide will help you get started in crate training your dog.
What Is Crate Training?
Crate training is an important type of training that any dog should have. A crate trained dog will happily and willingly spend time in a crate while their owners aren’t home, at night, during transportation, and when asked to by their owners.
A crate is essentially a large box or container that the dog goes in during these times. The owner can secure a latch so that the dog can’t get out of the crate. A properly crate trained dog won’t get upset or anxious when spending time in their crate. They know that they are safe in their crate and generally are happy there.
Crate training helps dogs feel secure and gives them a safe space just for them.
Why Do People Crate Train Their Dogs?
Crate training is a great way to both give your dog comfort and help them behave well in the home. When people crate train a dog that is new to their home, they will usually combine crate training with house training.
The crate is the dog’s safe space, so they won’t want to use the bathroom there. Owners can use this habit to their advantage by taking the dog outside for the bathroom right before and right after the dog is in the crate. By combining crate training and house training, dogs will learn both habits faster.
Crate training is also a great way to keep your dog out of trouble. This is especially helpful for times that you won’t be home to watch them carefully. An unsupervised and untrained dog might chew on furniture and shoes, or make a huge mess in the home. A properly crate trained dog will happily spend time in their crate while their owners aren’t home, which eliminates the possibility of an incident like this from happening.
Overall, people crate train their dogs because it makes them happier, safer, and easier to live with in a home.
Crate Training Steps
Now that you know the importance of crate training your dog, you are ready to learn how to do it. You must follow these steps when crate training your dog. Without a careful introduction to the crate and a gradual approach, dogs can become scared and might end up hating the crate.
At the end of the day, you want your dog to feel comfortable in their crate. Therefore, you need to take your time during crate training.
Make The Crate Comfortable
The first step in crate training your dog is to make the crate comfortable. Many crates are made of metal and have an uneven bottom. If you put your dog in an empty crate like this, there is no way that they will be comfortable. Get a comfortable dog bed, a blanket, and some stuffed toys to keep in the crate.
Your dog will be much more receptive to crate training if their crate is comfortable and inviting. The goal is for your dog to want to spend time in the crate, so making it comfortable is key.
Introduce Your Dog To The Crate
Next, you want to introduce your dog to the crate. This does not mean that you should shut your dog in the crate right away. They need to learn that they shouldn’t be afraid of the crate. Let them explore it with you in the room. While they are in the crate, don’t leave the area.
Some dogs that are immediately put in the crate and then left alone will associate the crate with abandonment and loneliness. Avoid this association by staying with your dog while they explore and get used to the crate.
Take Your Dog To The Bathroom Before Crating Them
One way to set your dog up for success with crate training is to take them out to the bathroom right before putting them in the crate. This will ensure that they don’t have an accident in the crate. If they are left in the crate too long without a bathroom break, then they might associate the crate with discomfort.
If your dog refuses to go to the bathroom before going in their crate, only leave them in for a few minutes. Then, when you take them out of the crate again, take them outside again immediately. Repeat this process until they go to the bathroom. Once they do, you can leave them in the crate unsupervised for longer periods.
Feed Your Dog In The Crate
In this next step, you need to continue to make them feel comfortable in the crate. Feeding them their meals in the crate is a great way to both make them comfortable in it and communicate to them that the crate is their personal space.
Whether you are working on crate training or not, you should be feeding your dog on a schedule. By feeding your dog at the same time every day, they can learn your daily routine, which includes bathroom and house training.
When you feed your dog in the crate, they may be scared at first. If your dog seems unwilling to go into the crate to eat their meal, then you should move their bowl to the edge of the crate. This way, their head can be inside the crate eating their food even if their body is outside the crate.
Slowly move the food bowl toward the back of the crate over time as your dog becomes more comfortable. Eventually, close the door to the crate while your dog is eating, then open the door once they are done. Over time, slowly wait to open the door. At the end of the process, you should be able to leave your dog closed in the crate while they are eating and for about 10 minutes once they are done eating.
Practice Leaving Your Dog In The Crate
Once your dog is comfortable being fed in the crate, they are probably used to spending time alone in it. It will now be time to practice leaving your dog alone in the crate. When you start this process, put your dog in the crate, close the door, and leave the room. After a few minutes, go back into the room and try to ignore your dog. Open the crate once your dog is calm.
If your dog is nervous when you leave the room, you may need to distract them while they are in the crate. A treat that takes a long time to eat is a great choice for distracting your dog in their crate. Don’t give them an entire meal’s worth of food. Rather, give them a frozen treat or a toy that has hidden treats. Anything will work as long as it takes time for your dog to get their treat.
Some people also choose to distract their dog with a toy while they are gone. Whatever you choose, make sure that your dog is distracted and comfortable in their crate while you are gone. Once you can leave your dog alone in the crate without them whining or seeming too nervous, you can start to increase the time that they spend in there.
Slowly Increase Time Spent In The Crate
Once your dog is comfortable alone in the crate for a few minutes at a time, you can start to slowly increase the time that they spend in there. You can do this by slowly adding a few minutes to the time you leave the room. Try to leave your house as well during this process.
Your dog may get nervous when they hear the front door close. This means that they might get excited when they see you come back inside. Remember to ignore your dog so that they don’t associate you coming home with getting out of the crate. This will keep them from getting too excited and jumping on you when you come home.
Eventually, you should get to a point where you can leave your dog in the crate for a few hours at a time without them getting anxious or trying to break out. Your dog should willingly go inside the crate when you ask, and shouldn’t whine or bark at you while inside. A properly crate-trained dog might even want to spend time in the crate without being asked and while you are home.
Let Them Use The Crate While You Are Home
Throughout the training process, you have been conditioning your dog to not only tolerate their crate but to enjoy it as well. You might have so much success with your training that your dog will choose to use the crate even when they aren’t asked. They may want to lounge in the crate even while you are home. If this happens, you should let your dog use the crate.
By letting your dog use the crate when you are home, they are learning to associate even more positive thoughts and experiences with the crate. This will only help them become even more comfortable with the crate.
If your dog chooses to do this, then you can be confident that you have successfully crate trained your dog.
Why Do Some Dogs Have Problems With Crate Training?
Crate training is such a huge topic in the dog training world because it is so beneficial but has the potential to go very wrong. Many dogs have a bad reaction to being put in a crate, even when the training is done correctly. There are also a lot of situations where the crate training is done incorrectly, which can cause your dog to have an increased fear of the crate.
To have a good experience with crate training, take your time and follow the steps that we have outlined in this article. No matter how slow you take the process, some dogs will not do well with crate training. The following sections discuss some of the reasons that dogs don’t do well with crate training.
Too Much Time In The Crate
Sometimes, when dogs spend too much time in their crate, they simply have too much pent-up energy. In cases like these, the dog may become over-excited when you come home, or they might start having new behavioral issues.
The best way to combat this issue is to limit the time that your dog spends in the crate. If you have to leave your dog home all day while you are at work, try to come home during lunch to let them out or take them for a walk. If you can’t make it home, then consider hiring a dog walking service. Being let out of the crate after a few hours can help your dog let out some energy so that they can rest during the rest of their time in the crate.
Another way to combat this issue is to make your dog tired before crating them. Take them for a long walk or run, or let them in the yard to play for a while before leaving them in the crate for the day. If you do this, then they are more likely to sleep for most of the time that you are gone.
Many dogs have something that is called separation anxiety. This is a condition that affects dogs when they are left alone. They feel extreme anxiety when left alone and can’t calm themselves down. Dogs that experience this condition usually feel like their person is abandoning them each time that they leave the room or the house.
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, crate training will take time and dedication. You will likely need to use all of the “tricks” that we mentioned like making the crate extra comfortable and giving your dog treats to distract them in the crate.
When crate training dogs with separation anxiety, you need to have patience when increasing the time spent in the crate. Your dog needs to know with certainty that you will be coming back for them. In some extreme cases, your dog might even benefit from having medication for their separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is common in dogs. Sometimes, dogs with separation anxiety get so nervous about being alone that they will have an accident in the crate or try to break out of the crate. This can even happen with metal crates. In these extreme circumstances, you have to consider the fact that your dog is likely to hurt themselves unless they can calm down.
In these situations, it might be best to medicate your dog. Medications for separation anxiety will allow your dog to calm down while they are alone. These medications are not meant to be used every time that you leave them alone. Rather, you can use them a few times during training until they feel certain that you will return to them when you leave. In many cases, dogs will only need two to three doses of this medication for them to be trained.
After a few days of medicated crate training, your dog should feel confident that you will return when you leave. Then, you can go back to crate training without medication. Hopefully, your dog will feel a sense of calm and will have a much better relationship with the crate.
Types Of Crate To Buy
When you adopt a dog, you will likely start shopping for crates immediately. This can be overwhelming. As a new dog owner, you might expect to choose from a few different options. However, there are hundreds of crates to choose from these days. We will walk you through some of the best options out there and advise you on the type of crate to get for your dog.
When you search for a dog crate to buy, you will be presented with hundreds of options. This can be overwhelming at first. Each dog crate generally falls into one of four categories that we will discuss in the next few sections. Each type of dog crate is best suited for a certain type of dog. Once you know your dog breed, size, and personality, you will have a better idea of what type of crate they need.
Wire Dog Crates
These dog crates are the most common and are usually what people think of when they picture a dog crate. These crates are convenient because they are collapsible and easy to store or take with you in the car. They also offer a lot of airflow for your dog. With a tray in the bottom and a dog bed, you can easily make this type of crate comfortable for your dog.
Dogs who are extremely reactive or have a bigger chance of wanting to chase animals might not do well with a wire crate. Since the dog can easily see out of the crate, they might get overexcited or hurt themselves trying to escape if they see an animal that they want to chase.
Soft Dog Crates
Soft dog crates are less common. New pet owners might not even realize at first that this is an option. People usually choose this type of crate if they travel a lot because these are extremely portable and easy to move. Soft crates are also extremely comfortable for the dog.
Some pet owners choose not to use this type of crate if their dog chews on things a lot or is large and strong. A dog that chews will be able to destroy a soft crate fairly easily. A large or strong dog will be able to move the crate around since they are lighter and easily portable. Owners of large dogs usually pick a crate that is sturdier to keep their dog and crate in one place.
Furniture Dog Crates
Another type of crate is one that looks like furniture. These types of crates will usually look like a table and be made mostly of wood. They might have metal wire bars on the sides, but at first glance, you might not realize that it is a dog crate. Furniture dog crates are a great option for people that don’t want a dog crate to stand out in their home.
The reason that not everyone has a furniture dog crate is that they are usually a lot more expensive than other options. Since most of them are made of wood, they are easily scratched and destroyed, so dogs that like to chew on furniture should not use these types of crates.
Heavy Duty Dog Crates
Finally, there are heavy-duty dog crates. These are usually extra large and reinforced. Some look similar to wire crates, while some have significantly thicker bars. These crates are ideal for extra-large dog breeds like great danes or mastiffs. They are often the only dog crates big enough for these breeds. These are also great for dogs that try to escape from their crate, as they are much harder to destroy.
About THE AUTHOR
I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.Read More About Russell Wright