Crate training can be a great way to keep your dog out of trouble when you are not able to supervise him. Just as you might put a toddler in a playpen, a crate can be a safe haven for a curious puppy, but it’s important to introduce and use this tool properly.
Benefits of Crate Training
Although crate training has many benefits for your puppy, one of the most significant benefits is your peace of mind. A dog that has been properly crate trained can be left unsupervised without any worry of injury to the dog or damage to your home.
Dogs instinctively know to keep their sleeping area clean from waste, so a crate can also be a helpful tool in housetraining. A puppy will learn the rules of the home more quickly when he is unable to make unsupervised mistakes.
Crate training can also help prevent behavioral problems such as separation anxiety, chewing, and barking. This is especially true when the process is started at an early age. With practice, your puppy will learn that his kennel is a place to rest and relax until you return.
Additionally, crate training can help reduce stress when your dog must be handled by professionals. Whether you’re dropping your pup off at the groomer or the vet, it’s possible that he may need to spend some time in a kennel.
For rescued or nervous dogs, crate training can also provide your pup with a safe place to retreat to should he become overwhelmed by your bustling household. It can also become a place of comfort during stressful events such as during fireworks or thunderstorms.
Choose the Right Crate
To ensure success in crate training, it’s crucial to choose the right crate. Crates come in a wide variety of sizes and materials, so you’ll need to decide what works best for your unique dog.
Wire crates are the most popular choice as they are widely available, easy to set up, and relatively inexpensive. Plastic crates are also popular but aren’t generally recommended for dogs that chew or attempt escape. Wooden crates are a more aesthetically pleasing option, but you might want to wait until your puppy is done teething.
You’ll want to choose a size that’s big enough to allow your puppy to stand up, lie down, and turn around comfortably. However, it’s important not to choose a crate that’s too large, as it may provide your puppy with enough space to use one area as a bathroom.
Some crates come with removable dividers that can be adjusted as your puppy grows, but you may also consider swapping crate sizes as your puppy gets bigger.
Some puppies may prefer more enclosed crates, while others may prefer more visibility. For nervous dogs, or dogs that enjoy the comfort of a darker area, a more enclosed kennel is recommended.
Introducing Your Puppy to the Crate
The most important aspect of crate training is creating a positive experience for your puppy. Depending on whether your dog is a chewer, you may be able to use a dog bed, blankets, or towels to create a comfortable space.
You’ll also want to make sure that the crate is located in the right area of your home. You’ll want to put it somewhere out of the way so that your puppy can retreat to his quiet place if necessary. However, you don’t want to isolate him either, so choose an area where he can still see you and your family.
Some owners begin introducing the crate by feeding their puppy treats or meals inside it. A long-lasting edible chew or a favorite chew toy will also help the puppy get used to spending time inside the crate while also enjoying a fun activity.
When you’re able to supervise your puppy, leave the crate door open so that he has the option to go in if he feels like it. If you’re only crating your puppy when you leave, he’ll begin to associate the crate with a negative experience.
You can also practice by crating your puppy when you’re home but unable to supervise him. Put him in the crate for a few minutes while you clean the house or check your email and release him when you’re able to keep an eye on him.
It’s best to slowly increase the amount of time spent in the crate, rather than leaving your puppy in it for long periods right away. Begin by leaving him inside for a minute or two at a time and build up the duration over time.
Remember, the crate should never be used as a punishment. Always encourage him to enter the crate on his own and use plenty of praise and positive reinforcement.
Crate Training Tips
Whether you’re crate training a puppy or an adult dog, it’s important not to reward bad behavior. If you release the dog while he’s throwing a tantrum, he’ll never learn to settle down and relax.
Wait until your puppy quiets down before opening the crate door. This can take patience, especially during the first few weeks as your puppy is learning the rules.
You can also occasionally toss treats into the kennel without opening the door to further encourage calm behavior. If you are crating your puppy while you do household chores, drop a treat in on your way by to let him know that he’s making the right choice.
When leaving your dog inside of the crate, don’t forget to remove his collar. Even if you want him to wear a collar in the house, you’ll need to remove it while in the crate. It’s possible that the collar or tags could get caught on something and tragedy could occur.
The length of time it takes to train your puppy to accept the crate will depend on many factors. Some puppies settle in quickly and can learn within a few weeks or months. Others may need more time, so don’t rush your training.
It’s common for dogs to regress in their training on occasion, so if your puppy experiences a setback in his crate training, don’t get upset or frustrated. Stay calm and continue to associate the crate with positive experiences.
The most important aspect of crate training is to always set your puppy up for success. The fewer chances you give your dog to make a mistake, the more quickly he’ll learn what is expected of him.