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How To Easily Crate Train Your Dog
Crate training is the prerequisite for teaching your dog important behaviors, such as potty training and how to travel in a pet carrier.
When you adopt a new puppy or dog, one of the first behaviors you should start instilling in your new pup is a love for their crate. When done correctly, crate training will teach your dog that a crate is a safe place where they can feel comfortable and cozy. Your dog’s crate can become the space where they sleep at night or where they go when they need some peace and quiet away from the rest of the household.
In addition to becoming a safe space for your pet, crate training your dog is the key to teaching other basic behaviors. For example, Brandon McMillan demonstrates the “triangle method” on “Lucky Dog,” which relies on crates to house train puppies. Every time the puppies use the bathroom outside, they are rewarded with treats, praise, and playtime before going back in the crate until the next bathroom break. As the puppies are potty trained, they are allowed to spend less time in the crate. Using crates for potty training is highly effective because dogs don’t like to soil the spot where they sleep or rest. Therefore, the dogs will learn to hold their bladders in the crate because they don’t want to sit in the mess. Eventually, this training will teach your dog not to go to the bathroom inside your home.
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That said, crate training can be used for more than just potty training! Crate training is also the prerequisite for preparing your dog to travel in a crate or carrier on an airplane. Additionally, crate training is a valuable tool if your dog is prone to destructive behaviors. For example, dogs with severe separation anxiety may chew or destroy furniture when left home alone. Instead of letting your dog wreak havoc on your home, make the crate a safe space and confine your pet inside when you need to go out. Over time, your dog’s anxiety will wane because they will learn you do come home and begin to associate the time away from you with their safe, happy place. Meanwhile, many puppies chew because they are teething. When you can’t supervise your pup, put him in his crate with a safe toy to chew to protect your home and to prevent your puppy from eating something dangerous.
So, how do you teach your dog to love the crate? Use the following 9 tips:
1.) Make sure your dog’s crate is the right size. Crate training may be unsuccessful if your dog’s crate is either too big or too small. Ideally, your dog’s crate should be just large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around. If you have a growing puppy, choose a crate that will accommodate their adult size, or pick an expandable crate that can grow with your puppy. Determine how your dog will be most comfortable, and consider adding a dog bed or blanket for your pup to snuggle with if she won’t destroy it.
2.) Create the right mindset. Especially at the beginning, crate training your puppy can be a challenge. But if you crate train during the moments when your puppy is already in the right mindset, you may find that crate training becomes a bit easier. Usually, after a long walk or play session when your puppy is starting to get tired is a good time to lure them into the crate. This will encourage your dog to see their crate as a place of rest and relaxation. On the other hand, forcing your dog into the crate when he is riled up or in the middle of playing will only create negative associations. Speaking of which, never force your dog into the crate!
3.) Make the crate your dog’s happy place. Luckily, there are many ways to do this. If your dog is food motivated, lure them into the crate with high-value treats. Once inside the crate, reward your dog with another treat. Some people like to reward their dogs during crate training with super special toys or treats they can only have inside the crate. Similarly, leave your dog with something fun to do inside the crate, such as a peanut butter filled KONG to lick, when they will be left alone in the crate for a while. This will keep your dog from getting bored and give your pup plenty of positive associations for the crate.
4.) Additionally, you can incorporate the crate into playtime. While the crate should always be left open while you’re home so your dog can come and go as he pleases, it can be worked into games to help your pet create positive associations with the crate. For example, toss your pup’s favorite ball into the crate for your dog to fetch!
5.) Take it slow and be patient. According to the American Kennel Club, it can take around six months to fully crate train your dog. Since dogs aren’t linear learners, there will inevitably be some ups and downs throughout the process. That said, you can help make your dog’s crate training successful by taking it slow. For example, start by leaving your puppy in the crate for 5 minutes while you sit nearby. Then, leave your puppy in the crate for ten minutes, and so forth. While you should stay nearby when crate training begins, you will eventually want to have your puppy practice being in his crate alone while you’re in another room. Slowly increase the difficulty of your crate training as your pup gets more comfortable.
6.) Don’t use the crate as a punishment. If your dog is only sent to his crate for being bad or has to spend too much time confined in it, the crate will become a dreaded punishment instead of his safe, happy place. For example, puppies under 6 months old should never be left in their crate for more than 3-4 hours at a time. At that age, they are incapable of holding their bladders or bowels that long and you will hinder their potty training if they don’t get enough bathroom breaks. Set your dog up for success.
7.) Use your best judgment when your dog or puppy is whining. While it’s not uncommon for puppies to whine as they’re getting used to the crate, it can be hard to tell if they are simply adjusting or need a bathroom break. If your dog is just testing you or complaining, he should self-soothe and stop whining after a few minutes. If your dog is continuously whining for an extended period of time, he may be trying to tell you he needs a bathroom break. In that case, give your dog a chance to relieve himself and use it as a chance to reinforce your pup’s house training.
8.) As you train your dog, make sure you aren’t rewarding him for whining. If you do need to check on your puppy while he’s in the crate, try to enter the room or only acknowledge him during a break in the whining so he doesn't think crying is how he gets attention
9.) Last but not least, protect your pup from choking hazards in the crate. It’s usually best to keep your dog “naked” in his crate, which means removing his collar, tags, and any clothing he may be wearing. Especially if your dog is moving around a lot or trying to escape, his collar or tags could get caught in the crate, which could strangle him. By removing things like collars and tags you eliminate the choking risk.