Crate training your dog may take some time and effort but can be useful in a variety of situations. If you have a new dog or puppy, you can use the crate to teach them patience and to be calm in their own skin. A crate is also a safe way of transporting your dog in the car, as well as a way of taking them to places where they may not be welcome to run freely. If you properly train your dog to use the crate, he’ll think of it as his safe place and will be happy to spend time there when needed.
Selecting A Crate
Crates may be plastic (often called “flight kennels”) or collapsible, metal pens. They come in different sizes and can be purchased at most pet supply stores. Your dog’s crate should be just large enough for him to stand up and turn around in.
The Crate Training Process
Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog’s age, temperament, and past experiences.
Step 1: Introducing Your Dog To The Crate
• Put the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Bring your dog over to the crate and talk to him in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is securely fastened opened so it won’t hit your dog and frighten him.
• To encourage your dog to enter the crate, drop some small food treats near it, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If he refuses to go all the way in at first, that’s okay – don’t force him to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If he isn’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days.
Step 2: Feeding Your Dog His Meals In The Crate
• After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding him his regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, put the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If your dog is still reluctant to enter the crate, put the dish only as far inside as he will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed him, place the dish a little further back in the crate.
• Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat his meal, you can close the door while he’s eating. At first, open the door as soon as he finishes his meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer until he’s staying in the crate for ten minutes or so after eating. If he does whine or cry in the crate, it’s imperative that you not let him out until he stops. I prefer the puppy to be quiet and calm (ideally asleep) for at least 15 or 20 minutes before letting him out. Otherwise, he’ll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so he’ll keep doing it.
Be prepared for the whining/crying to go on for 20 minutes to as much as a few hours. There are exceptions to this rule when it is wise to take your puppy out of the crate when he whines. If you think your puppy may have to go potty, tap the crate with a metal bowl and tell him "quiet" and once he settles take him out quickly to go potty, do not praise him, simply put him right back in the crate when he finishes. Do not give in if your puppy doesn't need to go potty. Another exception would be if your puppy has just slept through the night and it is 6 AM and he is whining because he needs to get out to go potty. Tap the crate with a metal bowl and tell him quiet then once he settles take him out right away to go potty. There is no need to return your puppy to the crate if he has been there all night.
Step 3: Conditioning Your Dog To The Crate For Longer Time Periods
• After your dog is eating his regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine him there for short time periods while you’re home. Call him over to the crate and give him a treat. Give him a command to enter such as, “kennel up.” Encourage him by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise him, give him the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to ten minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time, then let him out of the crate (as long as he is not whining). With each repetition, gradually increase the length of time you leave him in the crate and the length of time you’re out of his sight. This may take several days or several weeks.
Part A/Crating Your Dog When Left Alone
After your dog is spending about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving him crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put him in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave him with a few safe toys in the crate. Don’t make your departures emotional and prolonged, but matter-of-fact. When you return home, don’t reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to him in an excited, enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low key. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you’re home so he doesn’t associate crating with being left alone.
Part B/Crating Your Dog At Night
Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with his crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer. If you need your sleep, you may need to put the puppy in a room where you can't hear him at night.
• Too Much Time In The Crate
A crate isn’t a magical solution. If not used correctly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated. For example, if your dog is crated all day while you’re at work and then crated again all night, he’s spending too much time in too small a space. Other arrangements should be made to accommodate his physical and emotional needs.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you
and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" ~ Jeremiah 29:11