There are a variety of ways in which crate training your dog will make your life easier! Whether you need an excellent method to help you housetrain your puppy or you would like to simply have a safe place for your dog when company comes over, crate training is a sure way to bring a sense of peace and control to your dog ownership journey.
In order to effectively train your puppy or adult dog, it is important to first understand the purpose of crate training. Oftentimes, dog owners unintentionally misuse the cage by not knowing the core reasons why you should crate train your dog.
As stated by the American Kennel Club, “dogs instinctively seek small spaces to create protective shelters for themselves. Crates are useful training tools for puppies, safe havens for senior dogs, and lifesavers for emergencies.” As such, crates are not meant to be all-day cages for your dog or punishment pins when they’ve done something wrong.
To truly crate train your dog, they must first accept the cage as a safe and happy place. Check out our top tips to make crate training a positive experience for you and your dog!
Steps to Crate Training Your Dog
When pet owners are consistent, crate training can be a fairly quick process. You’ll know you have successfully trained your dog when they willingly enter the crate after you ask them to do so. To get started, choose a cue word or phrase such as “crate” or “kennel up” to say in a positive and upbeat tone.
By familiarizing your dog with this word, they will make the connection that they are supposed to enter the cage when that cue word is spoken. Do you have your word or phrase picked out? If so, you’re ready to move on to the next steps of using positive reinforcement to crate-train your dog.
Make it comfortable.
Make your dog’s new crate as comfortable as possible. Consider lining the bottom with non-slip bedding and draping a blanket over the top to make it more like a den. You can even place toys within the cage that are only to be enjoyed while your dog is crated.
For maximum comfort, make sure the compartment is big enough for your dog to stand and turn around. Wouldn’t you want to be able to stretch your legs if you were in a small space for long amounts of time? However, you don’t want it to be so big that your dog won’t associate it with a cozy, safe space.
As puppies sleep for up to 18 hours of the day, they especially need a soft and warm home base to snooze. Check out this video for a video tutorial for establishing nighttime and sleep routines with your puppy!
Slowly introduce the crate.
To properly crate train your dog, avoid forcing them into the cage. Remember, you have only successfully trained your dog once they willingly enter the crate on its own accord. By placing themselves in the space, they are showing that they accept that area as a positive environment.
Introduce your dog to the crate by hanging out and playing close to the cage. Allow your dog to sniff the cage and pass them a treat when they show signs of curiosity about the new addition to the room. Once they are used to the cage’s presence, you can begin encouraging them to enter the crate. Toss enticing toys into the space or even lure them in with treats.
It’s okay if your puppy seems hesitant to enter the crate. Feel free to back up a few steps in the process until they are comfortable walking into the caged space. When they do go in by themselves, you can begin giving them positive reinforcement for good behavior. Repeat your chosen cue word, and make sure to treat them with attention, toys, or treats. Allow your dog to practice entering and exiting the crate.
Even if you are reintroducing your dog to crate training, it is a good idea to start with this first step of helping them build a positive perception of the space. For more tips and tricks to make your life as a dog owner easier, read our article Use These Top 4 Dog Impulse Control Exercises for a Calmer Life.
Don’t rush the process.
Allow your dog to become very comfortable and familiar with their crate before you keep them in there for an extended amount of time. Rushing the process can instill fear in your dog that they will be forgotten, and this can create a negative association.
Your dog should be at the point where they are rushing to the cage to receive positive reinforcement before you consider shutting them in there. When they are ready, encourage your dog to stay in the crate for increasing amounts of time. Start with a few seconds, tossing treats in to reinforce the positive association, and then move up to minutes.
With this method, your dog or puppy will want to hang out in the crate, hoping that more treats will be delivered. Only when your puppy is happy and comfortable staying in the crate to wait for more treats should you begin moving the door to the closed position.
The last thing you want is for your dog to hear the crate door and panic or become frightened. Moving the door back and forth helps your puppy become familiar with the sound of the door closing as you give them treats. Then, shift into feeding your puppy treats through the crate bars to help them get used to the door being closed. For a visual of these specific steps, review our Crate and Pen Training Video!
Even when you can close the door, stick close to the crate to show your puppy that you are still there for them. Intermittently drop treats within the space to keep your dog happy and at ease. The final steps of the process will help your dog relax when you are not near the crate or even out of sight.
Begin by moving away from the crate and busy yourself with another activity or chore; don’t forget to revisit the crate to treat your puppy for its patience! Eventually, you can slowly extend their time in the crate with the door closed by giving them a fun toy or treat puzzle while you go to the restroom or check the mail.
Your patience during these first steps of crate training will certainly pay off! Increase your dog’s time in the crate to 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and so forth until they are satisfied and enjoying their alone time in their space.
Paw-sitive vibes only!
Never use the crate for punishment. One of dog owners’ biggest mistakes is using the cage as a “time out” when dogs misbehave. If you anticipate that your dog will need to be crated, it’s best if you can anticipate this and crate them before an incident occurs.
Using the crate as punishment and keeping the dog in the crate for too long are the top mistakes people make when crate training their dog. Keeping your dog in the crate for too long can also make them dread their time in there. Adult dogs can be comfortably kept in for 6-8 hours, depending on the dog’s size. Puppies, however, need to empty their bladders more often than adult dogs, and they should be let out every 2-4 hours.
In addition, dogs who are being house trained through the crating method should be taken out every 3-4 hours. You see, dogs are clean animals and will (in most cases) avoid soiling their living space. Taking your dog outside frequently will reinforce that the outdoors is the appropriate space for them to use the restroom.
Keeping your dog in the crate so long that they are forced to go to the bathroom in their space is highly counterproductive to your training efforts. As dogs don’t want to stay close to their urine or feces, allowing your dog to soil this space will make them want to avoid their crate.
Reach out for advice – that’s why we are here!
Our Pawsitive K9 Solutions team would be delighted to provide expert-level advice to help you successfully crate-train your dog. We are a Los Angeles dog training service specializing in helping you form a close bond with your pup.
In addition, we are passionate about helping you build a peaceful and healthy routine for you and your furry friend. Contact Us for more details about the valuable dog training and boarding services we offer!