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How to Crate Train a Dog

At A Glance

Crate training allows your dog to have a safe space of its own.

Creating positive associations with your dog’s crate can speed up crate training. While crate training strategies are the same for most dogs, there are a few differences when crate training puppies and older dogs.

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Dog training is a necessity, particularly if you plan to keep your dog indoors. Allowing your dog to stay outside for extended periods can result in negative behaviors such as digging, chewing, and barking.

In contrast, a properly housetrained indoor dog has fewer opportunities for disruption and destruction. A great way for it to adjust to living with you inside your home is by crate training it. This means that you don’t need to keep an eye on your dog 24/7. When you’re away, your dog will stay in its crate.

Contrary to first impressions, crate training has many benefits not just for dog owners but for the dogs themselves. If you’ve been considering crate training your pet, you probably like the idea of giving your dog a safe space while giving it an opportunity to be housebroken.

Learning how to crate train a dog can seem overwhelming, but you can easily pull through with the right attitude and tips.

Before we dive into how you can effectively crate train your dog, let’s get a better understanding of what crate training is.

What is Crate Training and Why Is It Important for Dogs?

Crate training is the process of familiarizing your pet with a cage so they’ll recognize it as a safe space. It involves slowly introducing your dog to the crate by positive association.

Veterinarians and professional trainers recommend crate training as a desirable way to shape a pet’s behavior. The idea behind it is crate training leverages your dog’s innate instinct to look for a quiet and safe place. This is often helpful when dogs are in an unfamiliar environment or subjected to an overwhelming situation.

Beagles to the Rescue intake coordinator Christine Kroh explains it well: “If the dog’s freaking out, they think: ‘I can go hide in my crate and it’s safe here and nobody’s gonna bother me.’ That helps them out for their lifetime.”

Fun Fact: Even dogs need to have a “home away from home” where they can relax when stressed!

 

Other Crate Training Advantages

Crate training also has advantages for dog owners like you. Crate-trained dogs are easier to transport on a vehicle. They are also less likely to chew on household items when dealing with stressful situations.

Crate training makes it easier to manage your pets during emergencies as they are easier to direct to the cage when they need to be moved from one place to another.

It also trains them to stay put and remain calm during uncertain situations.

With proper crate training, you can have your dogs stay inside the home. Your dogs will have the mindset that they have a refuge while still feeling like they are part of the family. Soon enough, they’ll seek out the crate on their own.

dog in a crate

How to Crate Train a Dog

Don’t want your dog to roam outside your home and develop destructive behaviors? Here’s how to crate train a dog efficiently:

Choose the Right Crate

Start by picking out the right crate for your dog. Crates come in different types and sizes.

The most commonly used one is the wire cage. It’s a perfect option because it doesn’t completely isolate your dog from everyone in the room. These collapsible wire cages are perfect for those with small spaces. They also come with a sliding tray, making clean-up way easier.

If you plan to bring your dog on travels frequently, it is advisable to train it to use a plastic pet carrier. Take note, however, that these carriers can sometimes be too enclosed for your dog. Another option for frequent travelers is a soft-sided crate. Be careful, though, as dogs can easily chew on its soft material.

Once you’ve decided on the crate type, you have to ensure the size is appropriate for your pup.

Remember, crate training aims to provide a space for your dog where it can be comfortable. Giving your dog an area that is too small can cause more agitation as it won’t have enough space to move around in.

However, a crate that’s too big is also not advisable. Dogs can use the space to sleep and relieve themselves.

If you’re unsure of what to get, wire crates usually come with a divider that you can adjust as your dog grows.

Start Crate Familiarization

Crate training begins when your dog sees the crate.

Don’t force them to enter the crate at once. As much as possible, you’ll want them to associate the crate with a positive experience. 

Position the crate in the house where the family stays the most. Make it inviting by placing a cushion or anything to make them feel comfortable while keeping the door open. This allows the dog to explore the crate on its own. Before you know it, your dog will consider the crate its sanctuary.

If your dog doesn’t warm up to the crate as expected, you can try a more active approach. Using a happy and positive tone, coach it to come near it. As much as possible, avoid startling or scaring your dog while doing so.

Another option you can try is using treats near the entry. Gradually move the treat inside the crate as your dog slowly lowers its guard. If treats don’t work, you can also try to lure your pet with its favorite toy.

Be patient. Don’t expect your dog to go all the way in on your first try. Never force your dog to enter.

Once your dog enters, don’t close the door. Allow your pup to get the feel of the crate on its own. Giving a treat or praising it will help establish a positive association with its crate. It also conditions your pet to keep doing the activity.

dog in a crate in a car seat

Choose the Right Time for Crate Training

Most dog owners will randomly pick up their pets to start crate training. Refrain from doing so. Establishing a crate training schedule is ideal, but you also have to factor in your dog’s mental state.

Consider doing crate training while it’s enjoying playtime. By carefully timing your training, its focus will be on how comfortable the crate is instead of on the crate itself.

Allow your dog to go out and play some more if they wish. Also, consider crate training while your dog is relaxed so that it will associate the crate as a haven for rest.

Aside from choosing the right timing for crate training, you also have to be mindful of how long you’ll let your dog stay in the crate. A good practice is to keep your furry friend inside for 10 minutes and gradually increase the time as you go along.

Dogs are natural wanderers. After some time, they’ll want to go out, play, and relieve themselves so you always have to consider this when “confining” them in their crates.

giving food to dog

Associate Food With Their Crate

Supplement crate training with food. Once your dog is familiar with the crate, start feeding it near the crate.

This method indirectly associates food, a pleasant experience, with the crate. Once you feel like your dog is no longer anxious about the crate, you can start moving the dish further in.

If your dog has yet to get used to a closed crate, slowly introduce it to the idea. As your dog eats, you can gently close the crate. When it finishes its meal, open the door.

You can delay opening the door for several minutes during subsequent meals. Once your dog starts complaining, shorten the time.

Also Read: How To Train Your Dog On Your Own?

Dog in a crate

Crating Your Dog While You’re Away

Crate training doesn’t end when your dog enters the crate. You have to reinforce the behavior.

If your dog can stay in the crate for more than half an hour, you can let it stay in the crate while you’re gone.

Make sure it isn’t complaining or whining when you do so. Again, don’t force it inside the crate. Use command or treat to encourage it. Keep in mind that you should never crate your dog for a long time before leaving. Keep it inside for a maximum of 10 to 20 minutes before you go.

When you return home, you may be tempted to greet your pet enthusiastically. Don’t. It will only make your dog feel anxious. It may want to run to you but realize that it cannot because it’s locked inside the crate.

A good practice is to crate your dog when you’re home. This prevents your pet from associating crate time with being left alone.

 

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How Long Does Crate Training Take?

Now that we’ve covered different best practices for crate training your dog, you may wonder, “how long does it take to crate train a dog?” It depends.

It can take days to weeks or even months. The key is consistency.

Like any other dog training exercise, you have to respect your dog’s pace.

Your training sessions should also be a time for you and your dog to bond. Extending patience and reaffirming your commitment to the training process is critical.

corgi dog in a crate

Crate Training By Age

How to Crate Train a Puppy Fast

Crate training a puppy is essentially the same process.

The only thing that should be different is the length of time spent in the crate which should be shorter.

Puppies have smaller bladders that they don’t have full control of yet.

Leaving them in the crate for too long can cause puppies to soil their crates. Puppies may need more supervision and may require a more structured crate training schedule.

Here’s one you can use:

7:00 am: Wake up and eliminate. Give rewards.

7:05 am to 7:15 am –  Alternate playtime and crate training. Use breakfast as training treats.  7:15 am – Serve breakfast. Allow the puppy to pee or poop.

7:15 am to 7:30 am – Special puppy time.

7:30 am –  Crate for naptime.

You can repeat the same routine for lunch and dinner. You can also adjust your schedule so it fits with your family’s schedule.

Puppies may find it hard to hold it in at nighttime so it’s best to keep the crate door open during evenings.

In general, the number of hours puppies can keep it in is based on their current age in months plus 1.

This means that a two-month-old puppy can hold it for 3 hours, and a 7-month-old pup can hold it in for 8 hours.

How to Crate Train an Older Dog

You may wonder how to crate train an older dog.

Forget the saying you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. Older dogs are more than capable of learning new tricks. However, you’ll have to understand that it may be trickier compared to a puppy.

Older dogs already have their own ways and will most likely practice what they’ve learned from before. Like puppy crate training, the process is the same. Older dogs need to feel comfortable and familiar with the crate.

Remember that patience is critical. You have to prepare yourself for several repetitions before they get it right.

But don’t underestimate your older dog just yet.

Compared to curious and playful puppies, older dogs are more inclined to look for spaces where they can find peace and quiet so they might just surprise you.

Also Read: The Scientific Dog Training Method

dog in a crate

Crate training is not entirely about your dog. You also have to make sure that you’re up for it. It’s not easy. There may be times when you’ll want to quit and abandon the idea.

Try to involve the whole family in crate training. It will be way easier for you if everyone is on the same page when it comes to dog training.

Dog owners should realize that crate training is not a punishment for their pets. It is, in fact, great for maintaining their mental health. Having a place of their own helps them manage their emotions.

Pets, like humans, can feel irritable and sleepy. It’s critical they have a place for refuge when they feel these emotions.

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Paul Andrews
https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-andrews-172490189/

A digital marketing expert by profession, Andrews is a gifted writer and animal lover at heart. A self-confessed "pawrent", Andrews is well-versed in all things dogs. He uses his years of experience of raising puppies into show-quality dogs to help guide first-time pet parents. He believes in spreading the joy that comes with being a dog dad and advocates more families to adopt pets.