Using a crate to train your dog can be very beneficial for both of you. Crates provide the dog with a safe place to sleep, or just a comforting spot to retreat to when they need some privacy. Crates can also help you in your training efforts, giving you a space to put the dog when you need to be out of the house. There is a lot that goes into crate training though, from choosing a crate and getting it ready for your dog, finding the right spot for it in your home, introducing your dog to the crate, night training, and getting ready to leave your dog alone in it. Here’s all you need to know about getting your dog ready for their new private space.
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Buying The Proper Size of Crate
Finding the right size of crate for your dog can be tricky. You definitely need to make sure that the dog will have enough room to stand, turn around, lie down, and stretch out. However, you also don’t want to make the mistake of simply buying the largest crate you can find, either. This can sometimes lead to such a large area that the dog can turn one portion of it into their sleeping area, and another into their bathroom area. This is definitely something you don’t want! If you can’t find a crate small enough for a new puppy, simply use a large piece of wood slipped through the crates to block off one area, giving your dog only the right amount of room they need for peaceful sitting, sleeping, and eating.
Lots of dog owners also buy two different crates, one for their pup, and one that will be larger and more appropriate for them when they’re fully grown. Buying two crates is a good idea, but they shouldn’t be purchased at the same time. Instead, wait until your dog is fully grown, or has outgrown their old crate, and then purchase the second crate. Only this way you can tell how large of a crate you actually need.
Location of The Crate
Where you place the crate in your home can be of particular importance. Here are some tips to make sure that it’s in a spot that makes you and your dog most comfortable.
- When choosing a location, make sure it’s one where the crate will stay permanently. This will help add to the comfort and familiarity of the crate and make the dog feel more secure in it.
- The location of the crate should be in an area that’s around the rest of the family during the day, as it will make the dog feel as though they’re still a part of the family, even if they want a little rest.
- Be sure that the location is also a spot that will be quiet at night. While the dog still wants to feel part of the group, they also need their sleep at night and that means they also need quiet during that part of the day.
Preparing The Crate
Simply placing your dog’s crate in the chosen location isn’t enough. And while preparing the crate for your dog is easy, these simple steps are essential to make the crate as comfortable as possible for your dog, and to truly turn into their very own special home.
- If the crate has a very hard bottom (which most of them do), place a comforter or their favorite blanket along the bottom to make it a softer, more comfortable place.
- Make sure that you put one or two of your dog’s favorite toys in their crate to provide some entertainment for them while they’re inside. You must make sure however, that any toy you put in there is sturdy enough that no pieces will fall or be torn off and become a choking hazard.
- Make sure that your dog has access to water while in the crate. Water can easily be spilled, making your dog uncomfortable in the crate. Instead, hang a water bottle that can easily be used by pets, such as those used by hamsters, and train your dog to use that to get their water. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is!
- If you’re using a crate that is open on the sides, such as a wire crate, you’ll want to drape a blanket or towel over top to provide them with some privacy. To make sure that the dog doesn’t pull the blanket throw the wire mesh, place a wooden board that’s slightly larger than the crate over the top and drape the blanket over top.
- Put some treats in the crate. While it’s not necessary to supply a full bowl of food in the crate, do put a few treats in with the dog. This will help associate the idea of the crate with positive elements.
Introducing The Dog to The Crate
The first time you introduce your dog to the crate is the most important part of crate training, as it will leave an impression that they will remember each and every time they go back to the crate. Here are some ways to make sure that the first time in the crate is a good one for both you and your dog.
- Before your dog enters the crate for the first time, make sure that it’s prepared for them the way it always will be, with a blanket, water bottle, and a few of their toys.
- The first time you introduce your dog to the crate, place something with a familiar scent inside, such as a blanket that belonged to their mother, or even one of your shirts. This will make them curious about that item, and encourage them to go inside to investigate further.
- Once the dog goes inside the crate for the first time, shower them with lots of praise. This will tell them that this is part of their training, something you would like them to do, and they will be rewarded for doing so.
- Never close the door the first time your dog goes into the crate. It will send the message to them that they’re being confined, and will not encourage positive association with the crate. The time to close the door will come, but it’s not yet.
- Place food inside the crate. Although this won’t be permanent, it will help get your dog inside to explore. If the dog only goes halfway in before reaching their bowl and being content with that much, push it farther back so that the dog has to completely enter the crate.
- Extend closed-door times. Once your dog is comfortable going fully inside the crate to eat, start closing the door. The first time you do this, keep the door closed for only about five minutes. Then, slowly start extending the time the door is closed so the dog can become accustomed to it slowly. If the dog starts to cry with the door closed, open it and shorten the length the next time you try.
- Establish a command that tells your dog it’s time to go into the crate. A simple one, such as “Crate”, and a gesture to the crate is enough.
- Every time you say the command and the dog goes into the crate, reward them with a treat for obeying the command.
Night Crate Training
Putting your dog into their crate at night can be a great way to keep them, and your home, safe at night. But it’s not always as simple as just getting them in there and going to bed. Follow these steps for successful night training in the crate.
- Again, make sure that the crate is in a quiet spot
- Set your alarm. Puppies cannot be left alone in the crate for more than 4 hours, so make sure you set your alarm to get up and let them out. Take the opportunity to give them a bathroom break, but do not fuss or speak to your dog during this time. You don’t want them thinking it’s time to play.
- Play with the dog before bedtime, so that they are tired. This will help tire them out, and get rid of any excess energy before they’re crated for the night.
- Only go back into the room where the crate is located and let your dog out when they are not crying.
Training your dog to go into and stay in a crate is not something that will be done overnight. It’s a long process, with several steps and you’ll need to be patient with both the process and your dog. Remember that your dog’s crate should never be used as punishment, and you should never close the door unless you’re going to be away from home or you’re night training. In order to have successful crate training, you need to make it a very positive experience, the first time, and every time after that.