Crate training

Crates are a great tool, to provide your dog with a safe, puppy proofed environment, especially if you have a rambunctious dog, whose energy spills over the top. A crate provides your dog with security, his own safe spot to hide from unwanted guests and to sleep undisturbed. As an alternative to crates, you can confine your puppy to one area in a kitchen or a living room.

A crate should be big enough, so your dog can stand up and turn around comfortably but also small enough where they won’t have room to toilet away from their bed. Most dogs will not toilet on or next to their bed, if the crate is too large and they are not properly toilet trained yet they may learn to toilet in a corner. This is why the crate shouldn’t be large enough for them to get away from their bed and bowl, it will discourage this behaviour and if they are toileting on their bed they may need more toilet breaks. You can buy crate dividers so that you don’t have to buy a bigger crate when your puppy gets bigger. Also, there should be enough space for food and water bowls and toys. Soft bedding should be placed on the bottom, so your dog can rest comfortably.

Remember, that grown-up dogs should not spend more than 5 hours in the crate or on very rare occasions up to 8 hours without being released for a stretch. Puppies age 8-10 weeks should not spend more than 30-60 minutes at a time in a crate; 11-14 weeks 1-3 hours; 15-16 weeks 4 hours, 17+ weeks 5 hours.

Teaching your dog to stay in a crate

It is very important that you take your time and do not rush the process, so your dog does not develop anxiety when being crated. The duration of training depends on your dog’s age and previous experience. Remember that crate is a safe paradise for your dog and never should be used as a punishment tool or somewhere they are forced to go against their will. Always vary time your dog has to stay in the crate, so the dog does not expect to always be released after 30 minutes. If your dog is used to being let out after 30 minutes he may become anxious if it takes longer.

The crate should be placed in a well-lit environment, where the family spends a lot of time. Once you buy a crate, place a blanket, water bowl, some toys and leave it with doors open for a few days, so your dog has enough time to inspect it on his own. If you see your dog investigating the crate, praise him or even throw some treats for the curious behaviour.

Step one

  • Prepare some tasty treats, think of a verbal cue “Sleep time”, “Crate”, “Time off” that you will use.
  • Give the cue and toss a treat in the crate. Praise your dog enthusiastically for entering the crate.
  • Give a release cue “Ok”, “Free”, “That’s it”, to let your dog know, he can exit the crate, do not treat for leaving the crate.
  • Make 10-15 repetitions, then take a break of a few minutes. Make another session.

Step two

  • To warm up make a few repetitions from Step one
  • Give a verbal cue and point to the crate but do not throw a treat. Praise your dog enthusiastically for entering the crate.
  • Give a release cue “Ok”, “Free”, “That’s it”, to let your dog know, he can exit the crate, do not treat for leaving the crate.
  • Make 10-15 repetitions, then take a break of a few minutes. Make another session.

Step three

  • To warm up make a few repetitions from Step two
  • Give the verbal cue to go to the crate. Once your dog is inside, praise and treat and close the door while giving treats through closed doors. If the dog starts to panic, close the door only halfway.
  • Give a release cue and make 10-20 repetitions, do a few sessions.

Step four

  • To warm up make a few repetitions from Step three
  • Give the verbal cue go to the crate. Once your dog is inside, close the door. Relax and sit down near the crate, give a few treats.
  • After about 30 seconds give a release cue and open the door.
  • Do not act excited when the dog leaves the crate, this should be no big deal. Be neutral in your body language.
  • Repeat 10-20 times.

Step five

  • Do the steps as in step four. But now once you close the door treat while standing, take a few steps back, then come back to give a treat.
  • Make a few sessions of 10-15 treats.

Step six

  • Repeat step five but this time leave the room for a few seconds, returning to the dog an treating for a calm behaviour in the crate. Increase the time your dog stays in the crate up to a few minutes.

Step seven

  • Prepare a food bowl, a chew toy or a Kong toy stuffed with canned food or peanut butter.
  • Give the verbal cue go to the crate and serve food or give a toy, close the doors. Stay in the same room and read a book or watch TV.
  • Make a few sessions per day, about 10-15 minutes long.

Step eight

  • At this point leave the room for 10 minutes, come back only if your dog is calm.
  • If the dog is not done with the food or toy, open the doors but do not let him/her bring food out of the crate. The dog has to understand, that good things happen only in the crate.
  • Make a few sessions per day.

Step nine

  • Do some chores and leave your dog for about an hour in the crate, while you come in and come out from the room. Do not talk to your dog or pay any attention.
  • When you decide that it is time to release your dog, give a verbal cue “Ok”; “That’s it” and calmly let the dog out without getting excited, take the toys away.
  • At this point, your dog is able to stay at home for short time stretches. Keep in mind the age of your pup, your body language and never give in if your dog is whining (see troubleshooting).

Step ten

  • Leave the house for 5-10minutes, while the dog is crated. First, let the periods be very short, just get the mail or go downstairs and upstairs.

Crating your dog for the night

  • Once your dog is comfortable spending an hour alone in the crate, you can crate the dog for the night.
  • Provide with toys, water, clean bedding.
  • If your puppy is younger than 8 months or you suspect your dog might have bowel problems, he or she might not make it through the night without going out to eliminate. So if the dog is whining, without big ceremony, leash the dog, open the doors, bring the dog outside. Once the dog is done, without any play, crate the dog again. You should not interact with the dog or play, otherwise, the dog will learn, that whining results in play time.
  • In the beginning place the crate near your bed, so the dog does not feel separated from you. Once the dog becomes comfortable with sleeping in the crate, you can move the crate to the intended spot.
  • Before and after crating for the night, your dog should get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise.

Troubleshooting

  • You move to the next step but your dog looks nervous. Then take a step back and keep on practising until your dog confidently can move to the next step.
  • If you have a dog that chews or destroys their bedding and/or toys, firstly this can be anxiety related and you may want to take a few steps back to make the crate their happy place. If they are a dog who boredom chews make sure you have toys and blankets that are not easily chewed or ingested, you can purchase custom made crate beds that can be stuck down for dogs who like to destroy their beds. A high quality chew safe toy is best. Always take extra time with these dogs because there’s often an underlying reason they chew, commonly separation anxiety or boredom. They may need more exercise before you leave them or more stimulation toys and environment.
  • Your dog whines or barks while crated. Ignore the dog entirely, no matter if the dog barks already for an hour. No attention, even negative should be paid to the dog. Pretend your dog doesn’t exist. You can leave the room if it is easier and come back only when your dog stays quiet for 10 seconds. The dog is vocalizing in order to get your reassurance. Wait until your dog stays quiet for a few seconds, then treat or release her/him from the crate. Your dog must understand that calm behaviour earns rewards.
  • When you release the dog from the crate, never act excited, do not play with the dog for a minute after letting him/her out of the crate. Act like it is no big deal.
  • Do not crate your dog only when you leave the home, so your dog does not associate your absence with the crate. When you are at home provide some random time periods of crating. Vary the cues that you will ask the dog to go to the crate, e.g. sometimes put your shoes and take your briefcase before giving the cue, sometimes after dressing up. Your dog should not associate certain behaviour of yours with “soon I will have to go to the crate”. This can cause unnecessary anxiety beforehand.
  • Give physical exercise before and after crating your dog.
  • Do not let children climb inside the dog crate with or without the dog inside, this is your dog’s safe space. A place where they can get away from everyone if they want to, they may not like a child being in the crate and it may make them feel unsafe. Teach children that when the dog is in the crate that is their alone time and they aren’t to be disturbed.
  • If your dog seems distracted or insecure sleeping in the crate at night, try putting a light sheet or blanket over the crate so they can only see out the door way. Make sure if they are still sleeping in the crate next to you they can still see you. The blanket makes the crate feel more secure for them and like there is only one way for anything to sneak up on them, be careful doing this in hot weather as it may restrict air flow.
  • If you have a dog who is scared of the sound of a standard metal crate and they don’t seem to be getting used to it you can buy material crates that make no sound, keep in mind if your dog is a boredom chewer it is a lot easier for them to destroy these crates.

When better not to crate your dog

If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, confinement can lead to injuries and destructive behaviour towards the crate.

If your dog has an upset stomach and accidents might happen when you are not there. If the dog has to stay crated with his bowel movements this can translate into aversion towards the crate later. Never leave the crate in a sunny spot, without a shadow, so your dog does not get overheated.

Crating is a safe alternative for your dog to stay alone. However, you must understand, that it is still a confinement, that restricts your dog to stretch and walk freely. So crating time should not be longer than 5 hours, except in the night. Crating for very long periods, can affect your dog’s investigative behaviour, cause muscle development problems and build up too much energy when the dog is not able to walk for longer periods. If your work does not permit you to take your dog with or come back for lunch, hire a dog walker, ask neighbours for help or bring your dog to a day centre.

Never crate two dogs together, as much as it seems nice for a dog to have their friend with them this is a dangerous thing to do. If one dog panics for any reason it could lead to a fight or the other dog getting injured in a struggle.

Keep in mind that you should take a lot of time and patience to teach your dog to love his or her crate. Rushing the process can develop other problems.

If you have any questions or suggestions, write us a comment!

Your Dogo Team

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Categories: Positive dog training