CRATE TRAINING TIPS
There are many versions of crate training methods. We can't take credit for the following, however, we have made some changes from the original publication and this is the version we recommend to new puppy owners.
CRATE TRAINING TIPS
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 limit his access to the house until he learns all the house rules like what he can and can't chew on and where he can and can't eliminate. A crate is also a safe way of transporting your dog in the car, as well as a way of taking him places where he may not be welcome to run freely, like in a hotel room. If your dog is ever ill, it may need extended crate rest. This is particularly true for Dachshunds who may need extended crate rest for back problems. 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 (although WalMart and grocery stores usually have better prices for Pet Taxis, Pet Porters, Kennel Cabs, etc.). Your dog's crate should be just large enough for him to stand up and turn around in. A crate which is too large may encourage your dog to eliminate in his crate, and too small a crate may increase anxiety and may make a dog act claustrophobic.
The Crate Training Process
Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training. The crate should always be associated with something pleasant, and training should take place in a series of small steps - don't go too fast.
Step 1: Introducing Your Dog To The Crate
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
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
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 begins to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving him in the crate for a shorter time period. If he does whine or cry in the crate, it's imperative that you not let him out until he stops. Otherwise, he'll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so he'll keep doing it.
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. Repeat this process several times a day. 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. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you out of sight the majority of the time, you can begin leaving him crated when you're gone for short time periods and/or letting him sleep there at night. This may take several days or several weeks.
Step 4: 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. Always leave a radio
or TV playing softly in the same room to keep him company. You might
also want to leave him with a few safe toys in the crate (hard nylabone,
rope bone, rubber Kong, cow ear). You'll want to vary at what point in
your "getting ready to leave" routine you put your dog in the crate. Although
he shouldn't be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate
him anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don't make your
departures emotional and prolonged, but matter-of-fact. Praise your dog
briefly, give him a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly.
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. Open the crate door and go immediately to the house door to let him out to potty. Don't say anything until the dog is outside. 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. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night, and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when he whines to be let outside. Older dogs, too, should initially be kept nearby so that crating doesn't become associated with social isolation. 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. Many people put the crate on a low table, chair or nightstand near their bed so they can reach in to reassure the puppy during the night. Sometimes a quick smack on top of the crate with your hand and a firm "NO" will often quiet an older puppy or dog who should know better.
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. Also remember that puppies four to six months of age shouldn't stay in a crate for more than four to six hours at a time. They can't control their bladders and bowels for longer periods. Younger pups can only "hold it" for two to three hours at a time, which is why it is a good idea to get a puppy which is at least ten to twelve weeks old.
If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether he's whining to be let out of the crate, or whether he needs to be let outside to eliminate. If you followed the training procedures outlined above, your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from his crate. Try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, he'll probably stop whining soon. If the whining continues after you've ignored him for several minutes, use the phrase he associates with going outside to eliminate. If he responds and becomes excited, take him outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If the dog just wants to play instead of potty, put him back in his crate. If he potties, tell him "Good potty" and let him come back inside the house to play for awhile.
If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore him until he stops whining. Don't give in, otherwise you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what he wants. You can try smacking the top of the crate with your hand or a fly swatter, saying "NO", and walking away. This is often enough to startle the dog into silence. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again. However, sometimes a dog is just a screamer and no amount of being nice is going to stop him. In that case, put him in his crate after he has pottied, keep a radio playing softly in the room, close the door, and let him scream. He'll eventually give up although it may take several hours. However, if your dog is still acting hysterical after a couple of hours in the crate, is panting and licking the crate bars, he may be truly claustrophobic. This is rare in dogs but can occur. Try using a large wire crate for him so he won't feel so confined. Also, placing a calm doggy companion in the crate with him may help him accept it.
Using another dog is also a great way to crate train puppies. As long as the other dog is tolerant of puppies and won't injure them, this is usually the quickest way to get a puppy to quietly accept being crated.
Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for
separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog
from being destructive, but he may injure himself in an attempt to escape
from the crate. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counter-conditioning
and desensitization procedures. You may want to consult a professional
animal behaviorist for help.
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