This blog will be about crate training. Before you click away from this blog, take a minute to read about what a crate can do for your life and tips on how to crate train successfully. A dog “crate” is a general term referring to a rectangular enclosure made from metal, plastic, wood, or cloth. I’ve spoken with a lot of people who don’t like the idea of crate training their dog and I honestly don’t understand why. If used properly, the crate is an extremely helpful tool and the dog will like having an area of their own. Just like their wild ancestors (and wild cousins) dogs instinctively want to seek shelter, even inside the house. If they are not provided with one, they will create one for themselves like under a table, chair or bed. A crate serves as a den for our four-legged friends.
So far in my life, I’ve crated all 3 of my dogs. Throughout their lives, they have had the option to come and go out of their crates when I am home. My first girl was a bit shy around strangers, so when someone would come to our house, she would go to her crate to be away from them. Anyone who came to the house (even the kids) knew that the dog crate was their “room” and if the dog was in the crate then they were to be left alone. 2 out of the 3 of my dogs would actually put themselves to bed as well. Even though they have access to couches, chairs and beds after a certain hour of the night, they would go to their crate and go to sleep.
Besides creating a “special den” for your pup, there are several other helpful reasons to crate train your dog.
- Crates are the quickest and easiest way to house train your dog. Puppies learn from their mother to not soil in their den. By crating your pup in its “den” while house training, it encourages your pup to “hold it.”
- When traveling with your dog, the safest way to protect it (in case you would have to slam on the brakes or get into an accident) is by having them travel in a crate. You can use crate bumpers to help protect them during sudden turns and stops.
- A lot of your medium to large breed dogs (especially ones with a deep chest) like labs, rottis, and great danes are prone to GDV or bloat. It is recommended they don’t exercise too close to the time they eat (think of the rule your mom taught you about not swimming right after you eat). By feeding your big guy in the crate and then letting them rest for a while after eating, you are lowering the risk of bloat.
- If, for any reason, your vet tells you that your dog needs to be on strict cage rest (post-surgery, torn ACL, etc.), your pup will already be accustomed to the crate. Therefore, lessening the anxiety for both you and your dog.
- In the situation where there is a natural disaster or house fire, having your dog in a crate will help you find them in a hurry and if need be – crated until a new living arrangement can be made.
- If your pup is crated when you are away, you don’t have to worry about them chewing any shoes or other inappropriate items.
Tips for success!
- It all starts with NEVER use the crate as a form of punishment.
- Don’t physically force them in the crate. Allow them to investigate it on their own and praise them when they go in by themselves. Dogs do best with positive reinforcement.
- Size does matter! The crate needs to be large enough for your dog to stand, turn around and lay down without touching any of the sides or roof. They make crates that have a movable side that can be adjusted for your growing puppy. Remember, if you buy a good quality crate, it can last for a lifetime.
- Have scheduled feeding times and feed them inside the crate. This reinforces good things happen inside the crate.
- Besides feeding them in a crate, another great time to introduce your pet to their crate is when they are tired.
- When you first start trying to crate train, don’t leave them in there for extended periods of time. Crate him/her several times a day and not just when you leave.
- Do NOT show excitement when releasing him (her) from the crate. They will think leaving the crate is a reward.
- Providing indestructible toys inside the crate will cut down on boredom when they have to stay there. Kong toys with frozen peanut butter or other frozen treats provides several hours of fun while you are away.
- Just like other commands you want your dog to perform, use a special word or phrase to teach them to go to their crate.
- Do not use housebreaking pads or newspaper inside the crate.
- Pick a location for the crate and keep it there. Moving it around the house can create anxiety for your dog. Keep in mind, it is recommended that when you create a fire escape plan for your home, your dog’s crate should be close to an exit. Also, dogs are social animals – if you are able to have their crate in a room where the family spends a lot of time, it allows your pet to enjoy their “room” while still being a part of the family.
- Just as a baby cries in his crib, it is common to expect some distress at first. He may whine but do not let him out. Or you will be rewarding negative behavior – which is harder to correct later on.
- Crate Covers help to recreate the idea of the den. Also, it helps reduce the amount of distractions your dog sees, so he’ll be more relaxed and comfortable in the crate.
- Keep the same routine throughout the training process. Feeding, bathroom breaks and bedtime should be very close to the same time every day. Just because you have the weekend off work doesn’t mean you have a day off from pet care. Don’t let the pup sleep in your bed on days you have off and then expect them to be good when you go back to work. They need consistency – if it helps keep a journal. Make notations when you had a really good or bad day with the pup. This can help you figure out what works best for your pup.
- Never let children play in or around the crate.
Like I said earlier, all of these tips can be for a puppy or an adult dog. Although, if you adopted a dog and have tried very hard to crate train, there is a possibility they had a negative experience with crates in the past and you will be unable to crate them. If you have any questions about house training or crate training, please email or call us at 717-477-8938.