There are so many benefits to crate training a dog. So many common problems are solvable through crate training. Crate training a dog will help lower anxiety and stress levels. Crates can help prevent separation anxiety. Crates keep both a dog and their home safe if the dog isn’t trustable and needs to be left alone.
To a human the idea of being in a crate is not desirable however dogs are not humans. Dogs have denning instincts. Pregnant dogs will seek out the safety of a small den like space to have puppies, and those den like spaces become a puppies first safe haven. Sick, scared, or injured dogs will also seek the shelter and security of a small den like space.
In the event of an emergency having a crate trained dog makes a huge difference. A dog that willingly and happily goes into a crate is a dog that stays safe and isn’t in the way. Did you know that crate trained dogs do better after surgeries/medical attention requiring overnight stays? This is because they do not have any additional stress or anxiety from being in a crate for the first time.
A dog in a crate cannot beg at the dinner table, jump on guests as they walk into a home, bark at every leaf blowing outside, or eat furniture. Crate training a dog also doesn’t leaving the dog in the crate all the time.
Example: there is a knock at the door and you see it is your friend. You call out “hold on a second!” You put the dog into the crate. You let your friend into your home. When the dog is calm, you allow them out.
Example: it is dinner time. You put the dog into the crate. You eat your dinner. You let the dog out of the crate.
Young puppies should be given a potty break at least every 2.5-3 hours. No dog should be crated for more than 8 consecutive hours. A crate is not a punishment device. A crate is a safe comfortable space, a dogs “own room”, and should be respected as such. A dog should be in a crate naked (no collars/harness).
To teach a dog to love the crate is not that difficult. There are many great and guilt free ways to do this. Feed the dog in the crate. Give the dog treats in the crate. Throw treats into the crate when the dog isn’t looking to make it seem like they just magically appear inside. Perhaps they have a special high value chew toy or bone that they only get in the crate. We want to make the crate an ultra positive experience. If a dog has negative association with the crate, the back of the crate can be folded down to create a “pass through” experience to help ease them into it. By luring them through it and rewarding them while they do it we will gradually change their association with the crate a to positive one.
In order to keep the crate positive it can’t be used exclusively for when we leave. It’s important to give a dog some time in the crate while we are home and present, and associate that with something positive as well. Perhaps a food stuffed enrichment toy, which can tend to be a bit messy, for half an hour while we are around doing something in the home.
Feeding a dog in the crate will help prevent resource guarding and will also help dogs who aren’t there yet with house training (we don’t poop where we eat/sleep). It will help them take ownership of the space and help solidify it as a safe place for them.
We can train a dog to enter the crate by teaching the Crate command. This is a very easy command to teach. We simply bring the dog to the crate, tell them “crate”, and throw a treat into it. Repeat and gradually start to wait to give them the treat until they go into the crate themselves when we say “crate”.
The crate used should be big enough for the dog to stand up fully, lay down fully, and turn around in fully. And no larger. They like a small confined safe space. There are many wire crates available that come with a divider so the crate can grow with the puppy. I recommend these for small puppies that will grow into large adults.
Where we put the crate is important as well. We don’t want to put it to close to any ventilation source, in direct sunlight, or in a high traffic area. It should be a safe, quiet space. It is also important to make sure that there is nothing outside of the crate that an untrained dog can reach, pull in, and potentially harm themselves with, or damage in general.
It is not recommended to leave too many things in the crate unattended with a dog until that dog can be trusted. New dogs sometimes will chew up beds or blankets in the crate out of nervousness and until they are calm it is best to leave the crate bare, they really won’t care and it could save a costly trip to the emergency vet.
Please crate train your dog.