In the wild, most canines live their lives based out of a cozy den enclosure. This is where they sleep, raise families, and hide from environmental challenges. Domesticated dogs are still instinctively wired to appreciate den living and can be trained to associate their crate with this ingrained preference. Rather than tearing your house apart while you’re away, they can be safely nestled in their crate until you arrive home again. If you’re wondering how to crate train your dog, if you follow a few key pointers you should have a happily crated pup in no time.
If a crate is not used correctly, it can quickly become a major stressor for your pet. Some pet owners use the crate as a place to send their pet when they are misbehaving. This will not help your dog develop a positive relationship with the crate. In fact, it only fosters more frustration and fear around it rather than comfort and safety. Very quickly, when not used correctly, your dog will refuse entry and may require additional behavioral training to rewire their relationship with the crate.
In addition to establishing the right emotional ecosystem around the crate, a few other things to keep in mind are:
● Limit the duration your pet stays in the crate at one time. If your pet stays crated for long periods of time, they do not get the socialization, exercise, and exploration they need to feel good. If you are gone for many hours at a time, you may need to hire a pet sitter that visits periodically to ensure your dog gets adequate care.
● Again, never use the crate to punish your dog for misbehavior.
● Puppies under six months of age should be restricted to four hours of crate time at a time, maximum. They are not prepared to hold elimination needs for much longer than that and can become stressed, soiled, and scared.
● Once you can trust your dog around the house while you’re away, you can start leaving your dog to roam as it pleases. Your dog can then opt to use the crate at will rather than by force.
The most important part of crate training is taking it slow and positively reinforcing the experience. It can take a few days or a few weeks. Just take it slow, be patient, persist, and reinforce good behavior.
Step 1: Introduction
Begin by placing the crate in an area of the house you and your family frequent often, such as the living room. Put a dog bed or blanket inside, secure the door open, and let your dog explore. They are often naturally curious and will begin sleeping there right away. If not, place treats, food, or favorite toys inside as they negotiate the new space. This can take a few minutes or a few days. Again, patience and positive persistence are key. Whatever you do, don’t try to force them. This one is all about them.
Step 2: Feeding
Once comfortably introduced to the crate, begin feeding inside. If they are already comfortable, place the food at the back of the crate. If not, introduce the food into the crate as far as they will go without getting too nervous. Once they are all the way in, close the door. After they are finished eating, immediately open the door the first time. Each successive time, open the door at longer intervals until they are in there for 10 minutes after eating. If they whine, do not open the door until they stop. You may have to lessen the time next feeding until they are used to longer periods.
Step 3: Extending The Stay
Once they are used to the crate, you can begin introducing them to the kennel throughout the day. Use treats and positive affirmations to get them in and to keep them there. Once inside, sit there with them for five to ten minutes. Leave the room for a while, then return and sit quietly with them another few minutes, finally letting them out. Repeat this process a few times a day while you increase the length of time you’re out of sight. Once they are comfortable with you out of sight for 30-mins or more, you can begin leaving them there while you are away, or to sleep at night.
When it comes to how to crate train your dog, with a bit of patience and positive reinforcement, you should have a pup who is happily kenneled in no time. It can take hours or weeks – just be patient and persistent. Contact us if you’d like some assistance or professional pointers. We are always here to help!