Crate Training

imageIf you like nothing better ...than coming home from a hard day's work and finding that your dog decided to "go" on the couch or use your favorite slippers as a new chew toy, then crate training isn't for you.

But, if you're like most people, using a crate to properly train your dog will be time well spent. Crate training takes some time and effort, but it is a proven way to help train dogs who act inappropriately without knowing any better.

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 or taking him places where he may not be welcome to run freely. 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.

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

  • imagePlace the 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 open and secured so that it won't hit your dog and frighten him.
  • To encourage your dog to enter the crate, drop some small food treats nearby, 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

  • After introducing 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, place the food dish all the way at the back of the crate.
  • If, instead, your dog remains 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.
  • The first time you do this, 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

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."
  • 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, and 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 can spend 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.
  • You might also want to leave him with a few safe toys in the crate.
  • 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; they should be 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 to avoid increasing his anxiety over when you will return.
  • 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.

Step 4, 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 they don't associate the crate 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, although time spent with your dog- even sleep time - is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

Source:Humane Society of the United States


Too Much Time In The Crate
  • 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've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from his crate.
  • If that is the case, try to ignore the whining.
  • If your dog is just testing you, he'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at him or pounding on the crate will only make things worse.
  • 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 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; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what he wants.
  • 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.

Separation Anxiety

  • 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-behavior specialist for help.

© 2002. Adapted from material originally developed by applied animal behaviorists at the "Dumb Friends League", Denver, Colorado. All rights reserved.


Three Crate Training BIG Mistakes

Crate Training Mistake #1:
  • If you let your dog in his crate for long periods of time you will end up with a dog that starts eliminating in his crate and, believe me, that's a tough problem to solve!
  • The number of hours you can let your dog in his crate depends on his age.
  • The younger your dog, the shorter this period is.
Crate Training Mistake #2:
  • If you put your dog in his crate, shut the door and leave or, even worse, use the crate as a form of punishment, you will completely destroy your chance of successfully crate training your dog.
  • If you want to make sure that your dog will hate his crate, this is the best way to do it!
  • First of all, as stated in Mistake #1, your dog should not be left in his crate for long periods UNTIL he's crate trained.
  • Second, if every time your dog or puppy does something you don't want him to, like chewing on a chair leg, a shoe, a carpet, etc., you put him in his crate, your dog will make a negative association with the crate and the last thing he'll want to do is to go voluntarily into his crate.
  • Believe me, you don't need the frustration of chasing your dog in the house when it's time for you to leave for work.
  • Chewing is extremely rewarding for a dog or puppy.
  • It is a natural behavior and dogs need to chew.
  • The problem most new dog owners have is to bring their dog to chew on ONLY acceptable things.
Crate Training Mistake #3:
  • Because everyone says that a crate is the quickest way to housebreak a dog, you might be tempted to think that all you have to do is to buy a crate and put your dog in it and that he will be magically housebroken!
  • Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.
  • It is true however that a crate will skyrocket your housebreaking progress with your dog, but you must first teach your dog to accept his crate.

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