When bringing a puppy or new dog into the home, a crate can be a very valuable training tool. If used correctly, a crate can be your dog’s happy place and assist you with challenging training objectives. Crating on a specific schedule helps potty train puppies, eliminates destructive behavior, and provides the dog with comfort. Just like any training
technique, crate training must be executed properly. Here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Size Matters
Make sure to pick the right crate. The crate should be large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. It is in our nature to get a crate that has more space than what our dog needs, but dogs can view this extra space as a potty area.
Crates come in many different shapes, sizes, and materials and each have different benefits. Plastic crates have solid walls which create a dark and comfortable space. Metal wire crates are most common, sturdy, and can collapse for easy storage. Blankets or towels can be thrown over wire crates to create a darker atmosphere; use caution if you have an escape artist as it is possible for a dog to break out of these types of crates, this not only can damage an expensive crate, but can harm the dog as well. Fabric crates are great for on-the-go types as they are lightweight and can fold for storage; fabric crates are not as sturdy as plastic or wire, so it’s recommended that only dogs who are already comfortable with crates use them.
2: The Crate is Your Friend
Make the crate a good environment for your dog. Set the crate up in a common area of your house and leave the door open so your pup can go in and out as he or she pleases while you’re home. Introduce the crate to your dog slowly and don’t be forceful. Give your pup his or her favorite treats, bones, and toys in the crate to reinforce it being a good place. After your dog can go in and out of the crate comfortably, you can start closing the door a couple of seconds at a time, opening it, and rewarding. The door can be closed for longer periods of time as training progresses and it is recommended to use a “release” and “enter” cue/command word to let your dog know it can enter and exit the crate. Once the crate becomes a place of calm relaxation, it can also be used as an effective tool for humane punishment (a “time-out” zone), but it is essential that this is done properly and not overused so your dog doesn’t build a negative association.
3: Create a Routine
Just like us humans, dogs thrive best with rules, boundaries, and routines. As a general rule, puppies can only be crated one hour for every month of age. Adult dogs can be crated for up to 8 hours but that’s not ideal. If your work schedule requires your dog to be left alone for the majority of the day, consider hiring a dog walker to let your pup out midday to stretch his legs or take him to doggy daycare so he can burn his energy off during the day!
If executed properly, a crate can become your dog’s fortress of solitude. Follow these tips to get your pup acclimated to his new crate. If you find yourself or your dog really struggling with the crate, contact a trainer to guide you through the process.