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Crate Training - why you should and how you can!

Crate training your dog

Crate training your dog sets them for their future exposure to them. Crates can be used as a safe space to sleep, but more importantly when your dog is sick or injured they will need to be kept confined so they can rest, the crate is the easiest and safest place for this. When a dog goes to the vets or groomers they might be put in a crate.

When you need to be evacuated due to flooding or emergency your dog might need to be in a crate for safety to go with you.

When you think about all of the above, it just makes sense to train them to be comfortable in a crate, this will prevent stress and anxiety should they ever need one.

Crate training also gives them somewhere to hide from the children when they have had enough. We need to teach our children that when the dog is in the crate they are not to approach as it has said it needs some quiet time.

Some other reasons why you might consider crate training:

  • Providing a den and safe haven for your puppy

  • Helping to create a routine

  • Aiding in curbing destructive behavior

  • Excellent for toilet training puppies

  • Training puppies to hold their bladders

  • It can be used for travel

Make sure that their crate is always a refuge; never use this as a punishment area

The crate

Ideally, a crate should be large enough to allow your dog to stretch out on their side, stand without hitting their head and be able to turn around. The crate should not be so large that your dog can toilet in one part and sleep in another. We could use a play pen for this if needed.

Place the crate close to the main living area of the house, such as the kitchen or lounge. Often covering the crate with a sheet or towel may help to enhance the den-like quality for the puppy. Put your dogs favorite blanket or bed in there to make it feel like home.

The crate training process

The basic foundation of crate training is that you are trying to make your puppy feel absolutely safe, secure and settled in the crate. This is not a process that can be rushed, but should be guided by your dog’s reaction through a series of small steps. Don’t move on to the next step until your dog is comfortably reacting to the exercises in the previous step. Most importantly, never punish your dog in the crate or force it to go in, as the dog will associate the crate with a feeling of anxiety. It is meant to be a comfortable and safe space, so it needs to be associated with pleasant experiences.

Introduce your dog to the crate

  • Make sure the crate door is secured open so it won’t hit your dog and frighten them.

  • Let your dog explore the crate on their own.

  • Talk to them in a happy tone of voice, and give them treats for showing interest and sniffing it.

  • To encourage your dog to explore the crate, toss small food treats on the ground around the crate and inside it.

  • If they are not interested in treats, try tossing a favorite ball or toy in the crate.

If your dog is showing anxiety and doesn’t want to go inside, don’t force them. Remember that this step takes as long as the dog needs. This may range from a few minutes to as long as several days. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate.

A crate is intended to be a ‘safe haven’ or ‘security blanket’ for the dog. By nature, dogs like small, enclosed spaces, especially when they are feeling a little bit unsure. By providing your dog with an area where it can ‘escape’ and know it won’t be bothered, it can readily seek out this area when it needs a bit of a break or time-out.

Conditioning your dog for longer time periods

Start confining your dog in their crate for short time periods while you’re home. Give them a command to enter such as, “crate,” and encourage them by tossing a treat inside the crate. After your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them another small treat and close the door. Go about your business in a calm, quiet way, both in sight of the dog, and ducking into other rooms for short periods. After a short time, open the door without fussing the dog. If he starts to whine or show anxiety or bolts out when the door is opened then your dog needs you to slow down with the steps.

Repeat this process a few times each day and gradually increase the length of time that he is in the crate and you are out of their sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you out of sight for most of that time, then you can begin crating them for short time periods when you go out and/or letting them sleep there at night.

Make sure that they are crated for times when you are home as well as when you are not home so it becomes a comfortable place for them to hang out.

Crating your dog when left alone

Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave them with a few safe toys. Vary your routine and crate them anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don’t fuss your dog as you are leaving, and when you return home wait for them to calm down before talking to them or releasing them.

Crate training should only be for short periods of time other than overnight. Just like children, dogs need stimulation and to be able to wander and explore their environment during the day. Crating a dog all day while you are out is not preferable unless advised by your vet or behavioral therapist for medical reasons.

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.

On these toilet breaks, do not engage in play with your puppy. Your puppy doesn’t need water inside their crate overnight, and restricting their access to water after a certain time at night will also assist your puppy in sleeping through the night. Older dogs, too, should initially be kept nearby so that crating doesn’t become associated with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with their crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer.

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