Crate training taps into your dog’s innate instincts as a den animal. A wild dog’s den is their haven—a place to sleep, hide from threats, and raise puppies. The crate becomes your dog’s den, where he can find solitude and comfort while you know they are safe and secure (and not wreaking havoc your house while you are out running errands).
The main use for a crate is housebreaking because dogs don’t like to relieve themselves in their dens. The crate can likewise limit access to the rest of the house while they learn your rules, like not to chew on your shoes or the furniture. Crates are also a secure and safe way to transport your dog in the car.
A crate is not a magical way to domesticate canine behavior. If not used properly, a dog can feel trapped and anxious.
Don’t use the crate as a punishment. Your dog will eventually fear it and decline to enter.
Never leave your dog—especially pups—in the crate for too long. A dog that’s in the crate all day and doesn’t get the exercise or human interaction that he needs and can become anxious. You may have to slightly change your schedule, hire a dog walker, or take your dog to a daycare facility to minimize the amount of time they spend in their crate every day.
Puppies below six months of age should not stay in a crate for more than four hours at a time. They can’t control their bowels and bladders yet for that long. The same is true for adult dogs being potty trained. Physically, an older dog could hold it, but they aren’t aware that they are supposed to.
Crate your dog until you can fully trust him not to chew on everything in the house. After that, it should be a sanctuary they go willingly.
Crating: Where to Begin
Dog crate training starts before you actually involve the dog.
Choosing the Crate
Before you begin training, check to see that the crate you will be using is sturdy and stable. There are many different styles and sizes available, but a wire type is an ideal option. Make sure the dog has a lot of room to move about without the crate being too spacious as well. The size really does matter because if you choose a crate that is too big, the dog will not feel it’s his home. The dog should be able to move around in it but small enough to make your dog feel it is just his own little spot.
Placing the Dog in the Crate
Learning to crate train your dog will also teach them not to relieve themselves in the house, as they don’t want to go in their own space. Place treats or a toy that they love inside the crate. When you close the door, you want to praise your dog with a calm tone. Phrases such as good doggy work well. You should begin with the dog being in the crate for a short span of time, for up to an hour. DO NOT let your dog out until the time is up just because he is whining or crying. If you do, it only teaches him that he can get his way with you and that whining is his key out.
Successful Crate Training
If you’ve crate trained your dog properly and provided consistency in your training, you’ll have no problem getting your dog to go to his crate.
If your dog whines while in the crate at night, it may be tough to decide whether they are whining about being let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to answer the call of Nature. If you have followed the proper training procedures, then your dog has not been rewarded for whimpering in the past by being let out from their crate. If so, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they will probably stop whimpering soon. Yelling at them or even pounding on the crate would only make things worse.
If the whining persists after you have ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. If they respond, take them outside. If you have properly gone through the training steps and haven’t done too much too fast, you’d less likely encounter this problem. If the problem becomes out of hand, you may need to redo the crate training process over again.
Attempting to use the crate as a cure for separation anxiety won’t really solve the problem. A crate may stop your dog from being destructive, but they may hurt themselves in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety can only be resolved with desensitization and counterconditioning procedures. You may want to consult a certified animal-behavior specialist for help.
When a Little Extra is Needed
If your dog whines, howls, and puts up a fuss that keeps you awake, it is easy to give in to his relentless noise and let him out. Thus, it is important that your dog or puppy never learns that crying, whining, and barking is the magic word for them to be let out of the crate. Be patient and firm with the message that you’re not letting them out until they’re calm. Wait for a few seconds of silence before opening the door.
Happily Ever After
In addition to the importance of a crate at home, having a crate-trained dog is a treat when you are traveling, when he needs to go to the vet, or if you plan to enlist him in any dog sports. Trained right with patience and positive reinforcement, the crate becomes a safe haven for your dog. You will find that your dog would eventually use the crate voluntarily when he is tired and enters willingly and when asked. All it takes is time and a few treats to end up with a happy dog and a happy you!