Dog crate training is one of the valuable training supplies that is beneficial for training young puppies and adult dogs alike.
No matter what age your dog is, you will come to find that a crate can be used for many purposes.
A crate acts like a private “den” for your dog—a safe and secure place that he can go to anytime of the day.
For you, the dog owner, the crate is a safe and secure place for you to keep him when you are away from home.
A crate is a safe place to keep your dog when you need to leave the house.
If you do not place him in a crate, your dog will not know what to do or how to act.
Therefore, he will become anxious and nervous and will take this nervous energy out on your rugs, plants, furniture, etc.
He will do all of those bad habits that a dog does when he is scared or bored: dig, bark, chew, destroy, attempt to escape, pace back and forth, etc.
Your dog’s response to the crate will all depend on how you introduce him to it.
You want his crate to be his most favourite place in the whole wide world, so make it a positive experience every time he goes near it.
In this chapter you will learn how to maximize the value of the crate by learning how to use it in training your dog.
BENEFITS TO CRATE TRAINING
You’ve already learned that crate training is a safe place for your dog.
Other benefits include:
- A crate can help prevent behaviours such as digging and chewing, because it will serve as a “time out” spot.
- A crate provides as a safe sleeping environment for your dog so he stays put in one place at night.
- A crate can be used when you can’t watch a puppy for a certain amount of time.
- A crate is helpful in your dog’s house training, which you will learn about in the next chapter.
- A crate helps your dog adjust to a regular schedule for sleeping, going outside, etc.
- A crate is transportable so it can be moved from room to room, so your dog can always be with the rest of the family no matter where they are.
- A crate can be easily transported in a car or airplane.
In order for a crate to be beneficial in any of these ways, you need to help your dog adjust to it.
ADJUSTING TO A CRATE
As you learned in Chapter 4, the dog’s first experience with a crate should be positive. Once you bring him home, you will introduce him to his crate.
Have some treats and toys waiting inside, with the door closed. Walk him to his crate and he will see the goodies inside. Once he is pawing at the crate, open it up and say “yes, good boy” and let him walk inside. Don’t close the crate door yet, just praise him for walking inside.
When he exits the crate, don’t praise him. You don’t want him to think that being outside of the crate is better than being inside the crate.
Never force your dog inside the crate. He will interpret that as a form of punishment. So if you need to, toss in more treats.
Repeat the exercise a few times, each time increasing the amount of time that your dog is inside the crate. Continue to praise him. Then, start shutting the door behind him.
He may whine or bark and try to get out. If he does this, wait until he stops, then open the door to let him out. If you let him out while he is still whining or barking, he will think that you are rewarding his bad behaviour. Let him in again, but this time for a shorter amount of time.
Once your dog is comfortable walking in and out of the crate, start adding the word “crate.” Then, practice the command from farther distances and keep him in for longer periods of time.
For the first few days of crate training, you should increase time by short increments, but never over 30 minutes. The only time that he should be in the crate longer is when it is time for him to go to sleep.
SLEEPING IN THE CRATE
The first few nights you have your dog home, you should consider keeping the crate in your bedroom. If this is not possible, keep it in another room that is close to an outside door.
If you are training a new puppy, he will most likely cry during the night to be let outside. If he does cry, take him out.
If your dog cries in the crate and you are positive that he doesn’t need to go to the bathroom, but just wants out if his crate, don’t let him out while he is barking. If you do this, you will be rewarding him for barking and he will do it every time—longer and louder!
LEAVING THE HOUSE
Once you know your dog is comfortable in a crate during the night, you can begin leaving him in the crate for longer than 30 minutes during the day. Try leaving the house for awhile and see how he reacts.
If you can, listen at the door for any crying or barking. Or, leave a tape recorder so you can tape his vocals.
When you get back, immediately let him out of his crate, again with no praise. Then, let him outside to eliminate.
When you return, look for signs of separation anxiety. Did he have any accidents in his crate? Did he move the crate? Is his chest fur wet from drooling on the floor? Does he greet you frantically like he just had the most horrible experience?
If you see signs of separation anxiety often, you will need to see a professional trainer. More information about this is in Chapter 15.
Once you and your dog are on a regular routine, the crate will be even more useful.
USING A CRATE FOR HOUSETRAINING
A puppy will not want to eliminate where he sleeps, so a crate is an effective tool for controlling your dog’s elimination overnight or when you will be away from the house for a few hours.
Always allow your dog to eliminate before placing him in the crate and always allow him to eliminate once he is out of the crate.
If you think it is time for your puppy to eliminate, for example, he just woke up or he just ate and he does not eliminate outside, put him in his crate for 5-10 minutes. When the time passes, take him outside again and use your “go outside” commands. Housetraining with a crate will be explained in more detail in the next chapter.
TIPS FOR USING THE CRATE
The crate can be used as a great time-out tool. If your dog has been misbehaving, place him in the crate for 30 seconds. However, never use the crate to punish your dog for long periods at a time.
Try not to use the crate too often. It is certainly convenient, but if you use it too much, your dog will not get enough socialization with the family or exercise.
If your dog is sick with diarrhea or has been vomiting, don’t put him in the crate. Also, if he has bladder or sphincter control problems, you should avoid using the crate until you talk to your veterinarian about the problems (which should be done immediately upon discovering them!)
Before you put your dog in the crate to go to sleep, make sure he has had a chance to eliminate outside. Otherwise, he will cry during the night and he could possibly even have an accident.
Keep the crate in a temperature-controlled environment. It should be neither be too cold or too hot.