Crate training has been a hot topic of discussion over the years. Thankfully there aren’t many people that I’ve come across that balk at the thought of crate training their dog. It is a useful tool for the safety and protection of your pet and your home! Crate training is not a cruel and unusual punishment as some have claimed. In fact, the crate should not be used for punishment. A crate is your dogs’ own personal space, like a bedroom, or a den, such as we would see canines (coyotes, wolves etc.) using in the wild. I find that my own dogs will often seek out their crates of their own accord when they want a nap, or just to retreat from household activity. Sometimes our dogs need a break from us and retreat to the privacy of their crates. In fact, we train our pups to know the word “den” and they go in their crates on command.
Especially with young dogs, the use of a crate when you are away from home, or too busy to watch the pup is essential for safety. Puppies and even adult dogs get into mischief and will chew and will often be destructive when left on their own. Crate training is perfect for keeping the pup from destroying your home while it is learning acceptable outlets for chewing etc. In addition, in the event your dog is required to be crated, ie) for travel, or for instance during a hospital stay at the veterinarian, it will be much less stressful to all if your dog is acclimatized to being in a crate.
Crates should be large enough for the adult dog to stand, sit and stretch out. Ideally for a puppy, you start with a smaller crate, or block off one end, so he can’t use one end for sleeping and the other for eliminating. We want the pup to learn not to mess where it sleeps and eats.
Place the crate in an area so he is with you, and part of family activities, even as an observer. Do not put him in the basement. Place the crate in the kitchen or family room – if possible move it around with you. A night you may want to have the crate in your bedroom even for the first few nights. Not only does this provide comfort to the puppy, but your own sleeping patterns will encourage the pup to sleep. If you’d prefer not to have the puppy in the bedroom, often a ticking clock or low playing radio near the crate will help provide comfort. The first few nights or even a week may see your pup whining and carrying on when put in the crate but don’t give up. It will be worth it in the end!
I will never take a pup out of a crate when he is fussing, as that only teaches if he complains enough, then he can come out – rewarding bad behavior. Wait until the puppy has stopped complaining for three to five minutes and then let him out while he is being quiet. Be sure to give plenty of praise at that time. You can give him a special chew toy or treat when you put him in the crate. I will often toss a toy or tasty treat in the crate and give the “in your den” command. Most often the pup will bound in after the treat, at which point I close the door and walk away. Be sure to give lots of praise when he’s inside being quiet, and lengthen the periods you leave him in. Crate training should begin as soon as you bring your puppy home. Close the puppy in the crate at regular one-to-two-hour intervals, and whenever he must be left alone, for up to three or four hours.
Remember, putting your dog into a crate does not teach housetraining on its own. To be successful, you want to prevent your puppy from making mistakes in the first place, and crate training certainly does help in this process. Most dogs don’t like to eliminate if they cannot get away from it, so while in the crate they learn to ‘hold it’. When you let your puppy out of its crate, immediately take the pup outside and praise heavily when the pup eliminates in the appropriate spot. Many people punish a dog for messing in the house, and then virtually ignore the good behavior when they eliminate outside.
To prevent mistakes, don’t let your pup have the run of the house. He needs 100% active supervision. If you must leave the room, crate him or take him with you. The use of baby gates in an area that is easy to clean such as the kitchen is often helpful. This way the pup can have ample free time out and with the use of baby gates he or she can be contained in a one area. This allows for social time with family members but because the pup doesn’t have free roam of the house, it is easier for you to keep an eye on him. Having the pup underfoot in a contained area allows you to watch for any signs your pup might give indicating that a trip outside is in order. Also, most kitchens aren’t carpeted so if there is an accident it is easy to clean up!! Crate training isn’t hard to accomplish, especially if it is started early. It is worth the time invested to make your dog a well adjusted member of the family. Good luck!!