Crate training is commonly misperceived as cruel imprisonment for your pet, but the reality is quite the opposite. Crate training has been proven to reduce anxiety and benefit emotional regulation in pets. Using a crate can prevent destructive behaviors and help your pet feel less overwhelmed. Your specific experience with crating your pet may look different depending on the size, age, and breed of your dog, but the general idea remains the same. The training process can take weeks or months, and remaining patient with your pup is crucial. As you navigate through these steps in your pet’s training, keep the following tips in mind.
Preparation and Planning:
- Buying a crate – When purchasing your pet’s first crate, it’s important to keep their size and behavior in mind. Some dogs may require different types of crates (wire, airline, etc.) to best accommodate their needs. The size of the crate depends on the size of your dog. The dog should be able to stand up and comfortably turn around in the crate.
- Materials – Once you have selected the proper crate, you need to make the inside of the space comfortable. Get soft, relaxing bedding, a small water bowl, treats, and one or two toys with a familiar scent on them.
- Placement – Start by placing the crate in a frequented area of the house, and remove the door. Let the dog sniff and explore the crate until they are comfortable with it. Encourage curious behavior and reward them for stepping in when unprompted.
- Meals/Treats – Now that your dog is familiar with the crate, it is time to formally introduce training. Start by placing treats or small meals in the crate and encouraging them to go in. When they do, reward them with treats/pets. This will encourage them to repeat the same behaviors and establish a good relationship between the crate and your pet. It is important to slowly acclimate them to the space. Once they are comfortable with eating a meal in the crate, close the door until they are finished, and slowly work your way up to longer crate times. If they are showing signs of anxiety or fear when in the crate, you may be moving too quickly.
- Cue – Create a cue or command for your dog as they go into the crate, just as you would for ‘sit’ or ‘stay’. Commands will help acclimate the pet to the specific behavior you are teaching them.
- Time – As your dog gets more comfortable with the crate, you can start the process of keeping it closed for longer periods. Start with 10-minute intervals where you are either in or close to the room during each cycle, and work your way up. Once they can sit in the crate quietly for 30 mins or more, you should be able to leave them for short periods. If done slowly and properly, your dog may be ready to spend nights in the crate. The crate, however, should not be used for very long periods. Properly trained adult dogs with no underlying health conditions should only stay in the crate overnight or for 6-8 hours, and puppies should not be in a crate for more than 4 -5. Long periods in the crate will give your dog a negative relationship with the crate and make training difficult. It can take 2 weeks to 6 months to fully crate train a dog, so stay patient.
And finally, the last thing you want to do when crate training your pet reacts negatively to their anxiety or any troubles they may have. Do not punish pets for whining, barking, or relieving themselves in the crate. According to how your dog acts and behaves in the crate, you might need to address a particular issue they are experiencing, but if the issues worsen, you may want to speak with a behaviorist veterinarian or restart the training process. Problems such as separation anxiety may need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis to fit the emotional needs of your dog. Reward good behaviors, and redirect bad ones. Patience is the key to successful crate training. If you keep your pet’s feelings in mind and follow the proper training steps, you should have a crate-trained pup in no time!