Are you a new pet parent? Or, have you had a dog for a while, but considering a dog crate for the first time? Have you ever wondered for what purpose people use dog crates? Read on for some helpful guidelines on what dog crates are suitable for and how to use them with your furry friend.
What are Dog Crates Used for?
At home, a dog crate gives your pup a safe and secure place all their own they can go to relax when they are feeling anxious. Many dogs use their dog crates like cozy dens in which to sleep.
Dog crates are also great for potty training young puppies. Most puppies prefer not to urinate or defecate close to their food. A dog crate that does not provide excess space is excellent for training your young pup to wait to relieve themselves until they are out of the dog crate.
Some dog crates are designed for on the go use with your dog. There are dog crates for air travel, car travel, and more. A lot of dog crates are collapsible for convenient portability and storage.
If you’ve got an unruly dog or a dog that escapes easily, there are dog crates to keep your pup safe and secure at home while you are away. If you’ve got an anxious pup with separation anxiety, there dog crates to give your dog security while providing maximum visibility so they can keep an eye on you.
Crating your dog while you are out running errands will give you peace of mind that your pup is not getting into anything harmful in your home like toxic cleaners or something they can get hurt on.
Is Crate Training Your Dog a Good Idea?
Dog crates can be great for your dog when used correctly. The key is to introduce a new dog crate into your dog’s routine slowly. Let your pup get acclimated to their dog crate. Provide lots of positive encouragement through praise, treats, and toys. Your dog should love their dog crate. It is essential to make the dog crate feel as comfortable for your pup as possible.
How Do You Crate Train a Dog?
Familiarize your Dog with the New Dog Crate
The first step to crate training is to get your dog familiar with the new dog crate. Your dog should have a positive association with their dog crate. You may want to place some things in the dog crate that your pup enjoys. These could include familiar blankets, toys, or treats. Leave the door to the dog crate open at first. Let your pup explore the dog crate on their own.
You can also help your dog get acclimated to a new dog crate by feeding them inside the dog crate. Let your dog eat inside the dog crate with the door open at first. Once your pup gets more used to eating in the dog crate, you can close the door while they eat. Make sure to open it up and let them out as soon as they are finished eating.
Increase the Time Your Dog Spends Inside the Dog Crate
Once your pup has become acclimated to the new dog crate, you can start the process of crate training. In the beginning, only close the door with your pup inside the dog crate for short periods of time.
Once your dog is comfortably inside the dog crate, close the door for 10-15 seconds. Open the door and let your dog out of the dog crate. You may want to give your dog a treat at this point and try it again. The goal is to slowly increase the amount of time your dog is comfortably inside the dog crate with the door closed.
Crate training takes time. It is essential to stay with your dog while they are inside the dog crate until they are entirely crate trained. Look to your pup for ques that they are ready to remain in the dog crate for more extended periods of time.
If your dog is happily playing with toys or eating treats while inside the closed dog crate, this is a sign the crate training is working. If your dog is whining or appears anxious inside the dog crate, this is a sign you may need to slow down. You can either give your pup more treats or decrease the amount of time.
Another tactic that many pet parents find useful is to mix up the length of time your pup is inside the dog crate with the door closed. If your dog appears comfortable inside for 15 seconds, try going up to 25 seconds the next round. Then go down to only 10 seconds on the third round. However, if at any point, your pup is distressed, shorten the length of time.
Increase Your Distance from the Dog Crate
Once your dog has become comfortable inside the dog crate with the door closed for more extended periods of time (up to 15 minutes), you can start increasing your distance from the dog crate. Begin this process slowly, just like with the process of increasing time.
Start by closing the door, walking halfway across the room, then walking back, and opening the door. Give your dog a treat. Keep doing this same tactic going a little further across the room each time. Eventually, you should be able to leave the room altogether without your pup getting anxious.
Increase Time & Distance
When your dog is comfortable inside the closed dog crate for about 15 minutes while you are in the room and comfortable with you stepping out of the room for a moment (and coming right back!), it’s time to increase both time and distance.
Start with 15-30 second increments of walking away from the closed dog crate. Increase this time until you can be away from the dog crate for 5-10 minutes at a time. If your dog is comfortable, increase the time. If your dog is anxious, go back to shorter durations until your pup is comfortable.
Crate Training Tips for When you Are Away
Once your dog has been thoroughly crate trained per the above steps, you can try leaving your dog in their dog crate while you leave the house to run short errands. It is a good idea to have your dog get into their dog crate anywhere from moments before you leave up to 20 minutes before your departure.
Vary the amount of time you have your dog getting into the dog crate before you leave. Your dog may get anxious or excited when they hear your keys jingling, or see you putting on your shoes because they know this is a sign you are getting ready to leave the house. Don’t make a big fuss about leaving the house. Instead, let your dog play with their toy or treats and quietly depart while they are preoccupied.
Don’t reward your pup if they get overly excited or rambunctious when you get back either. Wait for your dog to calm down before letting them out of their crate and giving them a treat. Make sure to keep crating your dog for short durations while you are at home. Otherwise, they will begin to associate the dog crate with being home alone.
Crating Your Dog at Night
If you want to use the crate for your pup to sleep in at night, start with the dog crate in your room or an adjacent room. You don’t want your dog to feel isolated. Once your pup is used to sleeping through the night inside the dog crate, you can move it. Slowly move it to another location in the house where you would rather keep it.
What Not to Do When Crate Training
Don’t Leave Your Dog Alone All Day
When you begin crate training, keep the duration your dog is inside the dog crate with the door closed short. Once your dog is fully crate trained, you can leave your dog inside the dog crate for longer. Your pup should be comfortable in the crate to sleep at night, or while you are out of the house.
It is not a good idea to leave puppies inside a closed crate for more than 3 hours. Leaving any dog alone in a dog crate for frequent, prolonged periods can cause depression and anxiety.
If you must leave your dog alone for more than 8 hours per day, you may want to invest in a pet sitter. This would be healthier than keeping them in their crate all day.
Don’t Use the Dog Crate as Punishment
Crate training is only effective if your dog has a positive association with their dog crate. Don’t use the dog crate for punishment. This may cause your dog to develop a negative association with the dog crate. A negative association will cause the whole crate training process to become very challenging.
Go Naked for Crate Safety
Your dog should always “go naked” when inside the dog crate. This means removing all leashes, collars, and tags from your pup. The reason for this is items get caught in parts of your dog’s crate and can cause your dog to strangle.
Final Thoughts on Dog Crates
Dog crates are great tools for home, travel, and training your pup. If used properly, your dog’s crate will become their sanctuary. You want your dog to develop a positive association with their dog crate. They should want to spend time inside the dog crate.
Just remember that the crate training process takes time. Go at your dog’s pace and progress through the training process slowly. Patience during the process will help you maximize the benefits for both you and your dog.