Crate Training 101
Crate training teaches your dog to accept his crate as a safe and familiar place. It is a helpful training tool, a way to transport your dog safely, and a lifesaver in an emergency. Dogs of all ages will benefit from crate training!
Crate Training as a Training Tool
Crate training is a valuable training tool. We can use crates during housebreaking, puppy raising, acclimation to new environments, and to eliminate behavioral issues.
Using a crate, you can expect to teach an adult dog housetraining within a few weeks. Puppies will take longer due to their smaller bladder capability. The more consistent you are, the more success you will have.
During initial training, your dog or puppy should be kept in a crate or confined whenever you cannot watch him. While your puppy is free in the home, you must be ready to take him outside if he starts to eliminate.
Puppies must be released from the crate at least once an hour. The dog's age and size will determine how often they need to go out. Once removed from the crate, take them out IMMEDIATELY. Do not allow the puppy to run free around the house before going outside.
When you are outside, take your dog to the same area each time and give your dog a cue such as “take a break!” Most puppies will eliminate within a few minutes of taking them outside. Once the puppy eliminates, give him some tasty treats, praise him calmly and happily, and bring him back inside. Now the puppy may be loose in the house, provided he is supervised by you 100%.
If the puppy does not eliminate, put him back in the crate for 10-15 minutes and repeat the process.
Consistency and following a schedule are the key to successful house training. For more information about housebreaking check out our Expert Tips for House Training Your New Puppy!
A crate should be a safe, pleasant place for your dog to rest. Your job is to teach your dog that his crate is a beautiful place, and with consistency, your dog will learn to enjoy his crate.
Begin by feeding your dog's scheduled meals in his crate. Puppies will need to go out to eliminate immediately after eating but can then be returned to the crate to rest and sleep. Another way to make the crate more enjoyable for your dog is to give him an appropriate chew toy. Toys such as Kong's are perfect for the crate. These toys are sturdy and designed to be stuffed (and even frozen!) with tasty treats. These long-lasting treats will keep your dog preoccupied and happy in his crate.
If your dog is not destructive, you can add soft bedding to the crate to make it more comfortable. However, most puppies and dogs new to crate training tend to chew on these items. Therefore, it is essential to monitor the dog regularly when adding bedding to the crate. If you have a dog prone to chewing, do not leave any bedding in his crate.
With consistency, your dog will learn that the crate is an excellent place to be—he gets to relax in a safe place and chew on something he enjoys. Properly crate-trained dogs are less destructive when left out of the crate. Puppies under 12 months should still be supervised in the house because the teething stage is a powerful stimulant for chewing.
You may find that your dog seeks out the crate on his own. This is because dogs are "den" animals and enjoy a safe, comfortable place of their own.
Acclimation to New Environments
A portable "safe spot" for your dog is a great way to acclimate to new environments; this is especially beneficial for dogs with anxiety. If you move, need to board your dog, or travel overnight, a crate will provide familiarity and comfort to your dog. It's essential to start crate training as soon as possible. The first night after a move is not the time to introduce your dog to his crate.
A crate is indispensable while your dog learns to be a well-behaved family member. Crates can safely contain your dog and prevent behavioral issues until your dog can be left unsupervised. Left to their own devices, most dogs will occupy their time by counter-surfing, chewing, marking, or raiding the trash. Utilizing a crate will eliminate these issues and prevent them from becoming a habit! Remember, teaching your dogs the correct behavior from the start is much easier than trying to eliminate established destructive behaviors.
Using a Crate During Travel
One of the most significant benefits of crate training is keeping your dog safe during travel. In an accident, a sturdy crate can save your dog's life. Crates should be secured in the vehicle so they do not slide or tip over in the event of a sudden stop. Therefore, we recommend something other than wire or mesh crates for car travel. At a minimum, you should use a TSA-approved airline crate. Ideally, you have a crate that has been crash-tested, such as MIM, Ruffland, Gunner, or Impact brands.
Crate Training in the Event of an Emergency
Emergencies are stressful for both dogs and their owners. However, a crate can be the scariest part of an emergency for untrained dogs. In addition, unexpected vet visits, weather emergencies, boarding kennels, and recovery post-surgery require containment. While you can't eliminate all stress during emergencies or vet visits, you can reduce his anxiety by making the crate comfortable.
Where to Begin
Our goal is to make the crate a safe, positive place for the dog. For example, you can feed your new dog or puppy his meals in the crate. By providing your puppy with his meals in the crate, he will look forward to going into the crate and associate the crate with positive experiences. In the beginning, leave the door open and allow your puppy to go in and out as he pleases.
Find the perfect place for your crate. Every dog and household is unique. Some dogs prefer a private room away from the hustle and bustle of the house, while others prefer to be in the living room, where the family spends the most time. With a puppy, keeping them close to an exit is essential so you can get them outside quickly to go potty.
Once your puppy looks forward to eating his meals in the crate (this should happen quickly), you can place your puppy in the crate and latch the door. Your puppy must relieve himself right BEFORE you put him in the crate. Initially, your puppy might bark, cry or whine in the crate. Do not let your puppy out of the crate if he is vocalizing or scratching to get out. If you let your puppy out before he is quiet, you are teaching him that these unwanted behaviors are the key to getting out of the crate. You can slowly work your way up to leaving your puppy in the crate for longer. Learning the difference between your dog's barks and whines will help you know if your puppy is whining out of frustration or because he needs to go outside.
Young puppies will not have the bladder control to sleep throughout the night. Place your puppy's crate in your room or a quiet location where you can hear him if he cries. It is usual for young puppies to need to go out several times throughout the night. Puppies will need to relieve themselves immediately, so carry them outside as soon as you let them out of the crate.
To reduce the times your puppy needs to go out overnight, limit his food and water in the hours before bedtime. For example, make sure his last meal is several hours before bed, and pick up his water at least an hour before bedtime.
What NOT to do with a crate:
Use as punishment - the dog will learn to avoid the crate, refuse to go inside, or become highly agitated to get out of the crate.
Use as a long-term place to "store" your dog- Adult dogs should not stay crated for more than a few hours. Depending on the age and breed, puppies may not be able to be crated for longer than an hour. A larger outdoor kennel is an appropriate alternative as a safe place to keep your dog for more extended periods.
Don't leave "training collars" such as prong collars or choke chains on when crated. A collar can catch on the crate and injure the dog.
Don't put the crate in a high-traffic area of your house. Instead, find a nice, quiet place for your dog, so noise and activity passing by him will not overly stimulate him.
Don't let anyone tease the dog in the crate.
Choosing a Crate:
A crate should be large enough for the dog to lie down, stand up, and turn around without his head hitting the top. If your crate is too large during initial training, the dog may use one end to relieve itself. Once your puppy is fully grown, this crate will be too small. You must purchase more than one crate in your dog's life.
Crates typically come in fabric, wire, plastic, or metal materials. Mesh and wire crates are usually collapsible, which makes them easy to store or transport. We do not recommend them for puppies or dogs new to crate training. These crates are easy to destroy. They should only be used on highly comfortable and calm dogs when crated. Instead, we recommend plastic Vari Kennels or crash-tested crates such as Ruffland, Gunner, and Impact. These crates are all very sturdy and safe for car travel.
Consistency is Key
Patience and consistency are vital when crate-training your puppy. Remember, your puppy's bladder will increase with age. As a result, he might not be able to sleep through the night for several weeks, but eventually, he will be clean, comfortable, and quiet in his crate.
For more information about crate training and how it can benefit both you and your dog contact Discovery K9. You can reach one of our expert trainers by calling us at 931.703.7787 or visiting www.discoveryk9.com.