Crate training is considerably easier with a new puppy, but you can crate train older dogs too. Useful for toilet training and relieving anxiety, crate training is also valuable for teaching independent sleeping and for those who travel with their dogs. Understanding the basic principles and techniques of crate training enables you to effectively crate train your dog or puppy without causing him or yourself further problems.
Dog Crate Training Basics
One of the most basic and most important principles of crate training your dog or puppy is to never use the crate as punishment and to never punish the dog while he is in the crate. If you do, you will cause your dog to have an aversion to the crate and he will never be comfortable there. The crate is a safe space or den; therefore, your dog should only ever associate his crate with positive things. Additionally, a crate is not a means of locking a dog away all day to keep him out of the way. Even when fully trained, the dog should only be in his crate for short periods, up to a maximum of four hours while you are out of the house, and only if he is completely comfortable left in the crate on his own. Crate training requires time and patience.
Choosing a Dog Crate
Consider whether you want a small puppy crate, in which case you need to upgrade to a larger crate as your dog reaches his full size. Alternatively, opt for a cage large enough for your pup to grow into. If you opt to buy a large cage for a puppy, it is advisable to use a crate divider to block off one end, which makes toilet training easier. You can remove the crate divider as the dog grows. When sizing a cage, take into account that the dog, even when fully grown, must be able to stand up, turn around, and stretch out. If you travel in the car with your dog on a regular basis, choosing a dog car crate as a second crate is a great option.
Accessorising and Placing Your Dog Crate
Your dog must be comfortable in its crate, so you need to provide a soft, comfortable, well-padded crate mat for him to rest comfortably on. Additionally, to give the crate a more den-like feel, cover the top and the sides of the crate with a heavy blanket or vinyl crate cover. Place the crate in the corner of the room, which aids with mimicking a natural den. Make sure the crate is in the family room, or wherever you are. You can move the crate to your bedroom at night, particularly while you are still in training. Avoid direct sunlight, putting the crate too close to heaters, or in a cold draught.
Introducing a Puppy or Dog to a Crate
Take it slowly when introducing your dog to a crate. Set up the crate, complete with a crate mat, a bowl of fresh water, and a blanket over the top, leaving the doorway clear. Allow the pup to sniff around the crate and every time he approaches it, praise him. Leave a favourite dog toy or a tasty treat just inside the cage so he must enter the cage slightly to retrieve it. Praise him each time he achieves this. As he becomes accustomed to this, move the toy or dog treat further back and over several days until he retrieves the toy or treat from the rear of the cage. Next, get him settled in the crate by providing a special toy, such as a stuffed Kong, which he only gets while in the crate. Once he lies comfortably or sleeps in the crate, close the door but stay with him. After a few seconds, open the door and praise him. Repeat until you can leave him in the crate for five minutes at a time. Then close the door and leave the room. Return immediately, open the door, and praise. Slowly extend this period until your dog is comfortable left alone for an hour or two. You must always remove collars and tags from your dog before leaving him in a crate to avoid risk of injury or death. Never let your dog out of the crate if he is whining or barking. Wait until he is quiet for at least 10 seconds, before releasing and praising.