I’ve been working with many new puppy parents, as well as families that have recently adopted adult dogs. From each and every one, I’ve received the proverbial crate question: “What do you think about me crate training my dog?” Fortunately I have an answer: I think you should. Why? For a few reasons.
- Bedroom: Just like us humans, our domestic dogs need a place to call their own. And okay, sure, a crate may not be a large as an average bedroom – unless you’re in New York – but it can certainly serve a similar purpose: a safe, comfortable, warm, cozy environment where they can be by themselves.
- Retreat: A crate can also be that safe-haven “den” (or bedroom or crib) where they can retreat in times of stress. For instance, if you’re having lots of company, and your dog is overwhelmed, they can go off on their own, with a yummy chew toy, and chew until they fall fast asleep.
- Management: Those times when you don’t have time to train your dog, or supervise and monitor their behavior, a crate can act as confinement to help set them up for success. If they’re in their crate, they’re not roaming about eliminating on the new rug or chewing up furniture.
- Pet Preparedness: You never know when you might need to put your dog in a crate. Crate training is a huge part of Pet Preparedness. If you even need to evacuate because of disaster, many places will require that your pet be in a crate. As I teach my dog training clients, you want train it before you need it!
So, what are some of the best ways for you to get your dog used to their “sanctuary”? The training steps are pretty simple actually, but just like any new behavior, you need to teach them slowly, helping them create a positive association.
Creating a Home Sweet Home For Your Pooch: Crate Training Overview
- How to make the crate the best place to be: The “Do’s”
- Take the time to teach your puppy or newly adopted adult dog that their crate is a fun, safe, relaxing place to be. Make it comfortable with bedding the individual dog finds comfortable (not what we humans think is)
- Make sure the crate is large enough for your pup to be able to stand up turn around, and get comfortable.
- Teach your pup to associate their crate with all good things.
- Start slow and easy – treats for looking at the crate, going into the crate, then staying in the crate – for only a few seconds at a time. While you’re still there with them.
- Keep the door open until your pup is going in their on his own. Once your pup is going in on their own, you can begin closing the door, feed treats through the door. Let your pup out, then all treats stop. He’ll soon learn that being in the crate is much more fun than being outside of it.
- Feed him his meals in the crate
- Chew bones in the crate
- Food toys in the crate
- Crate’s can still be used for a “Time Out” since the punishment is more about losing out on something the dog wanted, like freedom or playing with a family member or friend. A Time Out for a dog should only be for about 20 seconds. And, if they already have a positive association with their crate, and 99% of the time good things happen in their crate, then they shouldn’t end up hating their crate. Just like when children are sent to their room, its not the room they hate but the fact that they lost out on participating in some other activity.
- How to teach your puppy or newly adopted dog to hate their crate: “The Do NOT’s”
- Refrain from shoving your pup into the crate and slamming the door, and walking away.
- Refrain from pushing your dog into the crate and leaving them there on their own, after never being left alone before.
- Refrain from leaving them in the crate for so long that they soil their crate.
- Refrain from using the crate for punishment only.
- Refrain from using the crate as a “Time Out” because of house soiling or some sort of house destruction. The crate can and should be used for confinement when house-training. But, if a dog soils the carpet, it’s the humans fault, not the dogs. You don’t want to inadvertently punish your dog for greeting you when you get home.
With time, patience, and consistency you too can get your dog to love their crate. You might create such a wonderful environment you’ll want to crawl in there too!
Joan, love your article and website! You have really arrived in style! Good job!
I am crating my new puppy, but on the days I work, I have no choice but to leave her in the crate while I’m gone, which is a long time sometimes. Will this hinder her training since she has soiled the crate? Again I have no choice because of my job, which makes me think I shouldn’t have gotten a new puppy. Any suggestions would be helpful
Hi Cheryl – To answer your question about hindering training, I would say that keeping your pup crated all day is not the ideal situation. Thinking outside the box for possible options would be a good first step. How about friends, neighbor, or family stopping by to help out? Or a dog-friend where you can have your pup spend time while you’re at work? Doggy daycare?
What if your dog uses the bathroom in the crate? Is this normal and how do we handle this situation..my husband lets them stay stuck in there with his own mess. should we do that at least for like a few hours? will that make them learn? help please…
Hi Lorry – Thanks for reading our post and joining the conversation. There could be a variety of reasons why your dog is eliminating in his crate. It depends on age, toileting habits, health, and stress level, to name a few. Read through the steps we’ve outlined. Make sure your dog is healthy, in the crate for only the length of time he can handle, make sure he’s not stressed. If you want to email us directly through our website, we can send you our house-training handout. You might also want to work with a certified professional trainer for help with crate training.
Is 8 to 4 in a create to much time each day? Mini foxy. She is so upset when we leave her. I feel a create would settle her and she wouldn’t damage my Landry.
Hi Rinny – not sure of all the details (age, learning history, medical history), but in my professional opinion, yes, 8 hours in a crate would be considered too much confinement at one time. You can manage the laundry situation, keeping it out of reach. But being left alone whether free in the house or confined to a crate is a long time for a dog – usually. I would reconsider your current plan. Working with a certified professional dog trainer who practices force-free methods could help you brainstorm.
We have 2 crates and new 10 week old puppies, should one crate be just 1 puppy? Like us humans we have our own bedroom.
Hi Dolores – thank you for finding the Inquisitive Canine, reading our post on crate training, and joining the conversation. I would say, yes, it would be wise for each puppy to have his or her own crate. This would help with training, teaching independence, and for allowing each dog to have their own “safe space.” Here’s to pawsitive adventures with your pups!!
Great tip about starting slow and easy. I need to get a trainer for my German Shepard. He doesn’t listen to any of my commands.