How to Crate Train a Dog
Dogs need to have their own personal space where they can find comfort. In the same way that humans need homes to feel protected, dogs also need to have a place where they feel secure and safe. When you’re out running some errands or when you’re sleeping at night, your dog can have a home where he can stay cozy and feel the benefits of being sheltered. Whether you’re a first-time owner who’s bringing home a new puppy soon or you have friends who crate train and you’re interested in the benefits, knowing how to crate train a dog will give you and your pet an improved sense of well-being. But apart from just giving a shelter to your pet, there are plenty of other benefits, too.
Why Use a Crate?
Some pet owners might ask why there’s a need to have a crate in the first place. Keep in mind that dogs are still a little wild deep down inside. They are den animals that need a secure place where they can sleep, because to a degree they’re still powered by inbred biological urges and survival instincts that cause them to seek protection from predators. With the use of a crate, you are fulfilling your dog’s ingrained need for a den. This is the perfect place where your dog can relax and sleep, and you’ll notice he won’t feel the need to always be on edge when he spends time here.
Apart from that, a crate has a lot of other uses. For one, it can be used for house training. Furthermore, you can use a crate to limit your dog’s access to all parts of the house when you’re not home. While your dog is still getting used to the rules and while you’re still training him, this can come in handy. Puppies tend to chew and bite everything they see, but they can’t do this in a crate. Getting your dog accustomed to a crate is also helpful when it’s time to travel. He won’t be scared to get in his carrying case when you need to head to the vet or go for a car ride.
Selecting a Crate
In providing a crate for your dog, it’s important you get one that’s perfectly suited to his size. There are different types of crates depending on your preference, too. You can go for flight kennels, which are crates made of plastic with top handles. Another type is a crate with a collapsible metal frame, although these aren’t portable. Crates are readily available in various pet stores. Just make sure that you buy the size suitable to your pet. Get a crate that’s big enough for your dog to be able to stand. It should also be large enough that he can turn around in it, lie down with his legs outstretched, and sit up straight without his head touching the top. Remember that it also shouldn’t be too big, either; if it’s too large, your dog might think he can use one end as a bathroom while you’re out of the house, and the crate also won’t provide the sense of security it needs to. If you’re getting one for a puppy, it’s more cost-effective to buy a larger model that comes with an adjustable divider so you can make it bigger as your dog grows.
Steps in Crate Training
The very first step that you have to do is to introduce your pet to the crate. Put the crate in a particular area in your house and keep it there all the time. It is strongly recommended that you place the crate in a spot where you spend a lot of time. Put it in your office if you work from home, or put it in your living room if you’re frequently in there watching TV. Once you’ve placed the crate in an ideal location, put on a towel or a blanket down inside. When everything is in place, allow your dog to see the crate and explore it, but don’t force him to get into it. It is the natural instinct of your pet to be curious. Once your dog has familiarized himself with the crate, he might start choosing to lie down there.
If your dog doesn’t seem to be interested in the crate, you can use small treats. Put these treats in the crate to entice him to go inside. If your dog still refuses, just let him be. Do not force your pet. Just keep on putting dog treats in until he finally feels comfortable going to his crate.
After your dog knows the crate and doesn’t feel sketchy around it, the next step is to start feeding your dog near the crate. Start serving his regular meals next to the enclosure, as this creates a positive association that makes it more enticing for your dog to go near or into the crate more often. When your dog finally feels comfortable with this process next to his crate, start putting the food inside the crate. In the succeeding meals, you can close the crate door, leave your dog, and allow him to stay there for 10 minutes or so after he has finished eating. If your dog wants to get out, it might be too early to close the door. Next time, shorten the time he’s staying inside the crate after his meal.
When your dog finally eats his meals inside the crate, the next step is to lengthen the time he spends in the crate. When he doesn’t have any anxiety, this means that he’s getting more and more comfortable with his new home. There are various techniques that you can try if you want to lengthen the crating period. For one, you can just call him over and hand him a treat as he goes into the crate. Encourage your dog to come to the crate by using dog treats. Whenever your dog comes near or goes into the crate, praise him and give him a reward. Repeat this process multiple times daily if you can. Increase the time you leave and allow him to be inside his crate so he can get used to it. When he really feels safe and secure, he will go there any time he wants. You might not even have to tell him to get into it anymore; he might want to just go quietly to his crate and stay there.
Crate Your Dog When Leaving the House
When your dog gets used to his crate, you won’t have a hard time leaving home. When you’re out, your dog should go into his crate to rest or to sleep. It helps to put familiar toys and dog treats inside the crate. Whenever you leave the house, don’t make it too emotional and make a big deal out of leaving. Just praise your dog and give him the treat when he enters the crate, but be sure to leave without much fanfare to avoid getting your pup excited.
Training a dog is not an easy task. There are potential problems that you might encounter. For instance, your dog might whine or might have separation anxiety when you introduce the crate. If you see these signs in the beginning, start taking things slower and repeat the early steps until you’re certain he’s not experiencing any distress. Eventually, he will get used to his new shelter and you’ll both be happier overall.