It wasn’t too long ago I ruled out dog crate training; I believed it was all hype! A dog I once fostered who was incredibly fearful and suffered with tremendous separation anxiety helped change that view forever. I guess until you’re in a desperate situation, crating does not enter your mind.
This particular dog was my most challenging, although very loyal and loving she came to me with many behavior issues. I had her tested for OCD and other behavioral disorders, but they were all ruled out. This little lady was a true tester, destructive, anxious, stubborn, fearful, dominant, jumping and constantly playful. I honestly thought; I never see the day whereby I’d be able to love and enjoy her in a calmer manner.
Dog crate training guidelines
Some owners believe it is cruel to shut a dog in a crate. When you first start dog crate training, it may take YOU more time to acclimatize to the idea than your dog. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter how negative you think about this brilliant concept; once a dog likes his new metal house, it will become their den; it’ll be cosy, comfy, secure and safe.
The key to dog crate training is being consistent with your plan, commands and lean towards the way a dog thinks, not how we think!
Dogs need a specific area to rest without fear of someone approaching them. Most dogs love crates, but there are the odd ones who dislike them. My Kaba is not fussed, but occasionally he’ll have a snooze in one. I never lock the crate door when he’s in one because he’s an easy going dog.
When you buy a crate, it shouldn’t be overly large. Like a plant potted in a pot that’s too big, it can do more damage than good. Your dog should be able to lay down comfortably and sit with an inch or two space above for his height. For and estimated guide follow the instructions below in the picture.
Divider crates are excellent, as your dog becomes older, you can remove the inner divide to make the crate bigger. Crate covers are also excellent; they assist in making the perfect hide out! However, be warned some dogs hate crate covers; it makes them feel separate from the pack (YOU) and can increase anxiety issues.
If your dog doesn’t chew, lay the crate with a vet bed or another type of comfy blanket. Water bowls can be left inside; however, accidents can happen such as tipping over. If you choose not to have a water bowl inside, then make sure your dog is removed from the crate frequently to drink fresh water.
A crate should always be positioned where you spend the most time, dogs love to feel included.
Encouraging dog crate training
Generally, puppies or well-behaved dogs tend to use their beds for space and sleep. However, some dogs fear the unknown, in this case it’s the crate. To encourage a dog to step inside a crate, you’ll need to sit inside with healthy treats or try using their dinner as bate. This would be a great bonding time and you can hand feed your dog to make him feel more comfortable.
Sit inside the crate at the furthest side – away from the open door. Put some food down and allow your dog to join you to eat his treats or dinner. You may find your dog runs out many times or may not enter initially, be patient. Keep doing this with lots of praise until your dog can stay there. Don’t expect an instant miracle, it could take a few days for him to respond. Don’t worry how many treats you give as this process is usually short lived. Eventually though, your dog will want to go inside spontaneously.
Never close or lock the door until your dog is very comfortable, that step may take a few weeks. During dog crate training always have a bowl of treats at hand to give to your dog freely when he is good.
For further tips on training check out How to train a dog the easy way.
Acclimatizing to dog crate training
Initially, your dog should be free to come and go from the crate as much as possible, his door should always be open. Once your dog begins sleeping comfortably in his crate, training for the door to be locked can begin.
Begin by getting inside the crate with your dog again. Close the door without locking it; hangout, relax together and give him lots of cuddles and treats. Should your dog become distressed open the crate door to let him leave. Once you believe your dog feels comfortable, move onto the next stage.
This last step of dog crate training involves your dog being inside the crate alone and you outside. Start with the door locked for five minute increments, if your dog isn’t distressed leave the door locked for a little longer.
Remember to give him lots of treats. Build the time up slowly until you’ve reached two to four hours or the maximum time you plan to be away from your home. Please bear in mind, dogs should’t be left inside a crate more than fours during a waking day; however, dogs can be left in a crate during a whole night if they feel comfortable.
- Avoid the crate being a place of punishment.
- Give your dog a bone or toy regularly.
- Should your dog soil his bed clean it up without fussing.
- During the day take your dog outside to pee or poop at least every 2 to 3 hours and just before you retire to bed.
- Stop giving your dog water at 7.30pm.
One last word about dog crate training, an unbalanced dog needs be crated frequently throughout the day. Your dog should never roam the house freely, but should always remain on a leash and stay by your side when out of the crate. Trust needs to be earned and earning that trust means your dog should do exactly as you ask at all times. You can give this type of dog more freedom once he’s learned the rules, but not before.
Remember to love and respect your dog during all types of training.