In the wild, a dog’s den is her home, a place to raise puppies, and a refuge from danger. Once your dog has recognized the crate as her personal space, it becomes her den, place to snooze, place to hide from thunder.
The primary reason for crate training puppies is house training. Dogs don't like to soil their dens and using a crate helps them learn to wait until they are outdoors to pee or poop. The crate also limits their access to the rest of the house while they learn other rules.
Crates are also a safe way to transport your dog in the car. Although having a den is natural for dogs, they won’t automatically like being in a crate and can learn to fear it if you don’t handle crate training properly.
How To Crate Train Your Puppy
Remember to not go too fast. Use a series of small steps. And always associate your puppy's crate with nice things.
- Bring it home and put it where he will find it
- Make it cozy with towels or his best pillow
- Put some treats or toys in there and leave the door open to encourage her to explore, play, or nap in there
2. Get Involved
- Call him to the crate and give him a treat
- Give him a command to enter, point to the inside with a treat in your hand as encouragement
- After he enters, give praise and the treat
- Close the door for a very short time while he’s in the crate with toys and treats
- Stay close and praise him when you let him out
- Extend the stay by a few minutes each time
3. Use Mealtime To Create A Positive Association
- Start with the food just outside and slowly move it in and back with each meal until you can close the door
- Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat, close the door while she eats
- The first time, open the door as soon as she’s done
- Wait longer each time to open the door until she’s able to stay in there for ten minutes after eating
4. Slowly Lengthen The Stays
- Slowly lengthen the time your dog spends in the crate with the door closed
- Then let him get used to you leaving the room while he is in there
- Increase the time until he is able to stay there for 30 minutes without you nearby
5. Leaving The House
- Do the same thing but leave the house for short and then longer periods
- Praise her when she gets into the crate but keep it brief
- When you come back in, keep your return low-key, not a big deal, ignore his excitement – it needs to seem normal
- Continue to crate your dog for short periods when you are home and nearby so she doesn’t associate the crate exclusively with being alone
- Keep the crate near you for overnight
- Puppies can only go 2-4 hours without a bathroom break
- An adult dog in a crate overnight should initially be kept close to you as well so he he doesn’t associate his crate with social isolation
Types Of Crates
There are several types of dog crates available. Here are the most common ones!
- Good for dogs that get hot easily
- You can buy a divider to section off the crate, so your dog’s area grows with him
- Many fold flat for carrying or storage
- Removable floor tray for cleaning
- Tend to be noisier than plastic crates
- Escape-artist dogs find that it’s easier to break out of wire crates
- Large sizes can be heavy and difficult to move
- Good for dogs who like cozy spaces
- Can be used for airline travel
- More difficult for escape artists to get out of
- There isn’t as much air circulation
- Dogs may get frustrated that they can’t see out the sides
- Hard to clean
- Very lightweight and portable
- Good for small, non-destructive dogs
- Good for car travel, camping, picnics, etc.
- Easy to store
- Difficult to clean
- Some dogs can eat their way out
- Smart dogs can work the zipper
- Can contain most destructive or escape-artist dogs
- Some are approved for airline travel
A puppy needs to be able to stretch out comfortable and not much more. An adult dog should have enough room to stand up to eat and to stretch out somewhat when they lie down.
If you get your puppy a crate intended for his full-grown size, use dividers so he won’t think one end of it is supposed to be the bathroom.
Tips For Success
Here are a few tips for successful crate training:
- Location – put it in a place where the dog will be around the family but that is quiet at night so the dog can rest
- Pleasant – make sure he has toys and treats so he has something to do and is not bored
- Cozy – line it with a favorite blanket or pillow, or a nice liner – if it is a mesh crate cover the top with a blanket so the dog feels safe
- Food and water – not needed overnight and that is the longest they will be in the crate
- Access – always leave the door open when not actively training so she will start using it voluntarily as a personal space
- Breaks – never leave the puppy in there long enough that he has to use it for a bathroom – no longer than 4 hours
- Patience – some puppies and dogs take a few days to crate train, some longer
- Using a crate incorrectly can make your dog feel frustrated and trapped.
- Never use the crate as punishment.
- Never leave your dog in the crate too long. They need human interaction and exercise to avoid depression.
- Puppies or dogs that are being house trained should not stay in a crate for more than 3 or 4 hours. Puppies can’t hold it longer and untrained adults don’t know they are supposed to.
- Crate your dog until you can trust him alone in the house. After that, it should be his sanctuary, his private place.
- No attachments (collars, leashes, harnesses) should be worn while in the crate.
- Whining - If your dog whines it’s hard to know if he needs a bathroom break or if he just wants out. Ignore him for a few minutes and then use the phrase he knows for the bathroom. If he reacts to that, take him outside. If you don’t think he needs to go outside, ignore him. You do not want to train him to whine to get what he wants.
- Separation anxiety - Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem.