What is crate training?
“Crate training” is teaching your dog to rest calmly in a small kennel or carrier. Crates can be used routinely for times when the dog is home alone as well as when you are asleep. It is easiest to train puppies to use a crate, but adults can be taught as well.
Reasons to use crates:
- To prevent destruction to your home from chewing and accidents
- To prevent the dog from hurting itself if it has separation anxiety
- As a safe place, during storms, fireworks or when strangers visit
- When it is getting groomed, boarded, at a vet clinic or traveling
- In the event of an emergency and the pet needs to be evacuated
- During changes in your family situation – including moving, renovations, introductions or losses of pets or people from the home
Eight hours is the limit for crating at one time or less if the dog cannot hold its bladder and bowels for that long. Assume that a puppy can only hold its bladder and bowels for the number of hours equal to its age in months plus one. For example, a 2 month old puppy should be given the opportunity to go to the bathroom at least every 3 hours.
How to crate train
Crates can be a wonderful tool for dogs that need comfort, rest or a break from a stressful event. They are not to be used as a punishment; otherwise, the dog will learn to fear the crate. All children should be taught to leave a dog alone when it’s in its crate.
What should the crate look like?
The crate should be large enough for the dog to turn around in, but not so large that a puppy can have an accident at one end and walk away from it at the other. The crate size may need to be altered as the puppy is growing. Sturdy plastic carriers are a good choice for dogs under 30 pounds, but a metal crate may be necessary for a larger breed dog. It is normal for a puppy to chew what is in the crate, so putting bedding into the crate may not be a good choice for your dog. Instead, you can offer your dog several chew toys, as long as it is supervised. Bedding in the crate may also absorb accidents and make house training more difficult.
Where should I put the crate?
Place the crate in a quiet part of the home where the puppy will have few distractions and feel comfortable resting. Putting the crate in your bedroom or living room is a good choice so that the puppy is not alone.
Where do I start?
Start by feeding your dog’s meals in front of the crate opening. Once it is are comfortable with this, you can place the food just inside the crate. Eventually, you can move the food to the back of the crate. After the meal, offer some treats by reaching inside the crate or throwing treats to the back to encourage the dog to remain inside. Slowly increase the length of time between treats and have the dog wait patiently inside the crate until the next treat is offered. When your dog has become accustomed to the crate, you can close the door for brief periods. If the puppy is vocal in the crate, ignore it to avoid reinforcing undesirable behaviour. Continue to offer treats intermittently when it remains quiet. Gradually increase the length of time you leave the room. You do not want to trick the puppy and close the door when it is sleeping, otherwise it will distrust the crate.
Keep your puppy on a feeding and bathroom break schedule, so that if it learns that it will not be left in the crate with the urge to go to the bathroom. Schedule a bathroom break at the same time every night if one is needed in order to avoid accidents.
Any time a family member wakes up during the night, it will also wake the puppy. When puppies wake, they should be given a brief opportunity to go to the bathroom outside. Don’t play with them during the trip and put them back to bed calmly. Let them out first thing in the morning and again after their breakfast. During the hours that you are with your puppy, give it ample opportunities for proper bathroom habits and gradually decrease their frequency.
Want more info on crate training?
Please ask our technicians at Coventry Animal Hospital for more tips for your specific dog’s needs. Crate training isn’t an approach that works well for all dogs. It is a safe space for a dog but remember that they also need lots of exercise, mental stimulation and time with its family in order to thrive.