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Crate Training

Whether you have a new puppy or a re-homed adult dog, crate training is a valuable tool in keeping not only your dog, but your valuables safe. 

Puppies

Teaching your new puppy to love his crate can be one of the most important things you do.  It will (to name a few):

  • Give him a safe place to eat, nap, or chew a favourite toy

  • Aid in house training

  • Not allow him to make poor chewing choices

  • Have a safe place to go if he is feeling overwhelmed or nervous

  • Give you a place that is portable so he can have his safe zone even when you are travelling

When you bring your new puppy home, he will need to learn where to potty, and eventually to "hold it" for a limited amount of time.  Puppies learn very early not to mess in their sleeping area, so when picking a crate, pick one that you can expand as he grows.  He should be able to walk in and turn around comfortably and that is about all the space needed.  Much more than that and he will learn to eliminate in one end of the crate and sleep in the other end.  A movable barrier will allow you to adjust the crate as he grows

Puppies explore their worlds with their mouths.  Plus, teething puppies NEED to chew, so leaving a young puppy alone and unsupervised will almost always end with something inappropriate being chewed - and it will almost always be something expensive!  Putting them in their crate with something great and safe to chew on, or with their dinner, will help keep them busy and enjoying their crate time.

Lastly, putting your puppy in their crate during the day and night even when you are home can help avoid separation anxiety in your dog.  When puppies are put in their crate only when the humans are leaving, it creates anxiety around being put in their crate.  They start associating being put in their crate with you leaving and them being left alone.  That anxiety of you leaving can aid in creating separation anxiety.  However, if going in their crate only means good things (favourite toy, yummy food, etc) even when you are home, when you do leave, it isn't a big deal and your puppy is able to stay calm.

Adult Dogs

When bringing a new dog into your home, it is a great idea to teach them to love their crate, especially when their history is somewhat unknown.  All the same reasons apply as with crating puppies.  The biggest difference is that an adult dog may already have been taught to hate the crate.  If you live in a multi dog household, it is a great idea to have ALL dogs love going into their crate, especially when you bring a new member into the household.

One very important reason to make sure your dogs are comfortable in their crate is in the case of an emergency when you need to leave the area (the California wild fires of late 2018 come to mind).  Knowing your dog is safe and comfortable can go a long way when the rest of your world may be turned upside down. 

Do you plan on doing any dog sports with your dog?  Having your dog relax and feel comfortable in their crate will come in very handy!  Travelling with your dog?  Its handy here too!

The Hows and How Nots

With a puppy, it is pretty easy to get teach them to love their crate.  The same steps can be taken with an adult dog, with some changes if they strongly dislike the crate to start.  The basic guidelines are:

  • The most important thing to take away here is to NEVER force them in the crate as punishment.  The crate is NOT a jail cell!

  • Feed them all their meals in the crate

  • Have one high value and safe treat like a knuckle bone or food stuffed Kong that they ONLY get when they are in their crate.  When they are out of the crate, remove the toy or lock it in the crate so they are excited to get back in.

  • Avoid letting them out when they are whining, barking or making a fuss.  Instead, walk away and wait for quiet.  Approach the crate and try again.  Please note, this does not apply if your dog is fussing urgently in the middle of the night and you know they need to go outside.

Older dogs that already dislike the crate:

  • Drop food in front of the open crate door.  You may notice your dog not wanting to approach the open crate door or moving cautiously towards the door.  Be patient and perhaps drop a few treats further away and work your way closer.

  • Once they are happily chasing the treats up to the open crate door, drop a yummy treat just inside the door.  When they reach in and take the treat, happily toss a treat away from the crate to set up for another approach.  Repeat this until they are happily running to the crate and taking the treat from in the door.

  • Now, toss one treat into the crate so they run in to get the treat but don't close the door.  Allow your dog to walk back out of the crate and repeat few times a day.

  • Once they are happily running into the crate, you can swing the door closed and wait for them to turn and notice the door closed.  Don't wait too long then open the door and allow them to exit the crate.

  • When they are comfortable with you closing the door behind them, put their high valued toy in the crate with them and start closing the door for longer periods.  Stay close by so you can reassure them and pet them through the grate and wait for them to be quiet for at least 30 seconds before opening the door.

  • If you need to put them in there for a "time out", do it nicely by tossing some treats in while asking them to go in and quietly close the door.

  • Only let them out when they are quiet.  If they start barking or fussing as you approach the crate, walk away and wait for them to quiet down before trying again.

If you can look at the crate as their safe place and not their punishment place, crate training can be a valuable tool for housebreaking and getting your dog through their teething and chewing stages of their lives.  The benefits of crate training are endless.  Keep it happy!