Many people have a false view of dog crates; they view them as locking your dog up. In most instances, this is not the case at all. Dogs instinctively use dens in the wild, and will often treat their crate as such. There are a huge number of benefits to crate training your dog (or dogs). Let’s look at why it’s such a good idea and how to go about doing it successfully.
Why crate train?
There are several good reasons to crate train. The most obvious is that it keeps your dog from getting into trouble while you are not around. It can help provide peace of mind to not have to worry about canine mischief while you are out and about. It can also be beneficial if you have more than one dog - they may be best buds when you’re around, but those dynamics can change if you aren’t. Crate training can keep problems from escalating.
Crate training also helps to train your dog. The den mentality kicks in, and your dog will avoid going to the bathroom inside their crate at all costs. This, hopefully, will mean that they will use the opportunity when they are let out of the crate to go outside and relieve themselves. It can save a ton of headache using the crate to help potty train your pooch.
What type of crate should I get, and how should I prepare it?
Plastic crates are ok for traveling, but they often don’t offer much visibility. We much prefer metal crates - they’re easier to clean and maintain, they can generally break down smaller, and they offer visibility out of all sides. Make sure it is big enough that your dog can easily stand in it and turn around, but make sure it is not so big that they can go to the bathroom in one corner and easily move far away from it. This negates the whole purpose of using a crate to potty train.
Introduce your dog to the crate with the door open and by giving treats to show them that it is a rewarding place. Favorite toys, a place to lie down, and maybe an article of clothing that smells like you are also nice touches. When the crate is not in use, leave the door open to encourage your dog to use it as they please - you might be surprised how often you find them in there as they get used to it.
How to acclimate a dog to a crate
After your dog has gotten used to the crate, start feeding them meals inside of it. Start with the food dish near the front, and gradually move it towards the back of the crate as they get more familiar with it. Once they are comfortable with that, start shutting the door as they eat. Open it when they are finished - they will soon start to see the crate as a good place.
Use a command, like “kennel” or “crate,” to start giving your dog more time in the crate. Start with short periods, only fifteen or twenty minutes, before gradually moving up to a few hours. Keep in mind that puppies can’t control their bladders very well, so leaving them in a crate for an entire workday without pee pads set up is a recipe for disaster.
A few notes
Do not always crate your dog just before you leave the house - if they get separation anxiety, they may start to associate the crate with being alone. The crate is supposed to be a safe space, so you may want to vary how long before you leave you crate your dog.
Along those same lines, never use the crate as punishment. If you teach your dog to fear their crate, it will never work as intended.
Continue to praise your dog for entering the crate when told, even long after it has become routine. It is good for you and them, so giving them a small reward for continuing to take care of business is a good plan of action.
Even with good crate training, accidents can still happen. Don’t get mad; just clean up quick with Bio-nihilator. It’ll help clear up any mess, whether it’s in your dog’s crate or outside of it.