The ultimate goal of crate training should be to provide your dog with a safe, cozy, and content environment that they can go to throughout the day and to sleep in at night. Once you acclimate your dog through crate training, it will also make it easier to travel and transport your dog to the groomer or the vet.
If you’re new to crate training, here are 10 basic guidelines you can use to have a positive, productive training experience:
- Use the right size crate. The crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in comfortably, but it shouldn’t be so big that they can run or jump inside. If the crate is too big, the dog will not see it as a bed and will be more likely to soil in one corner and sleep in the other.
- Don’t reward barking. When you first approach crate training, your dog will probably bark or whine to get out. Do not under any circumstance let your dog out of the crate if he is barking because this will reinforce bad behavior.
- Always leave a water bowl inside of the crate. The whole purpose of crate training is to provide your dog with a secure, comfortable environment. It’s also important to give your dog access to water when he is crated for several hours at a time.
- Don’t leave your dog in the crate for too long. This is where crate training can quickly turn from a positive to a negative experience. Do not leave your dog in the crate for more than four hours at a time. If you have a puppy, don’t leave it in the crate for more than three hours. If you work long hours, consider hiring a dog walker or checking your dog into doggie daycare so that he doesn’t remain confined in a crate all day long.
- Take your dog outside immediately. Crate training can be used for several purposes, but it should always go back to housetraining. Even as your dog gets older, he should be taken outside immediately after opening the crate to reinforce this behavior.
- Keep the crate in a quiet place. This will help to teach your dog that his crate is a place for comfort and rest. Loud noises and distractions will only be likely to agitate and upset your dog while he is in the crate.
- Choose a comfortable dog bed. Your dog will need something comfortable to sleep on in the crate; a soft, plush dog bed will make your dog more attracted to his crate as a place of rest.
- Don’t let children or other animals play in the crate. Your dog must see the crate as his sanctuary, and once he does, he will likely become territorial. Respect your dog’s private space by keeping children and other pets out of the crate at all times.
- Choose a simple command to encourage your dog to enter the crate. You may want to use clicker training to train your dog to enter the crate or a short command like “House”. Once your dog enters the crate, praise and reward him with a treat.
- Don’t rush it. Crate training is a process that will take time and will provide the best results when it isn’t rushed or forced. If your dog seems uncomfortable entering the crate at any time, back up in your crate training method to allow him to acclimate.
Start slowly by keeping the crate door open with treats inside. After several days of this, close the crate door with the dog inside, and then let him out. After several more days, leave the dog inside for longer and longer periods of time until he becomes comfortable in his new environment.