Crate training can be a lifesaver, especially for new dog owners. But crate training isn’t just for us, crates serve as comforting escapes for our pups, especially when the hustle and bustle of family life or house guests becomes too much. But what are the benefits of crate training, what’s the best way to start, and what pitfalls should I avoid? In the following short guide, we’ll cover these questions and more. Here’s 5 things you need to know about crate training.
Why Crate Train?
From potty-training to safe pet travel, crate training is an invaluable tool for puppy parents. It can help manage an anxious pup when your short on hands, or help limit a dog’s movements when your home is occupied by unfamiliar guests, animals, or service professionals like repairmen. Plus, having a place your dog can go to relax—a space just for them—can provide him or her with a necessary retreat when things become too stressful or noisy. Having this kind of escape can be very comforting for our canines.
How to Choose the Right Crate
In addition to many sizes, there are soft collapsible crates and rigid plastic ones, metal types and various options made from fabric. So which one’s right for your pup? The perfect crate is just big enough for your dog to fit inside and easily turn around, with enough space for them to comfortably sleep as well. If your dog is growing quickly, invest in a larger crate to prevent having to purchase another one too soon. Remember—a crate should be cozy, not roomy, so in the meantime, simply block off the excess space using a partition or other method. In general, soft crates are best for travel, while hard-sided durable kinds tend to work better for daily at-home use.
Never Misuse the Crate
Misusing a crate can easily make your dog fearful of this useful training tool. Firstly, never use crating as form of punishment, and don’t leave them alone in their crate for improperly long periods of time. Dogs that are crated too often and for too long can develop depression or anxiety. As a general rule of thumb, don’t leave your pup in a crate longer than they can go without a bathroom break (for puppies, this is about 3-4 hours).
Crate Train Gradually
Crates are tools not quick-fixes. Attempting to rush the crate training process can spook your pup, leaving them frightened of crates for months if not for the rest of their lives. To start, keep the crate in a relatively busy area of the home, this way your pup doesn’t feel too isolated in the beginning. Make the crate as comfortable as possible as well, filling it with blankets and perhaps your dog’s favorite toy.
In the first days of crate training, leave the door open, even when your pup’s inside (shutting the door immediately can make canines feel trapped or punished). Get your dog interested in the crate by enticing them with treats and feeding them a few meals inside. Once they’re comfortable spending extended periods inside the open crate, start experimenting with shutting the doors and leaving the room. Begin with a few minutes at first and work your way up daily to longer and longer periods of time, consistently rewarding your pup along the way. As soon as they can stay in the crate for roughly 30 minutes without noticeable signs of anxiety or whining, you can start crating them when running short errands. It’s usually relatively smooth sailing from there.
Don’t Expect Too Much Too Soon—And Have Fun!
Crate training is not exactly easy or fast. It can take weeks to properly and safely crate train a puppy, sometimes even longer for mature doggies. Don’t expect too much too soon, or you could get frustrated and ultimately give up. Sadly, your dog can pick up on this disappointment, making the process harder still. Always keeping the process light and fun, and making sure the crate is associated with only positive moods and plenty of rewards, is the fastest track to success.