So, you’ve just brought home your new dog – what now? You’re going to have to make some quick decisions in these next couple of weeks. You’ll have to choose a veterinarian, maybe sign up for obedience classes or puppy play dates, you’ll have to find the very best food for your new very best friend. There’s also crate training – to do it, or not to do it? What many pup parents don’t realize is that crate training is more than just a way to transport your dog or to give them a “bedroom” at night – it’s one of the most important safety skills you can gift to your dog.
Why Crate Train A Dog?
Learning how to crate train a dog is more than just providing your dog with a comfy sleeping area. A few of the reasons to crate train a dog according to the RSPCA include:
- Crate training makes housebreaking easier – Housebreaking a new puppy or an older rescue dog can be one of the more frustrating periods in dog training. Crate training makes housebreaking much easier. Dogs are natural den animals, which means they retreat to small, cozy, safe spaces for comfort and rest. Their crate serves as a perfect den-like space when living inside of a home. Dogs in the wild don’t like to soil their den space, and dogs in the home won’t want to soil their crate either. While housebreaking, learning how to crate train a dog gives you a way to comfortably limit their ability to slip away and find a suitable place for an “accident”.
- It provides your dog with a safe space – A den isn’t just a comfort space, it’s a safe space. When dogs begin feeling stressed or anxious due to guests in the home, strange sounds, thunderstorms, or any reason, the crate gives them a space where they can go to alleviate these feelings. With proper training, they will look to their crate as a safe retreat from scary or stressful situations.
- Allows for easy confinement – There may be times throughout your dog’s life when they need to be safely and easily confined. For instance, if you’re forced to evacuate your home for any reason, or your dog requires surgery that comes along with recovery time. Showing the dog that the crate is a secure, happy, and comfortable space gives you a way to keep them safe in any situation where confinement is necessary.
- Protects mischievous dogs – Some dogs have a difficult time resisting temptation, and their pet parents can’t have their eyes on them 24/7/365. A hound is going to use their nose to sniff out trouble. A husky might take out their excess energy on the sofa cushions if they haven’t been exercised enough. An anxious German Shepherd might take out their nervous feelings on your drywall if they’re left to their own devices. Having a crate trained dog is having a dog that won’t get themselves into trouble for any such reason. For dogs prone to destructive behaviors, getting into the garbage can, or chewing, crate training helps to protect dogs from themselves when you’re not able to have your eyes on them.
- Safe and easy transport – Dogs love adventure, and dog parents love going on adventures with their furry best friends. In order to have an adventure, you have to get to your destination first, and riding in a vehicle can be dangerous for an unrestrained pup. Just like how seatbelts save human lives, a solid crash-tested crate helps to save dogs’ lives as well.
How To Crate Train A Dog
Every dog is different, and every approach to crate training a dog might be a little different as well. Learning how to crate train a fresh puppy will take a different approach than learning how to crate train a rescue dog. The basic strategies for crate training a dog, however, will likely be the same.
According to the American Kennel Club, there are 9 basic steps to general crate training. The first is finding the right crate for your dog. You’ll want to make sure the crate is safe, that it’s escape-proof, and that it is the right size for your dog’s needs. According to Hills Pet, appropriate general sizing for medium to XXL sized dogs looks like:
- Dogs up to 40 lbs and 28 in long are suited to a 30-inch crate
- Dogs up to 70 lbs and 34 in long are suited to a 36-inch crate
- Dogs up to 90 lbs and 40 in long are suited to a 42-inch crate
- Dogs up to 150 lbs and 46 to 68 in long are suited to a 48 to 72-inch crate.
In an appropriately sized crate, the dog should be able to walk into the crate, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
Next, you’ll want to make sure the crate is regarded as a happy and comfortable space. It should never be used as punishment, and they should be introduced to their crate while they’re in a calm and relaxed mindset. Provide treats, special toys, and plenty of praise when the dog approaches or goes into their crate. This helps to give the crate a positive association for your dog.
Once your dog has a positive feeling about their crate, you can begin training them to stay in their crate for short periods of time with the door closed. Start with just a few moments in the crate with you in the room with them and repeat this exercise several times per day. As they grow more comfortable with closed-door crate time, begin leaving the room and allow them to have some crate time on their own. Gradually work your way up to having them comfortably stay in their crate, alone in the room with the door closed, for up to 30 minutes.
After you’ve mastered the 30-minute mark, you can begin leaving the home for short periods of time (up to a couple of hours) while they relax comfortably in their own den-like crate space.
How To Crate Train A Rescue Dog
While the old adage states that “an old dog can’t learn new tricks”, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Rescue dogs with unknown or complicated histories can learn to trust, to love, and to enjoy their crate just like any other dog. Approaching crate training with an older rescue dog may be a bit more complicated, but it simply takes a bit of extra love and patience to help guide them through to success.
A rescue dog may be more apprehensive of their crate depending on their history. Feeding in the crate or next to the crate and associating the crate with high value treats can work to gradually get them more comfortable with the investment of a little time. According to Diamond Pet, allowing them to explore the crate that their own pace is crucial.
How To Crate Train A Dog With Separation Anxiety
Crate training a dog with separation anxiety can be a challenge, as you’re not just training a dog to feel comfortable in their crate, you’re also training them to feel comfortable separate from you. According to iPet Guide, a combination of allowing for plenty of short-term crate sessions and incorporating comfort items can be the difference between frustration and success.
The short “few minute” crate sessions might take longer with a dog with separation anxiety than with a confident puppy and getting to the comfortable 30-minute mark might take longer still. However, it’s important for dog parents to remember that patience equals success for themselves and their dogs.
Comfort items like favorite toys, Kongs, and a sturdy crate pad can help to make crate training a dog with separation anxiety an easier experience.
How To Crate Train A Dog At Night
Nighttime crate training starts during the day. Crate time at night helps pet owners to feel confident and relaxed to tuck in for the night, knowing that they won’t wake up to accidents, a tipped garbage can, or any other mischief a young or bored dog may get themselves into.
First begin with daytime training to get the dog comfortable with their crate. Feed them near their crate, provide treats in the crate, and allow them free time to explore their crate in order to get comfortable with the space. Once the dog is comfortable going into their crate for daytime naps, eating treats, and playing with toys, they’re ready to be introduced to nighttime crate training. At this point, the crate is no longer an unfamiliar place, and it’s somewhere that has an already positive association.
Puppies may whine every couple of hours to be let out during the night, and they may put up a little more fuss than adult dogs. According to DogsNet.com, a frustrated puppy might complain once you turn the lights off and they’re away from you, but standing firm is important. Puppies will push boundaries, and if you know that your pup doesn’t have to make a potty trip outside, ignoring this minimal fussing helps to teach them that nighttime is for sleeping in the crate – not play!
How Long Does It Take To Crate Train A Dog?
The time it takes to crate train a dog will be different for every dog. The rescue pup with an unknown history and the dog with separation anxiety will probably take a little longer than the fresh new puppy bursting with confidence. The bottom line is that with consistency, patience, and positive association, crate training is a benefit to every dog and every pet parent.