Crate Training Your Dog

Give Your Dog a Safe Space of Her Own

What is a Crate?

A crate can be made of plastic or wire, and can be purchased at almost any pet supply store. Size is important; your dog’s crate should be just large enough for your dog to lie down comfortably, fully stand up and turn around. You can make the crate a comfortable space by placing dog beds or blankets, and some dogs like to have their crate covered with a blanket or a sheet to create a den-like atmosphere.

What are the Benefits?

A Crate is a terrific training and management tool, and the sooner you get your dog used to spending time in a crate the better. Crating your dog makes brief alone time, settling, and any form of travel easier on you and safer for your dog. A crate helps your dog in many ways, and it saves your belongings and your carpets from destructive chewing and house training accidents that may happen with new dogs. For more on house training click here.

Is Using a Crate Cruel?

Absolutely not. A crate can be your dog’s favorite place in the world. In fact, we hear from dog and puppy owners all the time, “My dog just loves her crate!” Think of it as her bedroom and a safe place for her to be. Use treats, praise, and toys to help your dog love her crate. You can even feed her all her meals in the crate to help create a positive association. Just remember to introduce the concept of being crated to a dog who is not used to it slowly and carefully.

How Long Can My Dog Be Crated For?

As long as your dog is over 6 months of age, she can be crated for 6-8 hours at a time. If your dog is younger than 6-8 months then refer to the puppy crating guidelines here.

Getting Your Dog to Love Her Crate

1) Begin crate training right away—preferably the first day your dog is in your home.

2) Play some crate games by tossing small tasty treats into the crate one at a time. Let your dog run right into the crate to eat the treat. As she starts eagerly running into the crate to eat her treat, you can toss additional treats into the crate (make sure she sees them) to encourage her to stay in there for a slightly longer period of time. If she pops right back out of the crate after eating her treat(s) that’s OK. Initially it’s about creating a positive association and not confining her.

3) If you want your dog to go into her crate with a verbal cue like “Kennel Up!”. Say the cue words first, then toss the treats in the crate for her to race after and enjoy.

4) Once your dog is comfortable going into the crate, practice closing the door for 1-2 seconds. While the door is closed feed her through the front of the crate and then let her immediately back out. Repeat this step many times, gradually building to 10 seconds. As you build up time in the crate also feed her from the top, the sides and the back so she is not always getting yummy treats right at the crate door.

5) Whether you are feeding your dog out of a brain toy (i.e. Kong) or a food bowl, use the crate as the place where she gets fed. Say “Kennel Up!” and place the bowl away from the door towards the back of the crate. If your dog is comfortable in the crate you can close the door while she eats and let her out when she is done, or just keep the door open.

6) Stuff a Kong with something very yummy or use a special bone that will take a lot of time to chew. Put the chewies in the crate. Shut the door. Move about the house normally. Let your dog back out after 5 minutes or when she finishes her treat. Don’t make a fuss over her. Repeat this step several times, varying the length of your absences from 1 to 20 minutes.

7) Next, leave your dog in the crate with something delicious while you leave the house for short errands, like getting the mail or watering the garden. Gradually build your absences.

Training Tips

1) When you plan to crate your dog for longer than an hour, make sure she is well exercised, has gone potty, and is ready for a nap.

2) Avoid rushing the process. Take crate training slowly and let your dog’s comfort level determine when you move forward through the steps.

3) Not every dog will run into the crate eagerly the first few times you toss a treat. Be patient, and for dogs who have a harder time, practice when she is hungry and use her meal or super high value food (i.e. pieces of cut up chicken breast). Place the treats close to the door so she just has to reach her head in for the yummy food and gradually place the treats further and further back. Get a few successes in and end the session while your dog still wants to play the game to help build her desire for your “crate games”.

4) Only release your dog from the crate when she is calm and quiet. If the door opens while she is pawing, barking or whining, she will quickly learn that those behaviors work to make the door open and you will get more of those behaviors. Instead teach her that calm and quiet behavior gets her freedom from the crate.

5) If your dog pees or poops in the crate, she has given you information that she was in there for too long or the crate is too big. Avoid punishing or yelling at her – it won’t help and being in a crate with her mess was a big punishment for her. Use this information as you plan for future absence and consider long-term confinement as an option if you must be away for a long period of time.

6) While most puppies and dogs will learn to love their crate, there are occasional exceptions. We expect dogs, especially when new to the process, to sometimes express a preference for being out of the crate by barking, whining, or pawing but your dog should not appear panicked, or be heavily panting, trembling or displaying other signs of severe stress. For these dogs, long-term confinement can be a better option. If you are unsure about which is best for your dog, please contact us.

At Everything Dog, we are happy to help you with crate training, long-term confinement or any other issue you are having with your dog. Contact us with your questions and concerns and let us help!

Denise Mazzola

Denise Mazzola


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