Crate training is a very safe and effective way of keeping your dog out of trouble while you are not around and it helps with potty training as well. Whether you have a puppy with little control of bowels and bladder or an adult dog who needs some potty training help or who tears up the house when left alone, crate training is a great idea. Your dogs crate should make him feel safe and like he has a place of his own that he can go to when he feels tired or just wants to be alone.
Most dogs don’t have a problem with crate training because their ancestors lived in dens. Their dens were their safe places, they went there to sleep, hide from danger, and raise their young. Most dogs that are crate trained as puppies will go to there crates on their own just to “hang out.” They consider their crates as their territory, so you should never allow small children to “harass” them in their crates and be mindful of trying to take things from them while they are in their crates. Crates should never be used as punishment, but they can be used as temporary confinement. You want your dog to know that his crate is a good place, his happy place.
Finding the right size crate
Most dogs will not “mess” where they sleep, so getting a crate that is just big enough for your dog/ puppy to turn around in is a good idea for potty training purposes. It is wise to buy a crate for your puppy to fit him as an adult. You can block off the extra space in the crate and make the crate bigger as needed until your puppy grows into his crate size. If you are using the crate to house a naughty dog that tears up your house when you are gone or for other confinement reasons, you might want something a little bigger so they have space to move around. Just be mindful that the bigger the area they have, the more apt they are to soil in their crate.
Types of crates
There are basically 3 types of crates:
1. Hard plastic, which are primarily used for traveling. These can be used to crate a dog at home as well as in the car and other places. Good for dogs who like to have a quiet place of their own, away from stress and excitement. Allows for easy clean up in case of an accident, just remove the top and spray or wipe out the inside. They come in varying sizes from Chihuahua to Great Dane.
2. Soft sided, usually made of nylon or heavy weight cotton, with a rigid frame. These can be used for crate training as well, but accidents are much more difficult to clean up. These types of crates are much better suited for transporting smaller dogs during travel. These come in sizes that are for smaller breeds of dogs.
3. Wire sided kennels, most widely used for crate/ house training your dog. They are more open and give the dog more of feeling of being in a bigger space or part of the family. They usually have a removable tray in the bottom for easy clean up of accidents. These types of kennels come in many different sizes.
How to Crate Train
When crate training, you should make the crate seem like a positive thing from the start. Make sure the door is securely tied or fastened open so it doesn’t close on a curious little fellow, put a blanket or a towel in the crate, put indestructible toys in, and some treats. Start out with the crate in an area where you are. Put some treats down close by the crate or even inside. Once the puppy/ dog gets close to the crate or even goes in, start putting the treats farther and farther in the crate. Once the dog is comfortable going in and doesn’t seem nervous you can try putting your dogs food in the crate. After doing this for a short time (few days to a week) you can try shutting the crate door while the dog is eating. Open the door as soon as they are finished their meal. Gradually increase the time that you leave the door closed as long as the dog does not seem stressed or nervous. If the dog exhibits signs of nervousness or stress you may have to decrease the time or start from the very beginning again.
Once your dog is comfortable being in the crate you can move the crate to an area that is better suited. This may be a laundry room, kitchen, a spare bedroom, or even your bedroom.
You can also train the dog to go into his crate on command. Every time the dog goes into the crate you use the same word or phrase. You can use “kennel”, “kennel up”, “get in your room”, or whatever your chosen phrase is. After hearing the same word or phrase repeated, the dog should go in on its own when the word or phrase is used.
Crate training does not work for all dogs, especially dogs that have severe separation anxiety problems. This sometimes even makes these types of dogs worse and they end up injuring themselves trying to get out of the crate. I have heard of dogs bending bars, breaking teeth and ripping out toenails trying to get out of their crates! If your dog does not seem comfortable in its crate even after slow introduction and patients, you may have to try an alternative method of house training. Sometimes putting them in a small bathroom, kitchen, or climate controlled garage can be helpful.