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Crate Training

Creating canine heaven

We all need a special place to call our own – a sanctuary of sorts. Your pet is no different. Part of raising a healthy dog is providing her with her own “safe haven,” and crates are a perfect solution. Most dogs can be easily trained to enjoy spending time in their crates.

Crate training is neither cruel nor unfair, provided your puppy has sufficient social interaction, exercise, and an opportunity to eliminate before she is placed in the crate. In fact, allowing your dog to wander through the home unsupervised to investigate, chew, and eliminate is unwise and potentially dangerous.

You and your dog will love crates

There are numerous benefits to crate training your dog:

  • Security for your dog

  • Safety for your dog

  • Prevention of household damage (chewing, elimination, etc.)

  • Help with housetraining

  • Preparation for travel, boarding, and spending time alone

  • Improved relationships (fewer problems mean less frustration and discipline)

How to choose a crate

Two basic styles of crates exist: metal collapsible crates with tray floors and plastic traveling crates. Look for one that is large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in – even when she is full grown. Provide the type of bedding on which your dog likes to nap, but keep in mind that your pup might be less likely to chew flat, tightly woven carpet samples or remnants than she is blankets or towels. If your dog must be left alone for more than four hours at a time, consider a pen or dog-proofed room for confinement rather than a crate. Another option is an exercise pen that allows a little more room to move about. Also consider a midday visit from a dog walker.

Because dogs are social, the ideal location for the crate is in a room where your family spends a lot of time, such as the kitchen, den, or bedroom, rather than an isolated laundry or furnace room. A radio, television, or CD may help calm your dog and mask noises that may trigger barking. Finally, for the crate to remain a positive, enjoyable retreat, never use it for punishment.

Training puppies

Introduce your puppy to the crate as soon as possible. Place treats, toys, chews, or food in the crate to motivate her to enter voluntarily. You can teach her to go into the crate on command at feeding time or when given a chew toy. Practice frequently by tossing pieces of kibble in the crate. Each time she runs inside, say “Go to your crate.” Eventually she will learn to enter when you give the command and point to the crate.

The first confinement sessions should be after a period of play, exercise, and elimination (when she is ready to take a nap or quietly play with a toy). Place your puppy in her crate with a treat and a toy and close the door. Leave the room but remain close enough to hear her. You can expect some distress the first few times your puppy is separated from family members, but she should soon settle down if she is tired. Never reward the pup by letting her out when she cries or whines. Instead, ignore her until the crying stops and release her before it starts again. If your puppy won’t settle in her crate, make sure that you choose a time when she has had sufficient play and exercise and that she has recently eliminated so she is ready to relax or nap.

As the crate training continues, be sure to give her a favored chew toy or food-dispensing toy when placing her in the crate so she has something to keep her occupied. Gradually increase the amount of time your pet spends in her crate. However, be certain to return and release your pet before she needs to eliminate.

If you have a regular routine for when your dog does to her crate, she may soon begin to enter voluntarily when it’s time to rest or to chew on a toy. Crating your dog is really not much different from placing a baby in a crib or playpen. You can use the crate in a similar manner, allowing your dog to take a nap or play with toys in the crate when you can’t supervise her directly.

Remember to wait until your dog is quiet before you release her from the crate. If she continues to vocalize, try the following:

  • Interrupt the behavior with a firm “no” command through an intercom placed near the crate

  • Gently throw an aluminum can containing a few pennies onto the floor near the crate

  • Use a device that emits a sound or spray of air each time your dog barks

These disruptions should be strong enough to stop the barking, but do not repeat them if they are not immediately successful or cause excessive fear.

Training adult dogs

Training adult dogs is similar to training puppies, except that the introduction period should be much longer. Introduce your dog to the crate by setting it up in the feeding or sleeping area with the door open. Close the door to the room or use a baby gate to keep the pet in the room. Place food, treats, and toys in the crate so your dog is encouraged to enter on her own. Add comfortable bedding so she is likely to stay inside and rest. Once she enters the crate freely, you can begin to close the door for short periods of time. Some dogs may adapt more quickly if you have crates available in more than one area of the home where the family spends time.

Some dogs do not deal well with confinement. These are usually pets who have not been properly crate trained, older pets that are used to more freedom, or pets with anxiety disorders. If your pet panics each time she is place in her crate with signs of drooling, destructive escape behavior, biting the crate (hard enough to break teeth), anxious vocalizations, or elimination, stop using the crate and consult our veterinarian. 

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