How to crate train a dog
Whether pet owners are looking to house train their dog, give them their own personal space or get them accustomed to the feeling of transport to the vet, crate training is an effective, efficient method of achieving all of these targets.
Crate training involves using a special dog cage to give your dog a space to call their own. It is a haven they can retreat to in order to feel safe and secure. It also gives them the opportunity to be alone – an important part of behavioural training. Overall, if the technique is performed correctly, your dog will learn to love the crate and think of it as their own den to relax and unwind.
What crate should I buy?
Before starting crate training, there are a number of factors regarding the actual crate that dog owners need to consider. The size, material and bedding in the crate (as well as dividers if necessary) all play a role in deciding which crate is appropriate for your doggy.
For instance, the crate’s size should be large enough to allow your dog to stretch, roll around and sit up straight without having to smack their head on the crate’s roof. However, this does not give owners free reign to buy massive crates; an overly large crate defeats the purpose of providing security and promoting bowel control.
In addition, a crate made from cheap materials is more prone to accidents. We all know dogs love to chew and metal wire is no exception. A cheap, thin crate will pose no challenge to a determined pooch!
In terms of bedding, the material should cover the entire base of the crate. If an area remains uncovered, this could signal to the dog that this area is reserved for going to the toilet. While the dog will inevitably have a few accidents on the bed during the training process, he or she will eventually learn the bed is for relaxation and security.
Setting up the crate
The location of the crate is just as important as the crate itself. Look for a place in your home that is neutral: consistent temperature, consistent footfall (so they can rest without being disturbed but not completely disconnected from family) and consistent environment. Erect the crate away from your pooch’s presence but, once completed, spend lots of time with them so they can get comfortable in their new ‘second home’.
Once your dog is comfortable using the crate, begin closing the door for short periods of time (while supervised). If your dog feels relaxed, try introducing unsupervised periods of time where the crate door is locked – this may seem to verge on ‘cruel’ at first but it is ideal for training puppies and dogs to be happy while left alone. However, unsupervised sessions should only be done in short bursts rather than extended periods time.
Using the crate
Short term confinement in the crate is intended to train your dog from eliminating (AKA going to the toilet) when in the crate, so that he or she will want to eliminate in an appropriate area when released. Bladder and bowel control are key principles of house training so this tactic is effective in make dogs eliminate at convenient times instead of whenever they wish.
If your dog achieves this goal, you should lavish him or her with rewards and praise – another key principle in dog training. You can use verbal praise, touch, a gift or a treat in order to show your appreciation of your dog’s behaviour. After all, it’s not hard to praise your dog if it is giving you the behaviour you desire!
This leads nicely onto behavioural training. A crate can be an effective way to work through any behavioural issues your pet may harbour. The crate is designed as a ‘safe space; it helps alleviate the worry that may be causing the bad behaviour. By getting dogs to use their crate as instructed, any behavioural issues should theoretically be nullified over time.
During the training, it is inevitable your dog will have an accident or a blip in their behaviour. This is no cause to get angry with your dog – there is a very slim chance of him or her getting it right the very first time, hence the term ‘training’. Punishing your dog for soiling the crate or chewing the crate’s bars merely sets them back as they will no longer view the crate as a safe haven.
Crate training should not be abused otherwise owners will be set back weeks in a training schedule. After all, the crate is not intended as a place to lock up a dog and forget him or her for extended periods of time. If the dog soils the crate as a result, it’s your fault – not your dog’s fault!
Crate training is not easy nor is it a quick win for dog owners. However, with time and perseverance, your pooch will learn to appreciate the crate as their own space to relax.