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Basics of Crate Training

Basics of Crate Training

Crate training is a useful tool to teach your dog or puppy boundaries within the home. Your dog gets their own private safe space, whilst you benefit from a well-trained pup who is content relaxing in an enclosure.

For a new puppy, a sense of safety and stability in your home is incredibly important to helping him/her adjust. It’s also a great segway into house-training. Crate training provides a comfortable space for your dog or puppy and allows you to establish a sense of order and control as your pet’s owner. If you’ve ever considering introducing a crate training schedule, you can now find out more on the benefits of crate training, how to choose a crate and how to go ahead and train your dog or puppy.

How you and your dog benefit with crate training

Crate training is a very natural process for dogs. In the wild, dogs would naturally seek out a den as a safe home. A wild dog’s den is where he/she feels protected from threats. When crate training is effectively carried out, the crate in your home will become your dog’s safe space, where they feel comfortable hiding in a thunderstorm, relaxing or sleeping. Many dogs even lay around in their crates with the gate open simply because it feels like their own safe space.

Dog owners often opt to introduce a crate training schedule for their dog or new puppy early on in the relationship to help establish the hierarchy within the home. Crate training can be used when working with puppies to help with toilet training. Because your pup should naturally treat the crate like their den, they won’t want to soil their sleeping space. You can take them directly outside once let out of the crate so that they learn where it’s appropriate to relieve themselves.

In the early months of having a puppy, owners may often find that they don’t have enough time to constantly watch out for mischief. It becomes extremely helpful to be able to contain them where they still comfortable, and on their best behaviour. When you do allow your puppy his/her own freedom in the house, you can then reinforce good behaviour and reprimand anything you wish to train against.

Your puppy will quickly learn that their crate is their space and the rest of the house belongs to their Alpha. Crate training is also essential if you need to travel or take your pet to the vet. Every dog should be taught how to sit and wait in a crate in these situations.

Quick tip: Crate training will help you establish the hierarchy in the home and is a useful tool for quiet time or travelling.

How to choose a crate for training

It’s important to choose a crate which is a comfortable size for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down in. While your dog should have enough room to be comfortable, you don’t want to choose a space which is too large. This will be counterproductive if you’re using crate training to help house train your pet, because they’ll have space to soil one side and sleep in the other.  Your dog instinctually won’t want to soil their sleeping space, so by limiting the size of the crate you can toilet train them more easily.

You can choose between plastic, metal or fabric crates. Many metal crates have adjustable inserts to allow you to change the size of the crate to suit your dog. This is particularly useful if you are crate training a puppy and don’t want to continually upgrade crate sizes as your pet grows. Metal crates are also much sturdier than plastic or fabric crates, and are easy to disassemble for transport. When set up, a metal crate also allows for plenty of visibility and ventilation which is more enjoyable for your dog. While metal crates are a popular choice for in-home set ups, plastic cates provide a good alternative for travelling with as they are lighter and provide a bit more privacy in busy environments. You can also use a fabric, collapsible crate for short periods but they are not as sturdy as metal or plastic crates.

Quick tip: Choose a metal or plastic crate which provides enough space for your dog to move around in comfortably.

The most effective crate training schedule for your dog or puppy

Crate training is generally carried out as an adjustment process throughout which your dog or puppy instinctually begins to appreciate having their own safe, private space. When you first introduce your dog or puppy to your crate training schedule, simply place the crate in a room and wait for him/her to head over and investigate the new object. When they do this, reward your dog with a treat so that they start associating the crate with positive experiences right from the beginning.

After your dog has investigated the crate, continue to create rewards and positive experiences surrounding the crate while your dog adjusts. They will be rewarded for good behaviour this way and begin to like and enjoy the crate. Serve your dog’s meal in the new crate, and begin by closing the door while your dog is eating. Leave the door closed for longer periods each time, until your dog is comfortable waiting around after meal times.

If he/she begins to bark or whine, then they might need to go to the toilet. Let them out to relieve themselves, but if they whine when they don’t need the toilet, experts recommend that it’s best not to let your dog out until they stop. Otherwise, he/she will begin to associate whining with being let out, which isn’t a habit you want to encourage. Young puppies shouldn’t be left inside their crate for more than an hour or two, as they can’t hold their bladders for longer than that.

Once your dog adjusts to spending time in the crate after meals, you can gradually begin to extend the periods of time they remain enclosed. If your dog or puppy shows no signs of distress eating and spending a short period of time in their crate after a meal, you can begin crating your pup for short periods while you’re at home. Using a command such as “bed,” call them over to the crate with a treat. With your dog inside the crate, reward them with a second treat and shut the crate door. At first, you can sit quietly with your pup for a short while before letting them out with another treat and some praise. Then, slowly extend the time period they remain enclosed until you can leave for 20-30 minutes without your pet showing any signs of stress. It’s usually a simple process to work from this point into leaving the house for short periods, or even overnight stays in the crate.

Every dog has a unique personality and training will need to progress at their own pace. Some dogs will naturally like their own personal space and feel very at home, while others will need to adjust to the new experience. Experts caution to limit the amount of time you leave your dog crated, as he/she needs space to roam around freely and be happy and healthy. Crating for extended periods of time can inhibit muscle development, and it also isn’t fair to your pup as they need social interaction.

Quick tip: Encourage your dog to associate the crate with a safe space, rewarding them with treats.

Things to remember about crate training

  • Crate training is a useful tool for establishing order and teaching your puppy who is alpha in your home.
  • It’s also necessary when travelling or transporting your pet that they can sit and wait in a crate.
  • Once you’ve chosen a crate of suitable size and material for your needs, begin adjusting your dog to their new crate through a rewards-based system. Your dog will always like things they associate with meal time.
  • If your dog is whining in their crate, they might need to go to the toilet. You can take them outside to relieve themselves, but if your dog does not go, then he/she may have been whining just to play or get out of the crate.
  • It’s important not to make the crate a place of punishment. This negates all of the positivity you’ve taught him/her about the crate.

A final note on crate training

Crate training is a useful tool to teach your pup boundaries and assist with toilet training. It also comes in handy when you need to transport or travel with your pet. It is a natural process where your dog begins to regard their crate as their own private, safe space. Having a dog who is crate-trained makes your life easier and most dogs grow to love their crates.

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