If you would like to know how to get your dog or puppy not to panic inside a crate, you came to the right place! In this post, we will reveal a step-by-step guide that helps you get any dog to feel comfortable in a crate. But first, let’s clarify a few things:
NEVER, ever, ever shove your dog in a crate, lock the door, and leave the room for several hours.
This, in my opinion, crosses the line into cruelty. Imagine if you were imprisoned against your will, just think about it. And, what if you had claustrophobia?
Never use a crate as punishment. You want to associate the crate with good experiences, which we’ll walk you through step-by-step in a moment. It is very important that your dog perceives the crate as his or her “den”- a special and calm place to relax and have some quiet time away from the overwhelming world around him/her.
Never have your dog with a collar, leash, or anything on them in a crate. You want to avoid anything on your dog being caught on the crate.
Don’t get a too-small or too-big crate for your dog. You want to get a crate that is the right size. For example, if you have a German Shepherd puppy, get a crate that fits an adult German Shepherd. You can use a divider for the crate and, as the puppy grows, move it farther inside to give the growing puppy more space.
Don’t give up! Crate training takes time. A lot of time. And patience. It might take several weeks to months of daily training to get your dog to trust that the crate is not a prison. Also, do not get disappointed with setbacks. Dogs learn differently than humans; sometimes, going back to square one is needed.
A Word of Caution
If done right, there are benefits. If done wrong, there are damages.
A crate is not meant to confine a dog for long hours while the pet’s parents go to work. If you do not have time for a dog, you have to find alternatives because depriving these amazing beings of their basic needs like walking, running, stretching, and relieving themselves is simply cruel.
In this aspect, crating can work against you. The reason is simple: dogs are social beings, and depriving them of enough interaction can actually lead to behavioral problems like severe anxiety, destructiveness, and aggression.
If you have to work, instead of confining your dog for hours you could hire a good dog walker who will also feed and change your pet’s water.
Or perhaps you’re fortunate enough to have a neighbor who will watch over your dog while you’re at work.
Some people leave their dogs during the week with relatives or have relatives come over to take care of the dog.
Another good option is taking your canine to a dog daycare.
Benefits of a crate
For those who are completely against crates and in favor of them only when a veterinarian emergency arises, or for when the dog needs to travel safely, I ask you this: Is it fair to suddenly lock the dog in a crate without any previous training?
Crate training is the process of making the dog familiar and comfortable with the crate. The aim of this training is to get the dog to perceive the crate as his/her safe haven, rather than a prison.
Consider these benefits:
It can be a safe space where your dog takes refuge from a noisy or busy environment around him/her.
It is essential in case of emergencies.
Some veterinarian emergencies require a dog to be crated, for example being created at the vet’s after surgery.
Some humanitarian emergency shelters only allow crated dogs with you.
It is a safe way to transport your dog by air or in a car. Check with the airline which crate is acceptable for them.
Crates safely confine puppies when you need to do something else. I still prefer a dog pen in this case. Whichever way you prefer, please do not leave your puppy for long in a crate.
Crates are great for senior dogs to escape from a busy household, especially a household with children and other dogs.
It helps with toilet training a puppy. My favorite setting is the one which a crate is placed inside a dog pen with puppy training pads.
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Whichever type of crate you choose, make sure it is the correct size. Your dog needs enough space to sit, stand and lie down in a comfortable way. For puppies, you want to get a crate that is the size of an adult dog. You can use a crate divider and, as the puppy grows, move it farther inside to give the growing puppy more space.
Fabric Crates – They are good for dogs that don’t chew fabrics. Their advantage is that they are lightweight, and usually foldable, making them convenient to carry. Their disadvantage is that they are difficult to clean.
Plastic Crates – Their advantage is that you can use them both at home and in transport. Be aware that airline companies only accept airline-approved dog crates. Another advantage is that plastic crates are the easiest to clean.
Metal Crates – Their advantage is that they have great air circulation. They are the best option for dogs that like to chew on everything because they will be harder to break. Also, some crates come with bottom trays that slide out for cleaning. But, be aware that there is a risk of your dog having a toe or paw trapped in a metal crate. I would suggest you read this article from cbc.
Wood Crates = They can have some really nice designs and blend in with your décor. They are sturdier than the other crates, giving better support to your dog. The disadvantages are that they are heavy and hard to clean. Depending on how they are made, they may also put your dog at risk of getting a toe or paw trapped.
Make it Cozy
If your dog is not a fabric chewer, you can leave a washable dog bed inside the crate. But if your dog tends to chew fabrics, it is advisable not to have a bed in the crate.
That is because of the risk of your dog swallowing a piece of fabric, which could lead to a veterinarian emergency surgery.
Play near and next to the crate with your puppy/grown dog several times during the day. Some dogs may go on to the next step, some dogs might need to stay a day or two on this first step. Remember that each dog is unique, and you need to be patient with your dog.
Put a treat right in front of the crate door and let your puppy/dog eat it. Then put a treat inside the crate but near the door. Praise when the treat is taken.
TIP: Use cue words or phrases like: “Crate”, “To bed”, “To your space”, “Go to your crate”, or any other word or phrase you wish your dog to associate with going inside the crate. Use it every time your dog gets in the crate to get a treat. It is important that you use that same word or phrase every-single-time. Your dog will become confused if you use a certain cue one day and a different cue the next day.
Gradually put treats further and further inside the carte until the puppy/grown dog has to get the treat from the very back of the crate. Always praise when the treat is taken. What we are praising is his/her courage to go inside an unfamiliar place to get the treat
NOTE: Some dog trainers would advise giving your dog its meals in the crate to associate it with good things. In my opinion, this is not necessary because the association with good stuff can be done just as well with treats, praise, and toys. Giving meals in the crate can be messy and hard to clean, especially if you are feeding your puppy a natural diet.
Leave a treat at the very back of the crate, and close the crate door very briefly. Practically let the door touch the crate and immediately open it again. Do this several times during the day. You may need to do this for a day or two. What we want here is to get the dog used to the crate door being closed.
Now you can close the door and give a cookie through the door bars. Praise, and open the door right after your puppy/grown dog got the cookie.
Expand the time the crate door is closed. Close the door, give him/her a treat and open the door after 2 seconds, then 3 seconds, then 4 seconds, and so on.
When it gets close to a minute of door closed time, it is best to give your puppy a Kong, or another interesting toy that will keep your dog distracted while the crate door is closed. Remember to always increase door closed time gradually.
TIP: Reserve the Kong, or another interesting toy, for crate time only.
From this point on, you can gradually increase the distance between yourself and the crate. Keep in mind that having a Kong or other interesting toy in the crate with your pup is quite helpful.
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Go briefly into another room, then gradually Increase the time you stay in another room. Please, don’t talk to your dog like you are saying goodbye forever. This will get him/her to be anxious and stressed when you leave.
Leave the house briefly. Gradually increase the time you stay outside. When leaving the home say a cue like “Bye-bye” “See you later”, or any other word/sentence you want the dog to associate with you leaving. Whichever one you choose, use that one every-single-time, to avoid confusion. You have to be consistent.
NOTE: Please don’t talk or act like you are saying goodbye forever. This will get your dog to be anxious and stressed when you leave.
After a while of crate training, add a hand signal. Try saying the cue word you chose and point to the crate. If your dog gets in it, give him,/her some treats and praise. Do NOT close the door when you first do this. Practice for a while, maybe days, before starting to close the door briefly. Increase time and distance as explained above.
If the dog barks while in the crate
If you open the crate door when your puppy or adult dog is barking or whining, he/she will learn that barking or whining will get them out of the crate. It is important to wait for when your dog is quiet before opening the door.
Having said that, you ought to be able to identify some of your dog’s vocalizations. If what you hear seems like your dog is in pain, then It is best to check what is going on.
We believe that taking your time and energy to crate train your dog will prove beneficial when a veterinarian emergency arises, or when your canine friend has to be transported via airline. Also, a dog that is comfortable in his/her crate can find refuge from a busy household.
This comfortable feeling can only be achieved with correct training, which aims to make your dog perceive his crate as his den, and not a prison.
We have happily shared with you a step-by-step to help your dog see the crate as his/her special spot.
In addition, I would like to say that It is crucial to leave your dog in a crate only when he/she is comfortable with it, including at night. During the day, a dog should never be crated for long hours. In my opinion, 3 to 4 hours tops.
How is YOUR dog’s crate training going? We would love to hear from you!
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