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How to Train Your Dog to Use A Crate
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Crate training dogs can become an important part of everyday life for your family. Puppies take comfort in their crates while their owners are away. If your puppy is going to be left alone for extended periods of time while you are working or out of the house, think of your dog's crate as her personal bedroom. As you begin to crate train her, give the crate a special name that she will recognize as her special place to go and be safe while you are away. Keeping your dog crated while you are out of the house will keep your belongings safe from puppy attacks. Many owners find their couches saved from chewing, doors, and baseboards saved from marking, and the dog left feeling safe, comfortable, and self-contained within a confined space when using a crate. Puppies, especially, can become overwhelmed when left alone in your home while you are gone. If left to the entire house alone, your puppy could get into garbage or household cleaners, which could cause harm. Children's toys could also be destroyed, or other household items such as your furniture. For a puppy or an adult dog, an entire house with free reign is a lot of space to wreak havoc while you are away.
A crate big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around is big enough for your dog to rest, sleep, and quietly play while you are away from her. While you will want a crate that is big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in, you want to make sure that it's not too big. Too much space could make your dog feel uncertain and unsafe. If left with too much space, your house training dog may use part of the crate to urinate, separating a sleeping area from a potty space. This could mean if you have a dog who is going to grow a lot over the first two years of her lifetime you may need to partition a large crate off or use different crates as your puppy grows into a larger dog.
Depending on the age of your dog, it may take about two weeks and possibly up to four weeks to get your dog not only used to the crate but also feeling as if the crate is her home away from home when you are not around. It is important to use the same word each time you command your dog to go inside her crate.
You will need:
- An appropriate crate for the size of your dog.
- Treats for rewarding your dog and enticing her to get into the crate.
- Bedding and toys for comfort and entertainment while your dog is in the crate.
Some owners provide a small dish of water for their dog while in the crate. However, if you plan to be gone for an extended period, your dog may have an accident in the crate, leaving her feeling discouraged
Remember, do not use the crate as punishment. It should be a safe place for your dog. If she associates the crate with punishments, she is not going to want to be in her crate when you are away for extended periods of time.
The General Crate Training Method
Introduce the crate to your dog
Place the crate in a busy area within your home such as your family room or near your kitchen to introduce the crate to your dog.
Encourage her to enter
Bring your dog over to the crate with the door open for her to sniff and explore. Set a small treat inside and encourage her to go inside and walk around. Do this several times over the course of the first day you have the crate.
Feed inside the crate
If possible, you can give your dog a meal inside the crate to create a level of comfort for her.
Once your dog can spend approximately 30 minutes inside the crate with you at home without fear or anxiety, place her in the crate with a treat, your verbal command, bedding, and toys.
Leave the house for a short period
If possible, the first few times you leave the house should be short trips. Take a walk around the block, make a trip to the grocery store, or run an errand or two. When possible, try not to make her first time in the crate without you home a full day for you at work, for instance.
As much and as often as you can, repeat this process to get your dog used to the crate for longer times. Note that a house training puppy may only be able to make it for a few hours without the need to go outside.
The Night Sleeping Method
If you are training a puppy to sleep in a crate at night, you may want to start with the crate in your bedroom or any hallway near your room, so your dog feels close to you and safe.
Introduce and encourage use of the crate
Using the method above, introduce the crate to your dog with verbal commands and treats.
Leave her in the crate
Using a keyword and treats, leave her alone for small periods of time.
Begin your nighttime routine with your dog in the crate and the door open.
Close the door
Once your dog settles down, you can close the door while still talking to her and letting her know you are nearby.
Head to bed yourself
If you do not like the crate in your bedroom or a hallway near your bedroom you can move it once your dog is comfortable understands the verbal commands such as “let's go night-night” and begins to enter the crate on her own when she is ready for bed.
The Luring Your Dog into the Crate Method
If your dog is uncomfortable with the crate training process, you can lure her into the crate.
Use a food lure
Place her food inside the crate as a lure.
Encourage her to enter
With a soft voice, encourage her to get inside.
Keep her in while eating
Sit with the door open, blocking the doorway as she eats.
Encourage her to stay inside
Provide a comforting voice and tone while she is inside the crate.
Reward on release
When it is time for her to come out of the crate, make a big deal of releasing her. Tell her she is a good pup, and offer her a special treat reserved just for crate release time.
Each time you need to place her in the crate, try this method until she understands she is safe and secure as well as loved.
This method works for dogs who may have been abused or locked in small cages or crates for extended periods of time without love and encouragement. An abused dog may associate a crate with a past life and will be fearful of it. Showing her she is safe, and you will return while providing her love and attention will teach her to trust you and her safe space more over time.
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 09/27/2017, edited: 01/08/2021
Training Questions and Answers
Maltese Shih Tzu
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Trixie has been trained to use crate as her bed. She sleeps through the night with her bedding inside the crate and crate door closed. Every morning she barks to let us know that she is awake, so we can go and let her out. We wanted her to get used to being inside the crate during daytime so that if any guests arrive, we can keep her in the crate and she can have her own space as she is a restless and anxious dog around strangers and other dogs. For this we started training her by giving her meals inside the crate. She stays until the meals are finished and then barks to let her out. We also tried giving her stuffed kong and letting her inside the crate. However she stays inside without our presence only for few minutes, then she starts barking to let her out even when the kong is not finished. I open the door, pickup the kong, again let her in after few seconds. She again concentrate on kong for may be another 2-3 minutes and barks. This repeats. How can we teach her to stay quiet inside the crate for long?
June 22, 2021
Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer
1133 Dog owners recommended
Hello Anjali, Check out the Surprise method from the article linked below. This method will involve allowing her to bark some, and waiting until she takes breaks on her own, so she can make the connection between taking a break and you rewarding, without letting her out when she barks unless you know she needs to go potty. If she barks continuously without a break in the barking even for two seconds for 45 minutes straight, then you can interrupt the barking with a noise like an odd sound on your phone, and reward when she gets quiet to listen. After several attempts at this, after a repetitive rewards while quiet, don't interrupt, let her bark for longer and see if she eventually pauses on her own for you to reward that. Add the hint of noise as needed but give long spans of time to try to catch her being quiet on her own too as she progresses, so she can make that connection between quieting herself and the reward. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
June 22, 2021
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Chewy has always had a little anxiety and been jumpy when you approach. He has now begin to growl a lot and snap. At first it was usually if you bumped him while he was sleeping or got to close to his face. Over time he has gotten more aggressive with growing and not backing down with it like he’s possessed lol. About 5 months ago he bit my 22 year old on the nose when she was trying to take a selfie with him he broke the skin he also has my husband on the foot and bit her friend in the face when he was to close to his face. Chewy is really protective of me and smothering with me. He sleeps with me most nights because he won’t stay in his bed he waits until I fall asleep then jumps in my bed. Sunday was the worst he was sitting on my lap and I was rubbing him then he began to growl, usually when he does that I move him off my lap because it’s a precursor to him losing it. Sunday I did not get him off when he was growling because I was talking to my husband next thing I knew he had bitten me in my mouth I went to hospital ended up with 9 stitches to my mouth. Chewy has a doctors appointment on Thursday to rule out anything medical however something has to be done. I just purchased a crate yesterday we have never used a crate. I now need to do something about his behavior.
Dec. 29, 2020
Chewbacca (Chewy)'s Owner
Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended
Hello! Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don't go too fast. Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Take the door off and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If yours isn't one of them: Bring them over to the crate and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is open and secured so that it won't hit your dog and frighten them. Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If they refuse to go all the way in at first, that's OK; don't force them to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If they aren’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days. Step 2: Feed your dog meals in the crate After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding them their regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, place the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If they remain reluctant to enter, put the dish only as far inside as they will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back in the crate. Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat their meal, you can close the door while they’re eating. The first time you do this, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they’re staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If they begin to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving them in the crate for a shorter time period. If they do whine or cry in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they'll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so they'll keep doing it. Step 3: Practice with longer crating periods After your dog is eating their regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short time periods while you're home. Call them over to the crate and give them a treat. Give them a command to enter, such as "crate." Encourage them by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time and then let them out. Repeat this process several times a day, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them in the crate and the length of time you're out of sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can begin leaving them crated when you're gone for short time periods and/or letting them sleep there at night. This may take several days or weeks. Step 4, Part A: Crate your dog when you leave After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put them in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave them with a few safe toys in the crate. Vary the moment during your "getting ready to leave" routine that you put your dog in the crate. Although they shouldn't be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate them anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don't make your departures emotional and prolonged—they should be matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give them a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly. When you return home, don't reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to them in an enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low-key to avoid increasing their anxiety over when you will return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you're home so they don't associate crating with being left alone. Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at night Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine to be let outside. Older dogs should also initially be kept nearby so they don't associate the crate with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Potential problems Whining: If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from their crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at them or pounding on the crate will only make things worse. If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. If they respond and become excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again. Separation anxiety: Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get injured in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counterconditioning and desensitization procedures.
Dec. 29, 2020