Crate training your dog is something almost all trainers will suggest to you. Although you may think it seems a little cruel, the crate can actually act as a sanctuary for you dog. As long as the crate is large enough for your dog to comfortably lay down, stand up, and turn around, and as long as you don’t abuse the crate, it is a guilt-free way to keep Fido happy and healthy.
The crate can be your dog’s den. His den is his safe and personal space. Think of it as his bedroom. If taught correctly, he can go in there when he wants to chew on a toy, needs a little snooze, or just wants to get away from the craziness of the household.
So where do you start? Well here are a few don’ts for the crate:
- Don’t use it as a punishment
- Don’t lock Fido in there for too long
- Don’t force him to use it (at least not at first)
- Don’t put your dog in a crate and leave it in a place that is not temperature controlled such as outdoors, a garage, barn, or car
To begin training, keep the crate in your room, the living room, or somewhere Fido can access it most of the time. Leave the door open and make it comfy with a crate pad and a blanket or two.
Let your dog check the crate out on his own first. Don’t push him as soon as you introduce the crate to your home. Let Fido get used to it being there.
Once Fido is used to the crate being in his space, carry him to the open crate, coax him inside, say a command like “crate” when he goes in, and praise him to high heaven with treats and love for going in the crate. Repeat this several times.
It would be best to do this for a few minutes at a time, then walk away. Come back later and start the process again, but don’t try to do all the crate training at once.
Once Fido is comfortable with going in and out, close the door behind him, but just for a second. Give him lots of treats and love again. If he whines, let him out, but don’t give out the treats. Just walk away from the crate and carry on with your day.
Increase the time you leave the crate door closed little by little when you’re doing training sessions. Use tons of treats. If he starts to whine because he feels it is too long, immediately let him out and withhold the treats and continue the training later. Soon, Fido will be used to his crate and he won’t see it as a negative at all.With enough treats, he might go in there on his own just for the snack and the praise.
If you are leaving Fido in the crate while you’re gone, make sure he has a toy (but one he won’t be able to tear apart and choke on) and make sure it is extra comfy. I like to throw a blanket in the dryer for 10 minutes to make it nice and cozy for Fido. I would suggest leaving him in there for shorter periods of time if at all possible while you’re still training him. Run to the store for 30 minutes and see how he does. If you shove him in there for the whole 8-hour work shift after a day or so of trying to get him used to the crate, he may not think of the crate as a positive.
The training phase of the crate is all about being slow and steady. With puppies, it can really save your carpet, furniture, and shoes. Keep in mind, however, all dogs, and especially puppies, can only hold it for so long. They won’t want to mess in their “den” or crate because it is where they sleep, so if they do, know you definitely left him in there for too long. Keep trying, though.
Today, if my dog wants a little time alone to chew on a bone or if we have company over and it’s just too much activity for him, he will put himself in his crate just to enjoy a little alone time. It took us a little work to get to that point, but luckily dachshunds are very food-motivated. It’s a great thing for your dog to have that secure feeling place to call his own. Training your dog to use the crate the right way will be worth every minute of training.