Crate training your dog can be quite time consuming depending on your dog's age and disposition. Essentially, the younger the dog, the earlier it will learn to use the crate and to obey you when you need him to use it. Older dogs may show much more resistance to being confined in a crate, especially if they have never been exposed to one before. Dogs belonging to active and outdoor breeds may be that much harder to train than those that are less active. Here are some helpful basic steps to make crate training your dog possible.
The first thing to do is select a crate for your dog. The crate needs to be large enough to allow your dog to stand up freely and should be just wide enough to allow him to turn around when inside. Crates are available in a large variety of styles and materials including metal, plastic and fiberglass. Select a crate that is relatively airy and easy to handle.
Crate Training Your Dog
Dogs associate places with feelings of both happiness and fear, so take the time to ensure that your dog does not start to view the crate as a place where it is punished and confined needlessly since this will only make the dog miserable and uncooperative. It is best to go about crate training in a very slow manner and to encourage the dog at every step. Don't try and push the dog to learn too fast since it will only develop an aversion to the process and your end objective will not be met.
Making Your Dog Familiar with the Crate
This is the first step in crate training. Your dog needs to get familiar with the crate as a place that is his and that is associated with certain activities where he is involved. Place the crate you have selected in a place where there is a lot of activity and movement like the living room of your house, or wherever most of the family chooses to hangout. Call your dog to the crate or bring him over if he is timid or shy and seems afraid of this foreign object. Never drag him to the crate by the collar or use any other rough method, as the dog will immediately start to associate the crate with unpleasantness and fear. Make the whole exercise into a fun game with smiles, laughter and let the dog 'discover' the crate, much like a new toy.
Getting your dog to enter the crate is another major task. Most dogs will respond to their favorite toy and treats if they are placed within the crate. Put a few treats near the door and just inside the crate at first. Slowly add more treats that are placed further and further inside until the dog shows no fear of walking into the crate to pick up his goodies.
Do remember that many dogs may simply refuse to enter the crate for a long time, no matter what you do! Do not hurry and leave the treats inside the crate for a while and the dog will definitely pick them up sometime or the other when his natural curiosity gets the better of him.
Don't hurry the process and wait until the dog is comfortable going into and out of the crate without any signs of distress.
Crate Training Using Food
The next step is to start feeding him his meals inside the crate or near the crate if he is still a little shy of the crate. In this manner you will build up happy associations between the dog and the crate. As the dog gets more and more comfortable with the crate, start to put his food dish more and more inside the crate until you have reached the back wall. Do not hurry the process at any stage and have lots of patience.
Increasing Crate Time
Once your dog is used to eating his meals inside the crate you can try closing the door while he eats. Again, don't force the event to happen, rather make it seem a natural and stress free process for the dog. Always make it a point to immediately open the crate door when he finishes his meal.
Once he is used to the crate being closed while he eats, you can try leaving him inside for a few minutes with the door closed after he has finished his meal. Don't try to make him stay inside for a half hour or so the first time you do it. The dog will not understand what is happening and will definitely start barking, whining and scratching to be let out. Instead try a few minutes each day and gradually start to make the time period longer with each passing day.
Some dogs will adapt to this very easily and some will whine and bark initially. Ignore the whining at first, as it will simply make the dog think that whining is a method to get himself out of the crate. Eventually you should be able to leave your dog crated any time it's necessary.
Crate Training Your Dog at Night
Now you can start to put him into the crate at night and to leave him inside the crate when you go out for short periods. Always make sure that he has some of his favorite toys around so that he feels comfortable. It is also a good idea to place some used T-shirt of other article of clothing of yours within the crate since it will make him feel more secure to be surrounded by your scent.
Call him over to the crate and give him a treat or two. Praise the dog and then quietly close the crate door before leaving. Let him out on your return and give him a treat to make him feel good. You should still continue to crate him for short periods of time even when you are at home simply so that he does not start associating the confinement with your absence or being left alone.
Here are a few tips that will help your dog feel more comfortable being crated.
- Use the crate judiciously and not as a convenient means to confine your dog. Excessive confinement will only make the dog cranky and encourage destructive and aggressive behavior in the dog.
- Adult dogs can handle longer periods of confinement in the crate since they do not need to relieve themselves as often as puppies. A puppy should ideally not be confined for more than three to four hours since they will definitely need to relieve themselves after this time.
- Make the entire exercise as painless and pleasant as possible for the dog. He must associate the crate with pleasantness and not look upon the confinement as a punishment, or he will not adjust well to the crate.