You should not leave your dog unsupervised until he is completely trained. Dogs under two years of age as well as older dogs having difficult house training or destructive chewing are excellent candidates for crate training. If you have just brought your new dog home, it is critical that you start crate training that day. Establishing a regular schedule and getting your dog accustomed to being alone are important for his mental adjustment.
The key to protecting your home and your dog is prevention. By successfully crate training your dog, you will be able to prevent him from learning inappropriate behaviour at home. The concept of crating is simple. Dogs possess a denning instinct. If introduced properly, their crate can quickly become their “room” or the place they can go to feel secure. The crate can also be an effective house training tool as dogs do not like to eliminate where they sleep.
Dogs of any age can learn to enjoy their crate as long as you are patient and make their experience pleasant from the start. Begin by ensuring your dog’s crate is the correct size. Crates should be just large enough for the dog to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. If it is too large, your dog may urinate in one corner and lay in the other, making house training more difficult. Next, make sure to put the crate in a high traffic area so your dog is not isolated when put in his crate. Once you have the crate set up in its location, it is time to start training your dog.
Teaching Your Dog to Like the Crate
- Start by opening the door to the crate and placing a small food treat in the middle of the crate. Praise your dog when he retrieves the treat and allow him to exit the crate as he chooses. Keep the door open and practice this until your dog is happily entering the crate to get the treat.
- Repeat the above exercise only this time place the food treat all the way in the back of the crate. Remember, the goal is to teach your dog to associate the crate with good things!
- Feed your dog his meals in the crate. Place his bowl all the way in the back of the crate. If he will not enter the crate, wait him out – even if he skips a meal or two. When your dog is hungry, he will eat in the crate.
- Next, give your dog his favourite chew toy in the crate. A Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter, cheese spread or moist dog food works well. Toss it toward the back of the crate and close the door briefly. Gradually increase the amount of time the door is closed. If he wants to stay inside the crate and play with his toy, then that is great!
Tips for Successful Crate Training
You should be well on your way to having a dog that is comfortable in his crate with the dog closed after following the above steps. Keep the following tips in mind while you are practicing:
- Crates are never used for punishment. If used properly, a dog is crate trained before he is able to chew a table leg. Never crate your dog after correcting him for inappropriate behaviour. He will develop a negative association with the crate and will not learn anything except to dislike his crate.
- Use praise effectively. Praise your dog for going into the crate and for staying in it quietly. Do not give him praise or treats when you let him out of the crate. It should be a big deal to go into the crate and stay there and insignificant to leave.
- Never give your dog treats or attention for barking or whining in the crate and never let him out while he is vocalizing. He may make a connection between vocalizing and getting what he wants if you do.
- Puppies under four months of age cannot physically hold urine in their bladders for eight hours. Make arrangements for someone to let your dog out every four hours if you are crate training a young puppy.
- Refrain from placing blankets or towels in the crate until your dog is completely house trained. Dogs can learn to urinate on the blanket left in their crate and push it into the corner so they don’t have to sit in urine. This makes house training more difficult.
- It is important to crate your dog while you are home as well as when you are gone. If your dog is in a high activity room, he can be with the family and in his crate at the same time. That way he will not learn to associate the crate with being left alone.
- Remove any constricting collar before putting your dog in the crate.
- Watch for signs of separation anxiety. Some dogs “over” bond with their owners and panic when left alone. These dogs should not be crated. Some signs of separation anxiety include:
- Urinating or defecating only when you are gone.
- Destructive behaviour focused around doors and/or windows.
- Excessive vocalization.
- Self-mutilation (i.e. raw nose or broken nails).
- Excessive salivating.