All About Crate Training
Crate training can be the most effective tool in your arsenal to make having a dog better. While some people might cringe at the thought of putting their precious little baby dog into a crate, the truth is the dog is not a little person.
It is easy to forget that dogs aren’t people (but we can love them like one). You would never put a kid in the crate, but it’s A-Ok to put your dog into one.
A dog is going to view it’s crate as a den and a shelter. Somewhere cozy. Somewhere good. Like we might want to relax in front of the fire in our den at night, a dog will be happy to have it’s own little place as well.
This is because genetically and in the wild, canine animals naturally make a den. They view this as their home. A female dog will make a den to give birth in and raise it’s young. They will return to it to sleep.
Your pet dog retains this same denning instinct. That’s why your dog will go to bed under a table, a chair, or even your legs as you work on the computer.
So the essence of crate training is to use this natural drive to our advantage to help your dog feel secure and well behaved.
Pretend you are a new puppy. You have just come home, but your owners must now leave for work for 8 hours. It’s just you in the big bad world now. All alone, you’re in a new environment and lack the needed psychological (and physical) skills needed to survive on your own.
In this situation it’s understandable you would be anxious, stressed, and nervous. This is why puppies must be crate trained. Otherwise they will attempt to relieve this anxiety with behaviors that us human don’t want like bark all day, dig out, chew your rug, and pace in circles.
So before your dog even starts to exhibit these problem behaviors, why not nip it in the bud? Crate training will do just that. A dog can’t physically dig out, eat your rug, and pace if he’s locked in a crate.
And for the biggest problem – peeing and pooping in the house – in 99.99% of cases, crate training dog will make him stop these problems. Dogs simply do not use the bathroom in their den.
What is a Good Crate to Get
In our opinion the plastic molded styles of crates are good. They provide the most protection for the dog and are well enclosed.
Will an open wire crate work? Certainly. You might consider putting a blanket over the sides to make it even cozier for your dog.
Just make sure it is not a good blanket. My dog one time early in his crate training chewed the covering blanket and ripped it up.
Also – make sure the crate is sized correctly. Too big is no good. It can feel overwhelming for the dog (especially for a puppy), and might cause them to use the bathroom in the corner of it. That is not what we want to happen.
Being a Leader With Crate Training
It is up to you take the initiative with crate training. You need to introduce the crate as a wonderful part of the dog’s life. Don’t just buy one and throw the dog into it.
Give the dog a few days to get used to seeing it around. Let it feel safe with it. This is going to be a lifetime skill for the dog do it’s ok to go slow.
Put good treats around and in the crate. Give words of praise and encouragement when your dog go nears it.
How to get your dog to stay in the crate
Here’s the best way to do this. You can use positive reinforcement to get your dog to go in. You’ll also need good treats and a clicker.
First off put your puppy into the crate. Use your clicker to mark this and give a tasty reward of his favorite treat. Then take the puppy out of the crate.
Then repeat, repeat, repeat. Hopefully your dog should start putting itself into the crate in joyful anticipation. You might also add a vocal cue (ex: “bed”) once he goes in.
To keep this behavior, next you start withholding rewards for a longer period of time. Wait a few seconds at first, then up it to around 5 to 10 seconds.
Also, you can increase the distance for this action. Start waling away and see how many feet away the two of you can be to have the puppy go into the crate.
The final trick is to sometimes NOT give a reward. Going to a crate should not always be rewarded with a treat. The POSSIBILITY of the treat is what should motivate your dog.
It’s Supposed to be Fun
The biggest mistake I see people make is treating create training as a chore, a punishment, or as a waste of time. Nothing is further from the truth.
If you make going to the crate into a fun game, both you and your new canine friend will enjoy it.
Also remember that just because a dog might whine when it’s in the crate, that does not mean it dislikes the crate. Chances are it is whining because it misses you. Just don’t reward it by opening the door because it’s crying – that is a sure way to teach your dog to cry for attention Just wait until it’s quiet to let it out.
Use it as punishment.
Don’t yell at the dog and throw it into the crate. Time outs are fine. But you must remain in control emotionally.
Make the dog live in it.
It’s just a place it can go, not it’s whole life.
Be gentle. Even if you know the dog needs it, be slow and gentle if needed. Your dog will get the hang of it.