Crate Training Your Dog in 6 Easy Steps!
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Crate training is one of those things that you just have to know how to do when you get a dog. Whether you use the crate regularly or not, all dogs should at least be comfortable with being in a crate.
When I first brought Piper home, crate training was one of the first things I did with her. I knew since I would be working full-time I would have to leave her home alone most of the day. In addition to helping potty train her, crate training really helped her become more comfortable with her new environment.
Training your dog for being in a crate is an invaluable tool when it comes to traveling with your dog, getting them used to being at the groomers or being boarded, or helping your dog overcome their separation anxiety. And the best part is, it doesn’t have to be hard! With these 6 easy steps, your dog will be able to be left alone no problem.
There are a few things to keep in mind when you are crate training. The first is that you should never use the crate as a form of punishment. You want your dog to feel comfortable in their crate. It is their den. Their safe space. Never punish a dog by putting them in the crate.
Secondly, the key to crate training is being patient and consistent. I wish I could say that every dog becomes crated trained in a matter of hours but that’s just not true. Every dog is different. Stay patient, go easy, and be consistent! Lastly, crate training cannot cure separation anxiety. It may help a dog feel more comfortable while its owner is away but I cannot definitively say that crate training can cure their anxiety.
On to the steps!
Step 0 (???): Picking Out the Right Crate
Okay, I lied, There are actually 7 steps. But I don’t count this as a real step because it’s pretty self-explanatory that you need a crate before you can start crate training 😉 Make sure you pick out a crate that will be big enough for your dog’s adult weight.
They make crates with dividers so that it can grow with your puppy. You want your dog to be able to stand up and turn around. Any bigger than that and your dog will have too much room and it defeats the purpose of the crate.
Step 1: Introducing the Crate
Place the crate in a common area that gets a lot of foot traffic. Make it an inviting place by putting some blankets and some toys inside. At this point, you shouldn’t make a big fuss about it being there. Let your dog explore the crate. If they go inside on their own give them lots of praise and treats (training treats will be the best for this since you will need a lot!).
Step 2: Stepping Inside
When they have become familiar enough with the new piece of furniture it’s time to start getting them to step inside. Using treats (or whatever motivates your dog) gently lure them inside the crate. Do not close the door yet. We just want to get them comfortable with being inside the crate. This is a good time to start using a command such as “crate” whenever they enter. Giving them a treat at the same time you say the command will help them associate that word with going inside the crate.
Step 3: Meals and Nap Time
Now that they are comfortable with going inside the crate, start feeding them all of their meals in the crate. If your dog doesn’t immediately go into the crate to eat, start by putting the bowl just outside the door. Over several consecutive meals move the bowl closer to the back of the crate. This will make the crate a desirable place to be since this is where the food is.
It will also help with preventing potty accidents in the crate later on since most dogs do not potty where they eat or sleep. At this point, you may see your dog retreating to the crate for naps or quiet time. This is exactly what you want. You want them to see the crate as their own safe space.
Step 4: Closing the Door
Now is when you can start using the crate for its intended purpose. Get your dog to go inside the crate and, starting with only a few seconds, close the door while remaining nearby. Open the door and praise them heavily. Continue doing this, gradually increasing the time to half an hour while still remaining nearby.
If your dog whines or cries, ignore them until they stop and then open the door. Repeat that length of time until they no longer whine or cry. If you always let them out while they are whining, you will inadvertently teach them that crying equals out.
Step 5: Leaving the Room
It’s time to start leaving the room! Using your command, get your dog to go inside the crate and shut the door. Leave the room for about a minute and then return. Ignore any excitement or cries. When they are calm, let them out and praise them heavily. Gradually increase the time to about an hour.
Step 6: Leaving the House (Finally!)
You can now begin to leave them in the crate while you leave the house. Just as before, put them in the crate, shut the door, and leave the house. Start with just a few minutes, increasing the time to a maximum of four hours. When you return, doing as before, ignore any excitement only letting them out if they are calm. The key is to make leaving and returning as low key as possible. If you don’t see it as a big deal, they won’t either.
And there you have it! Your dog is now crate trained. As you can see, this is not an overnight thing. It will take time and every dog is different. Modify the steps as you need to and go as slow as you need to. If you are crate training and adult dog the steps are the same but it may take a little longer. Just remember to be patient and consistent and you’ll be able to leave your dog without any worries.
Do you have any tips that helped you crate train your dog better?