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Crate Training Your Dog
04/07/15 at 01:45 PM | Published Under Dog Behavior
Crate training taps into a dog's natural instincts as a den animal. Dogs in the wild keep dens to hide from danger, sleep, and raise families. A crate serves the same purpose for domestic dogs – it’s a safe place for sleeping or hiding during storms.
Since dogs don’t like to soil their dens, a crate is ideal for housetraining. It also limits access to other areas of the house during training periods and makes a safe option for transporting your pooch. While crates can serve many beneficial purposes, it is important never to misuse it. Never use a crate as punishment, as your dog will grow to fear it. And take care not to keep a pet crated too long, or he may grow anxious or depressed. Puppies should not be crated for longer than four hours at a time, as they can’t control their young bowels or bladders beyond that.
Available in various sizes, crates range from hard plastic to soft fabric construction, on either a collapsible or rigid frame. Your pet’s crate should be large enough for her to stand up and turn around inside. It is wise to select a size to accommodate your dog’s anticipated full-grown adult size.
Depending on age, temperament and past experiences, the training process can take days or weeks. The most successful training is done in baby steps, and is always associated with pleasant rewards. So stock up on dog treats and dog toys!
1) Introduce the crate
- Place the crate where your family spends a lot of time, such as the living room.
- Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate.
- Take the door off so your dog can explore the crate at his leisure.
- If your dog doesn’t take to it, lead him to the crate and speak in a pleasant tone.
- Drop small treats nearby, then just inside the door and finally inside the crate.
- Toss treats into the crate until your dog walks calmly all the way into it to retrieve the food.
2) Feed meals in the crate
- Feed meals near the crate to create a pleasant association.
- Eventually place food at the back of the crate. If your dog resists, put the dish as far in as it will go.
- Once standing comfortably in the crate to eat, close the door while your dog is eating. Open the door as soon as he finishes his meal. Leave the door closed a few minutes longer with successive feedings until your canine remains inside for about 10 minutes after eating.
3) Lengthen crating periods
- Once your dog consumes meals in crate free of anxiety, confine him for short periods while you're home.
- Provide a treat and give an enter command.
- Give him the treat and praise before closing the door.
- Sit quietly near the crate 5-10 minutes, and then go into another room.
- Return, sit quietly again for a short time, and then let your dog out.
- Repeat this process several times daily, gradually increasing the length of time.
- Once your dog stays quietly for 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, begin leaving him crated while you’re away for short periods.
4) Crate your dog when leaving
- Once your dog spends about 30 minutes in the crate anxiety-free, leave him contained for short periods when you leave house.
- Put your canine in the crate using your regular command and a treat.
- Crate your dog 5-20 minutes prior to leaving.
- Make your departures matter-of-fact. Offer praise and an additional treat before leaving quietly.
- Keep arrivals mellow to prevent anxiety over your return. It is important to crate for short periods when you’re home so your dog won’t associate crating with being left alone.
5) Crate your dog at night
- Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially place the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway – especially with puppies that need to go outside to eliminate during the night.
- Once your dog sleeps comfortably through the night crated near you, gradually move it to the location you prefer.
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