The sentence heard most often when crate or cage training is first suggested to new or existing owners is, ‘Isn’t it cruel?’
Absolutely not is the answer. A crate will become a space a dog can consider its own, a comfortable place to relax if tired and a safe one to retreat to if anxious. By nature dogs seek out small places and spaces to curl up in.
What are the benefits of crate training?
The biggest benefit is safety. If your dog is happy to settle in a crate whilst you are out there will be no chance of him harming himself by getting into things he should not, or by the same token harming any lovely furniture! Also dogs that travel crated in vehicles stand a much better of survival in a car accident than those sat on back seat or in the boot. But just as importantly there is little chance of them causing one by bouncing around loose as a distraction.
A crate helps with training. As previously mentioned any destructiveness can be avoided. But using one aids toilet training, as the restricted freedom and space will help pup ask to go out as most dogs don’t want to soil their own space. Most dog owners know that worrying feeling during house breaking when puppy has gone quiet and out of sight!
Being controlled and happy in a crate helps a dog be a great pet. He is happy to go away and settle if non pet friendly visitors or small children visit, he’s not concerned about being crated if he ever needs to stay in over night for veterinary treatment or has to visit kennels when you take a holiday.
What sort of crate will I need?
It is important that the crate is not too small. The dog should be able to stand, sit, move and lie stretched out comfortably. But also don’t buy too big, particularly if using with a puppy to aid toilet training. Your Puppy shouldn’t be able to soil his crate and move high and dry away from any mess. Try to avoid fabric crates with dogs that are new to crating, we don’t want them using chewing their way out as an option. So metal or plastic (airline type) crates are best. Inside the new crate there should be water and comfortable bedding. When you have your new crate you need to place it in a quiet corner, away from radiators or any draughts.
How do I Crate train a new dog?
How long crate training will take depends on your dog’s age, temperament and past experiences. But it is important to remember NEVER to force your dog into the crate. This is to become a really great place to be, not a negative one related with punishment.
Stage One: Introducing the crate
Once you have placed the crate in a quiet corner, leave its door open at all times. In a place close to the crate, but out of the dogs reach, have some treats at the ready. If the dog investigates the crate throw the treat in for the dog to take. Any time the dog freely approaches or goes into the crate continue to throw in a treat each time. Continue at this stage until you can see dog is fully comfortable moving in and out and there is no hesitation to take the treat within.
Stage Two: Feeding in the crate:
Now your dog is no longer wary of his new crate and already beginning to associate it with food reward, now we can begin to feed his meals as part of his crate training. At his meal time, place his food bowl just inside the door. It is ok if he eats his meal with just his head inside. Once he is comfortable with this gradually move the bowl towards the back of the crate with each meal time, until he is happily eating his meal with his whole body inside. Remember to continue to leave the door open so he can leave as soon as he wishes.
Stage Three: Progressing with the crate at mealtimes:
Now that your dog is happily eating his meal inside the crate, we will begin to look for the dog to enter the crate to make his dinner arrive. Many dogs will happily put themselves into the crate in anticipation of their meal when you move towards it with their food bowl at this point. But if not, be patient. Move to the crate with the food and wait as soon as the dog goes towards the open door food goes in for the dog. Continue this stage until dog is moving into the crate of his own accord ready for the food to arrive.
Stage Four: Starting to Shut the door of the Crate:
We now have a dog that jumps in to his crate ready for his meal to be delivered in the crate and eats happily. Whilst the dog is eating his meal shut the door of the crate and leave it shut for a few minutes whilst eating and open again before the meal is finished. Repeat this for a few meals times. If the dog is still happy, begin to leave the door closed for just a few minutes after the meal is finished. REMEMBER at this stage you need to remain beside the crate. If the dog continues to be unfazed begin to gradually increase the length of time before the door is opened. At this point the getting into the crate can begin to be named. Each time dog gets in say a word such as ‘bed’ before delivering the meal. This word will become the cue or command for the dog to get inside the crate when you require.
Stage Five: Leaving the dog alone in the Crate:
When your dog is sitting happily after a meal for a few minutes after the meal is finished. You can move forward to begin leaving the crate side for brief periods whilst the dog is eating. Continue to do this lengthening your absence each time until dog is happy for you to be out of sight for the whole meal and then few minutes after the meal is finished.
Stage Six: Moving forward to non meal times and overnight:
You dog will now associate the crate with great things, he should happily move into it on command at meal times and be happy to mean in there for short periods without you present. Now begin asking for him to enter the crate and rewarding him with a chew or ‘Kong type’ toy stuffed with treats to busy himself with and leaving him in for short periods. Remember that all chews, Kongs or toys must be too large for dog to swallow. At first remain in and around the house gradually building up to staying in overnight (if you require).
Problem Solving and Things to Remember
All dog collars and harnesses MUST be removed if being left unsupervised in a crate at anytime.
When building up duration of time spent in the crate remember to open the door only when the dog is calm and quiet. If he is unsettled or making a noise wait for this to subside before opening the door and lessen the time in the next session before building back up once more.
When training puppies remember most will need to toilet every 2-3 hours, so be aware the noise may be asking for a toilet break. If you think this is the case, let them out to relieve themselves with as little interaction as possible putting them back in the crate for a few minutes after. Then letting them out once calm and quiet. Puppies should not spend very long periods crated.
Many Thanks to Jo Tristram for her invaluable input into this article.
Copyright Doggie Solutions Ltd 2014