How to Master Crate Training
By Jason Wright
August 8, 2023
Crate training is a valuable and humane method to provide your dog with a safe and secure space of its own. What many dog owners fail to understand is that dog crates are not punishments; rather, they are positive tools that mimic a den-like environment, offering comfort and a sense of security to your pet.
When done correctly, crate training can become an essential aspect of your dog's routine, providing numerous benefits for both you and your pet. This space can become a quiet and calm zone for your pet to relax, and it can also act as a barrier that can come in handy during tense or exciting moments in your household, preventing any unforeseen accidents from occurring. An example of this can be when you have new friends or family coming into your home and want your dog to meet them in a calm presence once they have entered or settled in.
In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the steps to successfully introduce your dog to crate training, making it a positive experience that will prove to be helpful to both you and your pet, providing them with a happy and healthy environment.
Dog Crates: Positive Tools and Safe Havens for Pets
Before delving into the process of crate training, it's crucial to understand the role of dog crates in your pet's life. Crates serve as a secure retreat where dogs can rest, relax, and feel safe.
They mimic the natural instinct of dogs to seek shelter in small, enclosed spaces, much like a den. When introduced properly, a crate becomes a positive space that dogs associate with comfort, not punishment.
However, it’s important to understand that while your dog’s crate is their safe haven, it is also not a place to store or house all of their toys. A crate should be comfortable for your dog to lay down or rest in, but it should not have toys, blankets, water bottles or food within them unless monitored.
Dog crates are also beneficial for various situations, including:
- House Training: Crates aid in house training by helping to prevent accidents indoors. Dogs instinctively avoid soiling their sleeping area, making a properly sized crate a valuable tool in establishing a regular bathroom routine.
- Travel: Familiarity with a crate allows dogs to feel at ease during travel, whether on road trips or flights. A crate provides a secure environment and reduces stress during journeys.
- Safety: Crates can protect dogs from potential dangers when left unsupervised at home. It prevents them from accessing hazardous areas or household items that could harm them.
- Separation Anxiety: For dogs experiencing separation anxiety, a crate can provide a calming and safe space to help them cope with being alone when properly introduced.
- Rest and Relaxation: Dog crates offer a cozy and private spot where dogs can retreat and unwind. Providing them with their own space to rest promotes better sleep and relaxation.
- Stress Reduction: During high-intensity moments within the house, a crate can act as a refuge for your dog to destress and calm down. The confined space provides a sense of security and helps them regain composure in a chaotic environment. This can be incredibly beneficial if you’re welcoming new guests into your home.
When to Use the Crate: Proper Timing and Duration
It's essential to use the crate appropriately to ensure your dog views it as a positive place rather than a punishment. Here are instances when crate usage is appropriate:
- During Introductions: As mentioned before, when introducing your dog to a new environment, household, or new people, use the crate to provide a safe space where they can gradually acclimate to their surroundings.
- When Supervision is Limited: Use the crate when you cannot directly supervise your dog, such as during brief absences or when engaged in activities where they could get into mischief.
- During Training: Use the crate for short periods during training sessions to reinforce positive behaviour and prevent undesirable habits.
It’s important to note that the length of time a dog should be kept in their crate varies based on their age, individual needs, and training level. But as a general guideline, it's recommended to limit crate time to a few hours at a time for adult dogs and adjust accordingly for puppies based on their age and bladder control capabilities.
Training Your Dog to Go to Their Crate on Command
Teaching your dog to go to their crate and stay there on command willingly is a valuable skill that enhances their understanding of the crate as a safe haven and promotes a positive association with this special space.
Here's a step-by-step guide to training your dog to respond to the crate command:
- Positive Association: Begin by creating a positive association with the crate. Place a treat inside the crate to entice them to explore the space willingly. Allow them to enter and exit the crate freely, making sure the experience is stress-free and rewarding.
- Introducing the Command: Once your dog is comfortable going into the crate on their own, introduce a specific command, such as "crate" or "kennel." Use a calm and clear tone when giving the command to help your dog associate the word with the action.
- Treats and Praise: Whenever your dog responds to the command and enters the crate, immediately reward them with praise and treats. Positive reinforcement will reinforce the behaviour and encourage them to repeat it willingly.
- Gradual Duration: Gradually extend the duration your dog stays in the crate after responding to the command. Start with short periods and gradually increase the time as they become more accustomed to staying inside. Always ensure that the time spent in the crate remains positive and enjoyable.
- Gradual Distance: Once your dog is confidently staying in the crate, start adding distance between yourself and the crate. Begin by taking a step back and returning immediately to reward them for staying. Gradually increase the distance over time.
- Release Command: Teach your dog a release command, such as "okay" or "free." Use this command to signal the end of crate time and allow your dog to exit the crate. Always reward them for patiently waiting for the release command.
- Consistency and Patience: Consistency is key to successful crate training. Practice the crate and stay commands regularly, ensuring you maintain a positive and patient attitude throughout the training process.
The use and training of threshold commands will also come in handy during the crate training process between you and your dog. To learn more about threshold commands, view our in-depth blog post here.
Remember, every dog learns at their own pace, and it's essential to be patient and encouraging during the training process. With time and consistent practice, your dog will happily respond to the crate and stay commands, making crate time a stress-free and enjoyable experience for both of you.
Training Your Dog to Love Their Crate
To ensure your dog views their crate as a positive and inviting place, we recommend following these steps for effective crate training:
- Choose the Right Crate: This element is the most important! Select a crate that is appropriately sized for your dog, allowing them to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Avoid crates that are too large, as dogs may be less likely to see it as a cozy den and will potentially soil on one side of the crate and sleep on the other.
- Introduce Gradually: Introduce the crate gradually, placing it in a quiet and accessible area of your home. Encourage your dog to explore the crate on their terms, leaving the door open initially.
- Short Incremental Periods: Start with short periods of crate time and gradually increase the duration as your dog becomes more comfortable. Avoid using the crate as a punishment or for extended periods.
- Create a Comfortable Environment: We do not recommend adding a variety of your dog’s toys and blankets to the crate. However, by adding one small blanket or a soft dog bed to the crate, you will be able to make the space more comfortable without crowding your dog.
Crate Training: The iTK9 Way
Mastering crate training for your dog is a rewarding process that fosters a positive and trusting relationship between you and your dog. Plus, it can act as a barrier or a guard between your pet and your guests or home during intense or overly exciting situations, preventing any accidents from occurring.
If you're struggling to work with your pet on this command or unsure where to start, our trained professionals can help. They fully commit to working with them through behaviour, obedience training, and continued learning safely and effectively.
We do the hard work for you to attain a happy home and a healthy relationship with your pet.
Included in all of our programs are the following;
- In-Person Learning: Midway progress training video, two go-home lessons.
- Online Learning: Owner education course, instructional training videos, iTK9 member community, e-books & additional training resources.
- Owner Support: Photo updates of your dog training with our team and access to our team for questions & support.