Crate training is something that all dog owners are likely to need at some point in a dog’s life. At Cats, Dogs & Peace of Mind we can build it into how we help you look after your dogs while you’re away, or simply too busy!
It’s not something that everyone agrees with but when employed properly, crate training can be an effective tool for managing a dog’s behaviour for at least a limited time. They are helpful from short-term training and management, plus they give a dog somewhere to call their own space – a permanent retreat to go to when they want to sleep or just want some time out on their own.
There are many reasons why your dog may need to be crated:
- To help with house-training
- To prevent any destructive behaviour
- To contain your dog to its own space overnight or when you have to be at work
- To transport your dog between places.
Crates should only be used for safety. They should never ever be used as a form of punishment. How long a dog is crated is very much dependent on age, size and level of anxiety.
Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety should not be crated. They may become manic, putting themselves at risk. Older dogs should not need crating as they have hopefully been trained.
Large, active dogs may find it difficult to adjust to being in a crate, not least because they require more room in which to manoeuvre themselves. There are dogs that respond very well to being crate-trained, but there are others who are happier with more gradual introduction to the crate.
First you need to choose the ideal crate. Our rule of thumb is the bigger the better bearing in mind the dog’s size. Once you have made your choice, bring it home and ensure it is as cosy and comfortable as it can be. Begin the training by leaving the door open and allowing the puppy chance to explore it as it sees fit.
Don’t be shy about hiding tasty treats inside for your pup to discover, and place a soft blanket for your dog to snuggle into. Start introducing consistent cues to encourage your dog into the crate. For example, you could simply say ‘bed!’ and toss a treat inside for your puppy to chase.
Once your dog is inside enjoying the tasty morsel, slowly close the door and wait a short while. Before you let your dog out again, use another treat as a reward. This aim is to condition the dog to expect nice things when they go into the crate.
When you do open the door, avoid any display of emotion and don’t reward your dog just for coming out.
At feeding time, place the bowl of food inside the crate as far back as you can reach and gradually move back. The door can be left open for the first few times, until your dog appears comfortable eating in the crate. When you feel happy this is the case, close the door. Over time increase the time the door is closed until your dog is no longer phased being inside for a few minutes.
It is important to note that a dog should not be confined to a crate for much longer than two or three hours at a time – especially while you are crate-training a puppy. When you work all day, it’s unfair to expect a dog to remain crated from when you leave to when you return.
Ideally, your dog needs to be released as often as possible – if it’s feasible every hour or so would be perfect.
This can be discussed as part of the bespoke programme we would put together for looking after your dog when you book the services of Cats, Dogs & Peace of Mind.
Some dog owners opt to use a play-pen instead of a crate, as this can afford more space in which, especially larger dogs, can feel comfortable.
It’s not good for dogs to be left for long stretches as it can lead to them developing behavioural problems. If they are in a crate they may well come to associate the crate with negative experiences, making them very reluctant to use it.
The crate needs to be as inviting as it can possibly be. Place a bowl of water inside. Some owners choose to place an Adaptil diffuser close by in the room to reinforce feelings of calm and security. The crate needs to be chew-resistant, unlikely to pose a choking hazard, and should have a comfortable inner lining.
Your dog’s favourite toys can be put inside, and it’s a good idea to have one special treat that only appears when the crate is in use. In your dog’s mind this will reinforce the idea that the crate brings rewards.
The crate needs to be the right size. If it’s too small your dog is going to be cramped and uncomfortable. The only downside of a crate being considered too big is that it could encourage your dog to keep one side for sleeping and the other for littering.
A good benchmark for the best crate size is if your dog is able to sit, stand and turn inside.
When you choose where the crate should be sited, it needs to be away from direct sunlight or draughts.
Don’t be in too much of a hurry when trying crate training. When your dog shows signs of stress, like crying or kicking up a fuss, you are probably introducing the idea of the closed crate too soon.
Take it easy when training your puppy. Try to pick up on any stress or feeling of discomfort. When done properly, your dog should learn to love the crate and he or she will go there by itself. Over time, the aim is for you to be able to leave and run errands while your dog is at home and the crate is left open so the animal can come and go as it pleases!
If you have any useful tips for your dog, please share them by leaving a comment below.
If you would like to discuss how Cats, Dogs & Peace of Mind can help you look after your dog while you are away or simply too busy, please don’t hesitate to make contact.