Training your dog to use a dog crate can be a relatively easy affair, and any dog of any age can be trained.
You will soon find that, once crate trained, your dog will love his new home and will use it as a safe and quiet place of his own. This is equally true of play pens, and the same advice is relevant.
But you may still face some hurdles. When they are used to the crate, it is a safe, cosy haven, but for any dog, it could initially be a cramped space which they may think is punishment. So, in order to properly dog crate train your dog, you need to stay calm and follow these tips…
What Is Dog Crate Training?
Crate training is a process where you should train a pet to accept a dog crate or cage as a familiar and safe location. This is a place for them to sleep, rest and take a bit of time out if they are feeling overwhelmed.
Many people see it as a way of confining a dog and restricting its movement and freedom, which can be true to an extent. For example, if they are on their own when you run to Tesco, they won’t be able to jump on the sofa or eat your slippers.
However, crate training will also ensure your dog gains full bowel and bladder control while enjoying treats and comfort.
How Do You Crate Train a Dog or Puppy?
If possible, you should begin crate training with a small puppy, and have your puppy sleep and rest in his home. He will soon love the security that the crate brings. A puppy pen can be used in conjunction with the dog cage and can be an area where the dog can socialise whilst still being in a controlled space. The puppy pen is especially useful whilst your puppy is in the chewing stage.
To begin training, the dog should be actively encouraged to enter the crate, but never force him, and also, never “go over the top” with praise. Just treat the crate as a natural and obvious place to go.
Place the dog bedding inside the crate, together with a favourite toy, and perhaps a little treat, and leave the crate door open.
Introduce your dog to the dog crate with a minimum of fuss.
Ideally, leave the dog in the room where you have placed the crate or step away and allow exploration. If the dog ignores the cage, place an enticing bone or novelty toy inside and give your dog time and privacy to discover its new den.
The best period to experiment with the crate is a night time when the dog would be naturally relaxing and ready to rest. You may also add an item of your old clothing inside the crate (re-scent the item by leaving it in your washing basket for a day) to encourage your dog to explore the unit, and associate it with the loving that you give to it.
Random crating is best to avoid any association. If your dog is only placed into the crate when exciting events occur (when visitors arrive etc.) it will quickly make an negative association and may become frustrated or distressed.
If your dog shows little sign of entering the dog crate (after several daytime and overnight periods) then it is important that you are firm with the dog and order it to enter. Back your dog into the crate and close the door. Praise the dog, perhaps give it a treat, and then leave the dog alone for a brief period (starting with 3 or 4 mins, working up to 10 / 15 mins) and return. Open the door, praise calmness and allow the dog to exit of its own accord. Repeat this over the day and for the last period of the night.
As with any training – it should be fun for you both. Don’t overdo it with long sessions. It is better to have lots of short lessons, and lots of praise and smiles.
The kennel should not be used for punishment as any potential negative association should be avoided. It should be used if you move house, travel, caravan, boat or when taking your dog to other homes or premises so that your dog has a continuity among the change.
Good crate training is very important. The bad news is that dependant upon the dog, it sometimes takes some time, the good news is that it usually works. However, never leave your dog locked in his crate or playpen for long periods alone. It is not fair. A dog who is unhappy being confined may try to escape and may cause damage to the crate or to itself.
Kennel Club Advice on Dog Crate Training
“When ordering a crate for your puppy, buy one big enough for it to lie in stretched out and standing up in when it is fully grown.
You should also:
- Make sure that the mesh is not too big as puppies can get their mouths or legs caught
- Put bedding inside and tie some toys to the far end of the crate so the puppy has to go in there to play with them
- Gently place your puppy in there whenever it falls asleep, so it wakes up there
- Leave occasional treats in the crate for the puppy to find
- Do not shut the door until your puppy is comfortable being in there, or asleep
- Make sure you stay around to let it out the moment it wakes up or finishes its meal
- Gradually increase the time the puppy stays in the crate, and initially, this should be whilst you are in the room with it
- Make sure it has recently been to the toilet before it enters
- Never leave your puppy in the crate or puppy pen for more than a couple of hours during the day
Warnings and Safety Tips
It is important that the owner looks after their dog’s safety and care.
This is just the same as all of the other rules: never leaving a dog in a locked car; never allowing your dog to walk off the lead on a public road; safety in the sun, garden etc.
It also includes being aware of perhaps less obvious dangers when using some of the products reviewed on this site.
When using mesh/wire products for dogs & puppies
- Do not leave collars on dogs – crate or no crate – in case the disc or buckle get caught which can cause serious injury or choking
This is equally true of playpens. In general, a dog or puppy should not be left unsupervised whilst wearing a collar – especially one which includes a large buckle or identity disc.
Please remember that this advice is given specifically regarding wire products, but it nevertheless holds true in other circumstances – there are many things in a home, garage or garden where your pet can become entangled. Awareness of these will help you as a responsible dog owner.
It bears repeating that a dog should never be left unsupervised in a crate or playpen with its collar on.
- Remember that a wire crate and many puppy pens are made of wire mesh and it is possible that your dog may attempt to bite the mesh or push its leg through the wire spacing
If your dog does this, it may get trapped or suffer injury. This rare accident may be brought on by separation anxiety where the dog just wants to escape, or by boredom.
The first should be treated by correct crate training, and the second by the introduction of safe toys or chews such as Nylabone or Kong. A combination of both approaches may be best. Almost anything that causes stress can bring on separation anxiety at any age, and in extreme cases, the solution may be medication as well as a behavioural approach.
Destructive chewing and biting are often symptoms of separation anxiety, as is unwanted urination or defecation. Please be aware of your responsibility in supervising and training your dog, especially in early use. Keep your dog relaxed, frequently praise calmness, and be prepared to give special training if necessary.
The responsibility is that of the owner, but we will be willing to give advice as necessary.
- Do not allow your dog to stand or play on the mesh top of the dog crate or puppy pen
The product is not designed for this. They could fall through, and if they are only small, this is quite a distance to fall.