At Found by the Hound, we are strong advocates of Crate Training. We are firm believers that when used correctly, a Crate can be your one of your most useful training tool for both puppies and adult dogs as well as a very effective way to assist with toilet training, assist with separation anxiety concerns and so much more.
As humans we often look at a crate and it conjures up negative feelings. For us it may have the appearance of a “jail” or “cage”. Dogs on the other hand have natural denning behaviour. They like to get into tight, pokey places as it makes them feel safe and secure. Maybe you have noticed your dog getting under a table or the lounge, under a bed, into the closest, under a bush etc., this is your dog displaying natural denning behaviour. Some of you may have also noticed that the more stressed your dog is, the most it tends to gravitate to these areas. Because of this natural behavior, we often use a crate to emulate a den and give our dog a safe area to be in.
Though many use this method correctly, there can be a fine line between safe and irresponsible and to ensure that your dog feels safe, secure and positive about his crate, we are sharing the Do’s of Crate Training.
What is Crate Training
A Crate is a great tool often used to assist in the training of puppies and adult dogs. A Crate can help promote calm behaviour, fast-track house training and provide a safe and secure space for your dog to call its own. A Crate alleviates the risk of a dog accessing places and objects that can cause illness or injury should you not be able to supervise, whilst also offering a private sanctuary for your dog to safely “den”. A Crate can bridge the gap between needing an excitable dog to be placed outside to being able to calmly spend time inside with the family, incident free as he learns about the family dynamics.
In addition, a Crate can also help with visits to the vet, groomers or during travel. Vets will often place a dog in a Crate to recover, while they’re being monitored or while they wait to be collected. After an operation, your vet may require you to crate your pup/dog to keep it quiet and to aid in its recovery. The Groomer may also place your dog in a Crate once grooming is complete and they await your arrival. If you will be transporting your pup/dog by plane, then prior crate training will be essential. Crates can also help alleviate any stress when in unfamiliar environments.
A Crate is an effective tool when used correctly though an understanding of the best possible way to utilise a crate is required to ensure success in your training and more importantly, the safety of the dog.
Selecting a Crate
A Crate should be sturdy and of high quality. The majority of Pet Shops will stock a selection of Crates in various sizes. At Found by the Hound, we recommend a metal/wire Crate or a plastic “airline” Crate. Soft, fabric alternatives may look more aesthetically pleasing but are often not an ideal choice for a rambunctious young dog who can easily tear through. Fabric crates are also more difficult to clean should puppy have an accident and are not as well ventilated as a wire crate. We never restrict a puppy or dog’s access to water and water buckets that hook on to the side of a wire crate are helpful so that puppy does not tip the water over.
What To Do
When selecting a Crate, choosing the correct size is paramount to the success of your training. For optimum results, opt for a Crate that allows enough space for the dog to comfortably stand, sit, lay and turn around. The notion is that dogs will not typically choose to toilet in their bedding. If a Crate is too large, puppy may feel comfortable sleeping at one end and toileting at the other. Because of this, most wire Crates will come with a divider, so we recommend purchasing a crate that is suitable for when your dog is full grown and use the divider to change the size of the crate as the puppy grows.
Introducing the Crate
Like anything new, it may take time for your dog to adjust to a Crate. When first introducing a Crate to your pup or older dog, place the Crate in a common area around the family. Allow them to smell and investigate at their leisure. Gradually encourage your dog to enter the Crate and ensure you praise any confident and inquisitive behaviour. Use a treat to lure puppy into the crate and further treats once inside. It is important that the Crate is associated with positive experiences including mealtime. When puppy is looking comfortable, close the door of the Crate. If the door is not closed then the purpose of the Crate is obsolete.
What To Do
To begin with, keep Crate times short, but only allowing your dog to exit the Crate when he is calm, quiet and relaxed. To keep Crate time positive, we do encourage that all feeding be done in the Crate to further reinforce that the Crate is a great place to be! If utilising the Crate for toilet training, remember that a puppy does not have control of his bladder and will need to be toileted regularly. Recommended length of time in a crate is maximum of 8 hours overnight (but ensure that puppy was toileting last thing at night, and in the early days may also need to be toileted once or twice during the night) and a maximum of up to 3 hours during the day.
Adjusting to the Crate
As they say, patience is a virtue. To begin with, some puppies may cry or bark once the Crate door has been closed. Remember that, for many pups, this may be the very first time that puppy has been separated from mother and siblings. It is important that during this time you remain strong and only allow your dog to exit the Crate when displaying calm behaviour. Failure to do so will only reward the stressed behaviour and teach the dog that barking/crying will eventually work in his favour (and in a variety of situations). While your dog is adjusting to his Crate it can be good practice to pre-empt a “doggy tantrum” and allow your dog to exit before this occurs, avoiding setting them up for failure. Some Crate training can also be done during the day when our tolerance levels (including our neighbours) are a tad higher!!
What To Do
Do not interact or engage with your dog while they are fussing. Be quick to reward and praise calm and quiet behaviour.
Placing a sheet over three sides of the Crate can also assist in calming your dog whilst in is Crate. If there is too much foot traffic around his area it can be difficult for your dog to relax.
When To Crate
A Crate can be utilised at any time you deem necessary. In conjunction with sleep time and mealtime, Crating can be done when you simply need your dog to be in a safe space should you not be able to supervise (i.e. getting the kids ready for school, cooking dinner, having a shower, or getting the groceries). Crating can also be great for when you need your dog to be calm and quiet (i.e. when kids are over, when guests come to visit etc).
What To Do
It is essential, especially for puppies, to let them toilet before Crating, specifically before bedtime or if you intend on leaving them in there for a longer period. When it’s time to come out, be sure you allow them to toilet straight away. With puppies, you will need to do this frequently. Puppies will need to be physically taken to where you wish for them to toilet. This will be vital in fast-tracking house training and as we are now using the crate to teach puppy to “hold on” longer, we can then direct puppy to the area where we wish puppy to toilet thus avoiding “accidents” around the house.
Do not Crate your dog all day. This can cause stress and anxiety and create a negative association with the Crate.
Do not expect your puppy to hold his bladder through the night. To avoid accidents in his Crate you will need to toilet your puppy throughout the night until his bladder is strong enough to last through the night.
For more information on how to safety and successfully implement a crate, speak with the Trainers at Found by the Hound.