Crate training your dog is one of the most beneficial training exercises around, especially when a new dog enters your home. The reason is simple; a dog crate provides a safe and secure environment for your pet. In situations where you either need to protect your home from your dog, or your dog itself, placing him or her into a crate is one of the most effective strategies.
Additionally, in terms of transporting your dog, having a pet that is comfortable and confident in a crate can also be beneficial. For example, if you opt to ship your pet abroad, this will most likely happen in an IATA-approved dog crate. A dog who becomes scared or aggressive in a crate will therefore be in for trouble, and may find the journey overly stressful.
Lastly, appreciate that if and when your dog ever needs to take an overnight stay at the vets, it will most likely be locked up in a crate of some form when not being seen to by the veterinary staff. A sick animal in not one that you want to stress out; the more comfortable and confident your pet is in the enclosed space of a dog crate, the more enjoyable his or her stay at the vets will be.
All these factors mean that the sooner you can get your pet familiar with sleeping in a crate, the better it will be for both you and your pet.
The Problem with Crate Training
Truth be told, some dogs seem to swiftly get used to their crate, and suffer no side effects from being cooped up. It is almost as though some dogs are pre-disposed to cope with this type of confinement without any problems at all.
However in reality these dogs are few and far between; far more often than not it will take a dog some weeks before it is perfectly comfortable in its create. This means that the sooner you can begin the training, the better.
Among dogs that struggle with crate training, needing time and patience to adjust, there are two core problems. Firstly being cooped up in a small cage like this is quite simply unnatural. In nature, wolves and suchlike that dogs have evolved from rarely ever are confined to such a small space. On the contrary; canines are used to wide-open spaces and running free.
The second problem is the anxiety of not seeing you again. Dogs are naturally pack animals, and integrate into your family as part of your own “pack”. Being removed from this group can be a stressful situation, especially if your dog is unaware of when – or even if – it will ever see you again.
They keys to crate training are therefore to get your dog used to the confinement – and also to demonstrate that you will return – in a gentle and gradual manner, thus allowing your pet the necessary time to adjust to spending time in a crate.
Crate Training Tips
The following tips will make crate training your dog much, much easier and should result in a satisfactory result as quickly as possible.
Familiarize Your Dog with the Crate
The first step in crate training your dog should be getting him or her familiar with the crate itself. You want your dog to get used to the crate as soon as possible and see it as an inanimate object rather than something unusual that should be feared.
Possibly the best way to go about this is to set up the crate somewhere where your dog can gain ready access to it. Pin the door open so that your dog can go in and out at will, without risking becoming trapped. The door closing behind your dog in these early stages can put back the training by some distance.
Make the Crate Your Dog’s Territory
Once your dog seems totally unfazed by the presence of the crate, the next step is to try and encourage your dog inside. Physically pushing your dog is unlikely to have the desired effect; better is to try and coax your dog inside.
There are a number of ways you can do this. For one, you could move your dog’s bed inside the crate. Additionally you could try feeding or watering your dog in the crate too. Over time, and with patience, you should find that these elements help to convince your dog that this is part of his territory and is a perfectly safe place to be.
Close the Crate for Short Periods
Once your dog is happily hopping in and out of the crate without a second thought it is time to expand the training somewhat. Now it is time to start getting your pet used to having the door closed.
Of course, as with everything else, this should be done gently and progressively. Start by just pushing the door shut from time to time when your dog is in there. An example might be a crate kept in the kitchen that you can just nudge shut when cooking. It is important during these first steps that you remain visible, so that your pet is not worried about where the pack has gone.
Slowly, over time, you should be able to close the door for longer and longer periods without your dog whining or complaining too much.
Leave the Room for Short Periods
When you can safely shut your dog in the crate for an hour or so, the final step is to remove yourself from the room. Once again, this should be done slowly. The first time simply leave the room and come straight back to let your dog out. Then leave it a few seconds. Then a minute or two. Over time your dog will learn that you always return and always let him or her out.
Eventually, you should reach a point where you can shut your dog in their crate and leave them overnight without whimpering or whining. At this stage you know that your dog is properly crate trained and is ready for transportation if necessary.