Crate Training Your Dog

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Crate Training:

Pug in her airline-approved dog training cratephoto

Why Crate Train?

The Crate is a tool. It is a simple, humane way of teaching a puppy, any puppy or even young dog...

  • to wait a pre-determined time for potty call.

  • to teethe and chew on her own toys.

  • that she has a safe place to sleep.

  • that she can be left alone for periods of time without getting into trouble in the house and the fact that she will be left alone at times so no need to be anxious.

What Is “Crate Training?”

Using a dog training crate is simply utilizing a small, portable, box-like enclosure, either wire or plastic to confine the dog until it's time to go outdoors for a potty break, come out to play or eat a meal.

You can see through the wire enclosures and they offer no privacy for the dog but they do keep her out of trouble.

The plastic crates are approved by airlines and afford the dog inside almost total seclusion except for air vents along the sides and a full view at the front. One end is open with a swinging door so the dog can be contained inside when wanted.

These crates are NOT prisons as some people view them. They are training tools and used for only a short time as "crate training" would suggest. The crate solves many problems.

Crates should NEVER be used for punishment. They are NOT places to put dogs that has misbehaved!

Crates are simply little “homes” for your puppy or small mature dog to go into to sleep or take naps where s/he will feel safe and secure. It’s his private little sanctuary. The crate is used for house training and also in emergencies when the family has to get into the car and head for an emergency shelter.

It can also be used when you go to the store and you don’t want the puppy roaming the house unattended. It can house a puppy overnight so you can get some sleep. But, just so we are clear, never use the crate in a negative way.

Why Do Crates Work?

When you provide your dog with a safe, comfortable area, she feels secure and content. Dogs are "den" animals by nature and like to be enclosed or surrounded in a safe environment. How many times has your dog taken a nap UNDER a table and NEXT to a wall or piece of furniture? The crate provides this security, privacy and comfort.

With the puppy safely in the crate, she can snooze or get a drink or chew on a toy to pass the time.

Since it's a dog's nature to avoid soiling her sleeping area, she will learn to "hold" her potty call while in the crate much longer than if she was running around the house. (A step toward potty training) Thus, she is forced to chew on her own toys, not your chair leg, and hold her potty needs until you open the crate door and take her to the back yard.

That's why crates work.


Crate Training A Dog — Starting Out
  • There really is not much to starting crate training. The idea is to entice the puppy or dog to go into the crate on his own volition, WITHOUT pushing the dog.

  • Make a comfy bed in the crate with a blanket or some towels and put a couple of toys in with some tempting treats like cheese squares or bits of fresh cooked chicken chunks.

  • This should be enough to entice the dog to enter the crate. Once in, he should find everything to his liking and stay awhile. If not, repeat until he gets used to going in and out.

  • After the dog seems to be comfortable with the crate, let him go in and close the door for a few seconds, then open it. He may come out, or not. I've had dogs go in, lie down and not care what the door was doing. That really makes crate training simple!

  • If the dog does come right out, coax him back in and close the door for a little longer this time. Keep repeating until you can leave the door closed for an hour with no hysterical behavior. (Some dogs take to crates immediately, some take awhile.)

  • Basically, crate training a dog is one of the easiest things you'll be doing.

    A Papillon enjoying her new
    dog training crate. How 'bout a crate party?

    How Crate Training Works

    Your puppy is in the crate at all times UNLESS she is eating, outdoors with you going potty, or being supervised in some form of indoor play.

    You must be consistent or this won’t work. You can’t let your puppy wander off through the house unless you’re focusing your complete attention on her.

    If you allow access to the house before she’s thoroughly house trained, you’re basically encouraging her to relieve herself INSIDE — and remember, each time she does this, it’ll be easier for her to do it again and again, in which case you get to start crate training all over!.

    Crates are best located where there's traffic in the house: the kitchen or study or any area where people congregate.

    Just because she is in a crate does not mean she can’t feel like she is part of the household. In fact, it important for her to hear the sounds of a working kitchen, smell the smells of the household and not feel isolated. She must never be isolated.

    The dog’s crate should be a welcoming, inviting place for her to go. Put some thick blankets or towels in the crate along with several toys and a chew toy or two.

    Puppy Toilet Facts that will come in handy:
    • First, puppy training crate is not to be confused. A crate is a crate, regardless of what you call it.

    • Puppies bladders and bowels are so small and weak that they have only a very small window of opportunity between knowing that they need to go, and that need becoming an immediate reality.

    • Because of this, it is mandatory that you take her outside immediately upon awakening and within 15 minutes of eating and immediately after playing.

      She will eventually learn to paw the door and whine to let you know she has to go out.

    • If you see the dog sniffing and circling, she needs to go, NOW!. These signs won’t last long because she is so small.

    • Her next step is to let loose! So, take her out immediately.

    • The maximum amount of time a puppy can be crated at one time is figured this way: Her age in months + 1 month. So, a 2 month old puppy can be left in the crate for 3 hours maximum.

    NOTE This is likely to be pretty tough for the young puppy to be cooped up for 3 hours with a need to make wee wee and no way to do it.

    Unless she is sleeping, she should be taken out every hour or two. (If she’s sleeping, she should be left to wake up naturally.)

    Crate Training A Shelter Dog

    If you adopt a dog from the ASPCA/SPCA or any Humane Society animal shelter or a rescue group, the chances are very good that you will end up with a mature dog that is already house trained. He may have a little baggage, but not always.

    I have found shelter dogs to be the best all ’round adoptees you can find. They are almost always house trained so if you read the info above, you can see what a plus that is.

    I bring the new dog in the house, take him in and out the side door a few times to the yard, and next thing I know, he’s sitting by the door when he wants to go out. End of house training and no need for crate training. We then move on to more pressing matters like “where’s my food bowl!?”

    If I come across a shelter dog that is not house trained, he can still benefit from crate training, as long as it’s a small dog. For bigger dogs, I keep close eye on them and continue taking them to the yard every hour or two, always through the SAME door. It is surprising how quickly a mature dog will catch on as to what that door means.

    The only problem I have ever had with mature dogs has not been a crate training issue, but rather a scent-marking issue. A male dog will come in the house and try to mark territory. We clean up with Natures Miracle, the only commercial product I know of that completely eliminates the odor so the dog can’t find his own spot again. Pet stores carry it.

    I say nothing to the dog when he makes a mistake and just take him to the yard when I think he should be ready to potty and praise him heavily when he does it in the right place.

    Crate Talk

    For potty training, dogs have an inherent dislike to pee or poop anywhere near their food, water and bedding. By putting the puppy inside a crate, you are restricting her movement and she is forced to “hold it in” until the crate door is opened and she is let out. This works as long as you don’t let her go too long.

    When picking out a crate you have to be sure to get one large enough to hold the dog when she gets older as well as now so some research is needed. (Careful though, if you get a crate too big, a puppy can use one end to relieve herself and the other to sleep in.)

    Most dogs LIKE crates, especially the plastic kind, because as “den” animals, they appreciate the seclusion and sense of security.

    Crates don’t work for large dogs. You can’t pick them up when the puppy becomes an adult. Imagine a fully grown, 110 pound Rottweiler in a crate! Who’s going to carry that around?

    With some dogs, by the time you buy a crate big enough for the puppy to grow into, it may be too big for the puppy. In this case, put some empty boxes in the back of the crate as “fillers” while she is very little. This way she can’t use the back end for an indoor potty.

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