Welcoming a new dog into your home is a milestone. A new family member has joined the ranks and it’s important to give your newfound pet what they need to thrive. For many dog owners, crate training is the key to success. If implemented properly, a crate can be a safe zone for your pet that will help calm and soothe them. This is derived from a dog’s natural instinct to take haven in a den, and the crate ultimately serves as this den environment. Yet how do you convince a puppy or even an older dog to view the crate as a home within their new home? We’re here to help.
Step one: Understanding the many functions of a crate
The primary use for a crate is as a housetraining method, but it’s also a place that your dog can feel safe. It’s a clearly understood space that belongs solely to your pet. A crate also limits access to the rest of the house if the owners are away, helping to avoid chewing. Crates are also a safe way for your dog to travel. With all of the great positive attributes of crate training, it’s also important to understand that a crate is not a method of punishment. Never send your dog to their crate for bad behavior, and never allow them to be locked up for unreasonable amounts of time – this will only create negative association between your dog and their crate.
Step two: Introducing the crate
Find a spot in your home that’s communal such as the living room, and place the crate there. Make the crate comfortable with a blanket or towel and let your dog explore the space on its own. If you’re dog is resistant, sprinkle a few treats inside the crate to encourage him to go inside – leaving the door open. Don’t rush this process, be sure to let your dog enter on his own.
Step three: Feeding your pet inside the crate
Once the dog has entered on her own, start feeding her in the crate. If resistance is still an issue, start by putting the food bowl just inside in the crate and slowly move it toward the back. Once she’s standing comfortably and eating, gently close the door. The first time you carry out this exercise, open the door as soon as your dog’s finished eating. With every subsequent feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer. Positive association is key, but remember not encourage whining. Let your pet out when they are happy, and if they begin whining wait for the moment when they have stopped to let them out.
Step four: Crating your pet at night and when you leave
Once your dog has become comfortable spending up to 30 minutes inside the crate, it’s time to try leaving home. Call your dog into the crate and give him a treat, and leave him with a favorite toy. Try to make as swift an exit as possible, and when you return try not to work your pet up when greeting him. Calmness is key. Once your dog is comfortable being crated while you’re away or at night, don’t forget to crate him for brief periods while your home. This will help to ensure that your dog doesn’t develop separation anxiety.
*Some dogs are more comfortable crate training than others. If whining or separation anxiety persists, contact It’s A Dog’s World K-9 Academy for assistance.