A client of mine asked me about crate training a dog. She felt it is cruel to put the dog in the crate where they are confined in such a small area. Well, it could be cruel, if it it is not done properly. Crate training your dog is a great potty training technique, and definitely has its benefits.

Here is how I answered her.

One of the best things you can do for your dog and for you is to integrate crate training into your lives. It takes time and patience, but it will be well worth it. Some people protest the use of crates and think it’s cruel. Remember that they’re thinking in terms of being human, not a dog.

We humans might not like being in an enclosed space, but dogs think differently. If properly trained, dogs will think positively about their crates, viewing them as safe havens just for them.

The idea behind crate training is that the dog should view the crate as his den, somewhere where he feels safe and comfortable. It’s a place he doesn’t mind going to when you ask him to, or when he just feels like it.

For you, this is a safe, convenient way to confine and control your dog. The crate is a great tool for times when you are out of the house and need to leave your dog unsupervised. And with your dog used to a crate, traveling in a car while in a crate will be no problem.

First, choose an appropriate crate for your dog. You want the crate to become your dog’s “den,” so pick one that he can stand up and turn around in comfortably. But you don’t want it too large so that he might be tempted to use one corner as a toilet. Place it somewhere where it’s quiet, but also in a room where he can still be part of the family.

Introduce your dog to its crate by leaving it out with the door open. Put a soft piece of material, such as a towel or blanket, inside, unless you are potty training him. In this case, do not add any bedding. You can also put his favorite toys inside.

Entice your dog into investigating his new den by placing a treat into it. When he does go inside, give him plenty of praise and affection. You always want your dog to associate pleasant, positive feelings with the crate.

Leave the crate door open in the beginning. Just let your dog go in and out as he pleases. As time goes on, use treats and a command, such as “crate time,” to show your dog you want him to enter the crate.

You can feed your dog near or in the crate, creating more positive association with the crate. While he’s
eating, you can begin closing the door for a few minutes at a time. Do this several times a day.

As your dog gets accustomed to the door being closed, increase the time you have it closed. Stay by the crate at first, then leave for a few minutes at a time. Remember not to do too much too soon. Take your time and be patient. This whole process may take weeks.

When your dog can stay in the crate comfortably and happily for a half an hour or more, you can leave the house for a time. When you leave the house and when you come home, don’t make a big production out of it. Keep arrivals and departures low-key and quiet.

Also crate the dog from time to time when you’re still in the house so your dog doesn’t think being crated means being alone.

If you’ve progressed to crating him at night, you might want to keep the crate in or near your bedroom so you can hear him make noise when he needs to eliminate. When you do let him out, make sure he knows it’s just for a potty break. Take him straight outside and give your usual command for going potty.

If your dog is still a puppy, keep in mind that he will need to go potty every two hours or so, depending on his age. Since a dog will tend not use his “den” as a toilet, you will have to pay attention to the time your puppy spends in the crate and let him out for potty breaks.

The crate is not a ‘set it and forget it’ type of deal. You are responsible for the proper use of the crate and
the care for your dog.

Puppies younger than nine weeks should not be crated. Always let your dog go potty before crating and try not to crate any age dogs longer than six hours. Also, limit the amount of water your dog drinks before going into his crate. Let him drink, but allow him time to go potty after drinking and before going into the crate.

If your dog cries when in the crate, and you have followed all the rules about drinking water and making sure he has done his potty, do not let him out. He is crying for attention and trying to manipulate you. If you let him out,he will figure out that if he wants to be let out, all he has to do is cry. Let him out only when he has stopped crying. This will be his reward.

Never use the crate as a punishment. You might be tempted to send your dog into the crate as a “time out” when he’s been naughty, but that will only create problems and negative association with the crate. Correct the bad behavior, replace it with a good behavior, and carry on as normal.

The crate is not a replacement for proper training. If you need help with crate training, ask a reputable dog
trainer.

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Filed under: Puppy Potty Training Tips

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