What is a crate?
A dog crate is exactly what it sounds like; a box that is big enough for the dog to comfortably stand up and turn around in. It’s commonly made from metal but plastic and fabric variations can also be used. You may have heard people refer to crate as “cages” but don’t let the negative connotations fool you. When crate training is done properly, dogs really do love them!
Why should I be crate training my dog?
Reason #1: It is a safe haven for dogs
If you have a dog that’s prone to anxiety, you may have noticed that they will often retreat to the nearest dark place when scared. This can include behind a sofa or under the bed. That’s because dogs instinctively feel secure in enclosed, dark spaces. It’s this feeling of safety and security we are aiming to achieve when we give our dogs access to a crate. Think of it a bit like a den, or ‘indoor kennel’. It’s a safe place for the dog to go when they are anxious or needing some time alone.
Reason #2: Toilet training becomes easier
If you have recently acquired a new puppy, crate training from day one will drastically decrease the time it takes to toilet train a puppy. On instinct, dog’s do not like to urinate where they sleep. By having a puppy sleep in their crate overnight, they don’t have the ability to sneak off and wee somewhere in the house they are not meant to. They will generally hold on as long as possible until they’re taken out of the crate. Which is when you can take them directly outside and give lots of praise for puppy going toilet in the right spot, instead of having an indoor accident!
Reason #3: They become familiarised with crates
Having dogs who are comfortable in a crate will make their life a whole lot less stressful in other circumstances. If you dog ever has to be admitted to the vet, they will be crated out the back of the clinic for the duration of their stay. The same applies for trips to the groomer. By having dogs comfortable and even feel safe in a crate, it will greatly reduce their anxiety during what can be a pretty stressful time.
Reason #4: Crates are essential in the event of an emergency
Perhaps the most important reason of crate training your dog, even if you do not want to use a crate day to day, is for the dog’s own safety. If you ever have to be evacuated with your dog, most evacuation centres wont accept pets unless they’re able to be fully restrained. Australia is the land of bushfires and unexpected floods. This makes it a reality that at some point we might have to evacuate our homes.
I for one, have had to do this before due to a close bushfire. I packed up the car (dogs and crates included) and was lucky enough to just stay with friends of mine. It was a calming to know I had somewhere safe to put my dogs when I was not able to directly supervise them. After all, we were staying at a new house with other animals and people so both dogs where understandably a little stressed.
How do I crate train my dog?
So you have gotten a crate and now wondering where to start. The most important thing is to not force it. Remember, this is to be a positive thing for the dog and any negative experiences will just set back training.
Step #1: Setting up the crate
First step would be to set up the crate somewhere the dog has access to and let the dog explore it in their own time. You can help this along by throwing some treats in the crate for your dog to discover. Do not shut the door yet.
Step #2: Put your dog in the crate for short durations
When your dog is comfortable going into the crate by themselves, it is time to put them in there for short durations. I suggest giving them some type of positive reinforcement that will also serve to distract them. Something like a treat dispensing toy or long lasting chew will work well (we suggest our Beef Hoof with Kangaroo Mince or our Shark Chews). Shut the door of the crate but only for a few minutes while they are busy with their reinforcement. Let them out once they are done.
Step #3: Increase the duration
Continue doing this until your dog is excited to hop in the crate, gradually increasing the duration each time. Eventually you might want to have your dogs sleep overnight in their crate or you can simply have it available for them to use as a safe place when they are scared. Some people like to put covers overtop of the crate (practically if it’s a metal wire one). This can increase the den-like feel to it, particularly if they have a more anxious dog.
Remember to crate train your dog!
Crates are a great addition to include into your dog’s life. They provide your pooch with a comforting spot when they want to relax or are feeling stressed, and are essential in times of emergencies. Remember to follow these steps on how to crate train your dog to keep him happy!
About the Author
Claudia K. studies veterinarian sciences at the University of Queensland
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