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Home Training and BehaviorBasic Training Crate Training Basics: Ensure Your Dog’s Happiness and Security

Crate Training Basics: Ensure Your Dog’s Happiness and Security

by Kimberley Lehman
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Crate training might sound daunting, but it’s a game-changer for you and your furry friend. It’s not just about giving your dog their own space; it’s about teaching them safety, security, and the joy of having a personal haven.

I’ve seen firsthand how a properly introduced crate becomes a cherished spot for dogs, not a place they dread.

Starting with the right mindset and approach is key. It’s about making the crate an inviting space where your dog feels comfortable and secure. Let’s jump into the basics of crate training, ensuring your dog not only accepts their crate but loves it. Trust me, it’s easier than you might think, and the benefits are well worth the effort.

Benefits of Crate Training

When I first pondered crate training my pup, I was a tad skeptical. Would my dog see this as a cozy haven or a mini jailhouse? Turns out, the benefits are pretty clear, and they certainly swayed me.

First off, safety’s the big winner here. A crate ensures my furry friend stays out of trouble when I can’t be on pet patrol. No more chewed-up shoes or surprise messes when I get home. 

Next, let’s chat about the “personal haven” factor.  With the right setup—comfy bedding, a couple of their favorite toys—it becomes their go-to spot for naps and downtime. Watching my dog saunter over to their crate, tail wagging, ready for a break, is all the proof I need.

Crate training plays a big role in:

  • Housebreaking: Dogs naturally avoid soiling their den. The crate helps my pup hold it until it’s time to go outside.
  • Reducing anxiety: For dogs that get anxious when alone, a crate can be a soothing space. It tells them, “Hey, it’s okay, you’re safe here.”

And that’s not even touching on travel. Road trips used to be a headache. They hop in their crate, we hit the road, and there’s no fuss. It’s like their little travel capsule.

One point I’d stress is this all hinges on positive association. The crate should never be a place for punishment. And patience pays off. Starting off, I’d keep crate sessions short and sweet, gradually increasing time as my dog grew more comfortable.

Choosing the Right Crate

When it comes to crate training, selecting the perfect crate is as crucial as the training itself. So, here’s my take on making that choice a tad easier for both you and your furry friend.

  • Extra Small (Under 10 lbs): Think Chihuahua or Yorkie.
  • Small (10-25 lbs): Beagle or Miniature Dachshund fits here.
  • Medium (26-40 lbs): Bulldog or a small Boxer would be comfy here.
  • Large (41-70 lbs): Think Border Collie or a Dalmatian.
  • Extra Large (71-90 lbs): Golden Retriever or German Shepherd.
  • Giant (Over 90 lbs): Great Dane territory.

Next, think about material. Crates come mainly in three types: metal, plastic, and soft-sided. Each has its pros and cons.

  • Metal crates are sturdy, offering great air circulation and they fold down for travel. But, they can be heavy and some dogs might find them less cozy.
  • Plastic crates offer more security and coziness but less air flow, and they’re a bit of a hassle to clean.
  • Soft-sided crates are super lightweight and perfect for travel. Yet, they’re not the best pick for those escape artist pups or chewers.

And don’t forget about portability and storage. If you’re always on the go, a lightweight and easily collapsible crate might be your match. But if it’s going to be a permanent fixture in your home, maybe look for something a bit more robust and stylish.

Finally, consider adding some homely touches to the crate. A comfy bed, some toys, and perhaps a cover to make it feel more secluded can make a world of difference. 

Introducing the Crate

I’ve found a few strategies that work wonders, making the process smoother for both you and your furry friend.

Dogs are den animals by nature, and the crate should feel like a safe, cozy retreat. Here’s how I do it:

  • Place the crate in a common area where the family spends a lot of time, like the living room.
  • Keep the door open to allow your dog to explore it at their own pace.
  • Toss in some of their favorite toys or a familiar blanket to make it more appealing.

One thing I’ve learned is patience is key. Some dogs will be curious and step right in, while others might need a little more encouragement. Treats can be a game-changer here. I like to start by placing treats near the crate, then just inside the door, and gradually farther back. This breadcrumb trail does wonders for coaxing them in gently.

Another method I swear by is mealtime association. Move the food bowl closer with each meal, and eventually, place it inside the crate. This technique works like magic for turning skeptics into crate fans.

Each pup has its own pace.  Never use the crate as a punishment. 

Remember, crate training is not a one-size-fits-all. So, stay flexible, be patient, and keep it positive. 

Making the Crate a Positive Space

  • Location is key. I placed it in a busy part of the house where they could still feel part of the family buzz, but not too busy where the constant foot traffic would overwhelm them.
  • Door’s always open. Literally. This way, they knew they had the freedom to explore their new digs on their own terms.
  • Comfort is crucial. I threw in their favorite blanket that smells like… well, them. Plus, a couple of toys for good measure. It’s remarkable how a familiar scent and a well-loved chew toy can turn a box into a home.

But making the crate inviting was only half the battle. The real magic happened when treats and meal times came into play. 

  • For treats, I made a game of it. Every time they ventured in or relaxed inside, I’d casually drop a treat. It wasn’t long before they started ‘checking’ their crate for these surprise snacks.
  • Meal times were crate times. By serving their meals in the crate, I solidified that association between crate and comfort, food, and security.

I’ve learned through this process that patience is more than a virtue—it’s a necessity. Some days, my pup couldn’t wait to hop in and snuggle up. Other days, they looked at it like it was a trap set by the meanest cat in the neighborhood. It’s all part of the journey.

What worked for us was a blend of positive reinforcement, making sure every crate interaction ended on a high note. Whether it was a treat, a gentle petting session, or just spoken praise, ensuring that each crate visit was paired with something good helped us immensely.

I also found that flexibility was just as important. If they seemed stressed, we’d take a step back. If they were happy, we’d make small advances. It’s all about reading their signals and moving at their pace.

Crate Training Do’s and Don’ts

When it comes to crate training, keeping things positive and stress-free for both you and your furry friend is crucial. I’ve picked up a handful of do’s and don’ts over the years that should guide you along this journey. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Do’s:

  • Start Slowly: Introduce the crate gradually. Let your dog explore it on their terms without forcing them in. Pop the door open and scatter some treats inside to make it inviting.
  • Make It Comfortable: Fill the crate with cozy bedding and their favorite toys. A well-loved blanket or a piece of your clothing can add a comforting scent.
  • Feed Meals Inside: This creates a positive association. If they’re hesitant, start by placing their food near the entrance and gradually move it further back.
  • Praise and Reward: Always associate crate time with positive experiences. Praise them for entering and offer a treat or two.
  • Keep a Routine: Dogs love predictability. Establish a routine for crate use, especially for sleeping and quiet time.
  • Rush the Process: Every dog learns at their own pace. Don’t rush them or get frustrated. Patience is your best friend here.
  • Use It for Punishment: Never, and I mean never, use the crate as a punishment. This should be their safe haven, not a time-out zone.
  • Leave Them for Too Long: Especially for puppies, long periods in a crate can be stressful and could lead to accidents. Gradually increase the time as they get more comfortable.
  • Neglect Comfort: It’s not just about having a crate but making sure it’s a place they want to be. An uninviting crate is rarely used.
  • Forget to Exercise: Before crate time, ensure they’ve had plenty of exercises. A tired dog is much more likely to relax and settle down.

By following these simple do’s and don’ts, you’re on your way to creating a positive crate experience for your pup. Remember, the goal isn’t just to confine but to comfort. Keep your training filled with positive reinforcement and patience, and you’ll see your dog start to look at their crate as a personal haven rather than a cage.

Conclusion

I’ve walked you through the essentials of crate training, highlighting the importance of patience, comfort, and positive reinforcement. 

 

Kimberley Lehman

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