To a human, a crate looks very much like a cage. But to a dog, a crate can be a safe place, a haven, and a home base. With the right training, a crate-trained dog can be a happier, safer pup, and he’ll save his human counterpart a lot of worry.
Crate training is recommended by vets and breeders, and while it’s not a cure-all or a magic pill to be used whenever an owner is frustrated with a dog (crate training should never be used as punishment), crate training assists with potty training, helps a new puppy or rescue dog feel more secure, and preps a dog for any necessary vet or kennel visits.
Here are 10 key steps to safely and successfully crate train your pup:
1. Keep in mind the pros
If Fido doesn’t instantly catch on to crate training, it can be tempting to abandon the whole thing. Besides, you just want to cuddle and play all day with your new pup, so what’s the point of crate training? Keep these pros in mind when motivation wanes:
- A crate helps a pup learn potty-training naturally. As long as the crate is properly sized and your dog isn’t left inside for too long, he won’t want to soil his own space and will wait, within reason, to be let outside.
- Crates are a safe-haven. A pup will likely grow anxious during events that are loud and scary: fireworks, thunderstorms, visits from your in-laws… and he’ll feel safer if he has a refuge where he can relax.
- Crates are homes on-the-go. Dogs can be especially anxious when they’re in unfamiliar environments like at the vet. Crates provide a consistent, familiar space even when you can’t control other factors.
- Crates keep everyone happy. Your dog wants to please you, but if he happens to find your new shoes when he’s left alone for a few hours… well, every dog has a limit. Crates keep your dog from doing things he knows he shouldn’t until you can trust him alone in the house.
2. Select Your Crate Wisely
Bigger is not better when it comes to a dog’s crate. She needs to feel cozy and safe without the pressure to patrol a crate the size of a studio apartment. What seems spacious to a human may be overwhelming to a dog. Keep these tips in mind when shopping for a crate:
- Your dog should be able to stand, turn around, and lie down with outstretched legs in her crate. Get a crate based on the size your dog is rather than the size she will be when grown. You may need to buy larger crates as she grows or start with an adjustable crate.
- Start stiff! It’s tempting to get a soft, comfy-looking crate, but opt for a stiff plastic crate (sometimes called an airplane carrier) or a metal/wire crate. This ensures that your dog will stay secure. After your dog loves her crate you can try a softer or more stylish crate.
3. Place Your Crate With Care
Now that you’ve got the crate, it’s time to set it up and get started! Where you first set up the crate doesn’t have to be its final resting place. At first, you want the crate in a space where your pup can still be as close to you as possible.
- Consider the temperature of the area. Is the crate in direct sunlight or near a HVAC vent? Make sure your dog isn’t going to be freezing or overheating because of where you put his crate.
- Choose a quiet spot. The crate should feel calm, so busy hallways, entryways, or under a speaker are not good options.
- Choose a safe spot. The crate should keep your pup out of trouble, but if he can reach poisonous plants or power cords, he could still get hurt even while crated.
“NEXT” for how to begin crate training
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.
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