What is crate training?
Crate training is a process of teaching our pets to accept the crate or cage as a familiar and safe place. There are many people out there that refuse to crate or kennel train their dogs because they think and feel that the confinement is cruel. However, a crate/kennel can give dogs a sense of security. When done properly, Crate training is a highly effective management system that can be a lifesaver for dog owners. A crate/kennel can be a calming and protective space where your dog can relax and feel secure if training and handling are done correctly.
There are quite a lot of benefits to crating, and it's not only for your dog, but for you as well! Just as your dog is getting that relaxation, the same rules apply to you also. I've put together some reasons why crate training is beneficial, and here they are:
Helps with house training: From the moment you get your puppy home, crates are a great tool to help with house breaking. There is a lot of useful info on YouTube or the internet on how to start training this.
Refuge: Crates provide a safe place for your dog to relax. During anxiety-inducing times such as holidays, parties, thunderstorms, kids running around and bunch of other stressful events that we go through in everyday life, a crate can be a great space for them to retreat to.
Easier transport: Crates make transporting your pet a lot easier and safer when in your vehicle.
Preventing injury and toxicity: A crate can definitely help prevent injuries and poisoning for your dog when they're left home alone while you're at work or out running errands.
Protect your belongings: Crates training helps protect your furniture, floors and other valuable things in your home while you're out and about.
Home away from home: when a dog is properly crate trained, it will feel more comfortable and relaxed when they need to be crated at the vets, groomer, or boarding kennel.
Post-surgery rest: Your dog will happier, safer, and less likely to have any kind of failure or complication following surgery that requires exercise restrictions.
How do I choose a crate?
Choosing the right crate for you pet is important and the key to successful training. When deciding on which crate to buy, remember that bigger is not better! First thing you want to do is start by selecting a crate that has enough room for your pet to comfortably stand up, turn around and lie down in it. Your dog may not have any hesitation to pee or poo in a crate that is too big him/her. The proper way to measure a crate for your dog is to first get the length. In order to do so, measure your dog from the tip of their nose to the base of the tail (do not include the length of the tail). Once you have this measurement, add 2-4 inches. Now that you have this number, we can move onto the height. When your dog is in the sit position, measure from the floor to the top of their head. Again, add 2-4 inches to this measurement for the minimum height of your dogs crate. The width of the crate is not as important to measure as this is based on the length and height measurements. When it comes to puppies, you have the option of upgrading your crates every time your puppy grows out of it or, the more reasonable solution would be to find a crate that he/she will fit into as an adult. There are dividers or partitions that you can buy in stores which will help you keep the crate at a comfortable size as your pup grows. Simply add a few inches accordingly. These types of crates are more common in wire materials.
Where should I place my dogs crate?
When you're deciding where to place your crate, you should keep a couple things in mind. You should choose a quiet spot away from any high traffic areas such as a busy hallway or the front entrance. Be sure not place it in an area where the crate will be in direct sunlight, on top of floor vent or radiator. Be vigilant and make sure there aren't any power cables, electric cords or anything harmful that your pup might be able to reach for. Often, people ask me if the bedroom is a good place to put the crate. If you chose to do so, you should consider how sound of a sleeper you are or whether there are other pets in the home as well.
Do's and Don'ts
There are some do's and don'ts when it comes to crates and training. If you follow some or most of these instructions, I promise you'll be on your way to a successful and stress free life with a happy dog.
Let's start with the don'ts. First and foremost, the absolute most important thing you should never do is use your crate for punishment or reprimand your dog while they are in their crates! Doing this will only associate a negative and stressful experience for your dog, making crates training harder and longer than it should be. Crate training can reduce anxiety and depression, however you shouldn't leave your dog locked in his crate all day. This will do just the opposite and actually elevate those stress levels leading to anxiety and depression. If you know you're going to be away for a long period of time during the day, consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker to come in and let the dog out to pee or poo. There are several services out there that offer home visits where they come and do just that as well as play with him/her. If you have a puppy, I wouldn't recommend leaving him/her in the crate for more than 3-4 hours at a time. Puppies have a smaller bladder and need more frequent potty breaks. When you're leaving the house, it's important to make it a big deal. Some people tend to wave, kiss, hug, wave again, and make baby sounds saying "bye bye, we'll be right back". Instead, try giving them a chew toy or one of those food puzzles for them to keep occupied minutes before you intend on leaving. After your dog is distracted by this toy, just simply walk away.
Now that we know what not to do, let's focus on some do's. Before you start any kind of crate training sessions, make sure your pup has had some playtime and has gone potty. This way there are no distractions and we can focus on the task at hand. At first, you're going to want to use a lot of treats and praise. You'll need to be very patient as well as there will tend to test the waters and push your buttons trying to get out and get your attention. It's important not to rush things and take it slowly, working in short increments and at your pups pace. As I mentioned before about not making hot a big deal when you leave house, it's the exact same thing when returning home. Try to keep your energy calm and relaxed, this will help keep the anxiety and anticipation lower. A good tip is to let your dog out to potty as soon as he/she is out of their crate. This will help teach them that potty time comes after they are let out the crate and will solidify potty training. Some dogs enjoy calming music when you're away, so it's not a bad idea to have a radio handy for those particular guys. Remember to always keep crate training fun and positive and your dog will grow to love his "den".
These are the basics as to why I think crate training is important. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of why we use crates and why we will continue to do so. If you're interested in learning how to get started in crate training, stay tuned for part 2 of this blog in the very near future.