Crate Training – Necessary or not?
Crate training, considered by some pet owners as unnecessary or cruel. That is totally not true. Today we discuss how to crate train your dog properly.
Crate training is all about offering the dog a place that he considers to be a safe haven. Dogs that are properly crate trained will see it as their home and be more than willing to stay in it. Properly trained dogs will retreat there during stressful / uncomfortable situations. Crating puppies also helps with house breaking or as it is sometimes referred to, potty training.
A dog crate should be large enough to allow the dog to stand comfortably, lie down and turn around. If it is too small it will be uncomfortable, dangerous, and can lead to injury. If it is too big it will just not serve the purpose of crate training especially if the main intent is to help with housebreaking. It can be a very handy tool when getting a new dog.
6 Steps to Successful Crate Training
1. Introducing the crate.
The first step that many disregard is the proper introduction of the crate. The dog will not know what a it is and may not be comfortable with it initially. The first and very important step is to leave the it there until the dog gets used to it. Put a dog bed, a few toys and a couple of treats inside it so the dog gets more attracted because “his stuff” is inside. Do not force the dog to go inside it but do reward if he explores it by himself.
2. Encourage the dog to go inside.
Once the dog is completely fine with the crate being around, start encouraging the dog to step inside. Praise the dog as soon as he steps in and always reward. Therefore the dog always associates it to good events. Do not close the door yet or you may scare the dog.
3. Reinforce the crating behaviour.
Now that your dog is getting more comfortable with the crate, start feeding there as well. The idea behind crate training is to have the dog relate it to positive events. Hide a couple of treats inside to make the dog happy when he just goes in by chance and sniffs them out.
4. Close the door.
Once the dog is very comfortable and seeks the retreat of the crate start closing the door gradually. Start by closing the door only for a few seconds, open and reward with a treat. Repeat the process extending slowly the time it is closed. At this stage stay close. Once your dog stays comfortably inside for a considerable amount of time for example 30 minutes then it is time for the next step.
5. Leave the room.
Once the dog is comfortable in the crate it is time to leave the room for a few seconds and come back. Do it casually and do not give signs to the dog that you are about to leave. If the dog starts whining or barking, just ignore it let him out without giving a treat. Only give a treat if the dog remained calm. The key to crate training is to reward the dog when he is calm.
6. Leave the house.
The concept of leaving the house is the same as leaving the room. Once the dog is comfortable in the crate when you are not around you can proceed to leave the house for short periods. When you return home stay calm and allow the dog out only if he is calm or when he calms down. If you let the dog out in an excited state you will tell the dog to get excited and he will be let out which is the contrary to what you want to teach.
Variations Between Dogs
The six steps outlined above are guidelines and most probably you will not follow them to the dot. Remember that every dog is different and some may be quicker to adapt than others. Some other dogs may not like the idea of crate training despite of the training given. The key to success is to let the dog set the pace of the training and to never force him into the training. As a dog owner all you have to do is to use your head and make the whole thing a game that the dog will enjoy and the training comes along naturally.
If you force a dog in a crate you can traumatise the dog which may lead to behavioural problems. Always apply a positive reinforcement method and associate crating to good things, safety, and a comfortable place for the dog. Never use the crating as a means of punishing the dog as that goes against the whole principle!