How to Crate Train a Dog

How To Crate Train A Dog Australian Shepard in dog crate

Dog owners, veterinarians and breeders find dog crates vitally important for making dogs secure and comfortable in their home.

For those not familiar with a dog crate, it’s a small, enclosed kennel usually made from plastic, fabric, or wire. It’s a haven for a dog with a comfortable bed in the home. 

Often there is a stigma associated with crating a dog, it makes the humans feel guilty or they feel like a failure because their dog is not able to roam the house. When in fact, it’s just the opposite! Dogs of all ages benefit from being properly crate trained

In this article, How to Crate Train a Dog, we can learn how to understand dogs and crates, reasons to have your dog comfortable with a crate, different sizes of crates, and tips on how to crate train a dog properly.

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How to Crate Train a Dog:  Understanding the Dog

Dogs instinctively seek out safe and secure places in their living space.  The key to your dog viewing their crate as a secure place is learning to how to crate train a dog properly. 

When a dog wants to sleep or nap undisturbed, the crate provides the perfect atmosphere.  They can relax and be “protected” from new visitors, small children, and other household dogs.

The location of the crate depends on the personality of your dog.  Some dogs like their crate tucked in a quiet corner with a crate cover. Others like to crate and nap in the main living space.

Dog’s feel responsible for their territory and crates allow for those natural instincts.

Professionals that study animal behavior agree that the crate is similar to a den for the dog.

One misconception about dog crates is thinking a dog can spend every day, all day in this small space. Household crates were not intended for this purpose. There is value in learning how to crate train a dog for the benefit of the dog and family.

** A healthy dog needs quality sleep, mental and physical exercise, and social interaction with their family. **

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How to Crate Train a Dog: Reasons to Use a Dog Crate

Before we learn how to crate train a dog, we’ll look at the many reasons people use dog crates.  Crates are seen as a tool for managing and training your new dog.

There are many reasons for crating your dog. The main reason dog owners like crates, is when they need to leave the house, they have peace of mind knowing both dog and house are safe.

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12 Reasons to Learn How to Crate Train a Dog

  • Provides a sense of security for the dog. Some dogs need a peaceful place to call their own when company comes calling.
  • Great tool for housetraining puppies or new dogs.
  • Emergencies in the household and the dog needs to be contained.
  • Safety for dogs or puppies around infants and small children.
  • Travel purposes; allows a safe trip to the vet, road trips, transporting to dog sitters.
  • Evacuations: if you need to transport your dog, they will be more cooperative.
  • Recovering from a surgery where they need to remain quiet and still.
  • A dog that is tired, injured or not feeling well will want to be left alone.
  • Canine cognitive dysfunction. Crates keep your dog from getting lost in the home.
  • Hunting dogs need to be crated for transporting and for sitting in a dog blind.
  • Prohibits nighttime wanderings for senior dogs.
  • Household safety for dogs that like to chew or have anxiety.

These twelve reasons to learn how to crate train a dog will give you reassurance that you are training your dog and providing a place of security and comfort for them.

Bonus Reasons:

Crates make it more convenient to take along your dog for family outings and trips.  A pleasure for everyone!

One more bonus reason is, it conditions and teaches your dog that relaxing and alone time are enjoyable.

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How to Crate Train a Dog:  Purchase a Crate

Crates are generally made from three types of materials: plastic, wire, or fabric. Canvas or nylon crates are referred to as soft-sided crates.

Each crate has merits and why you would choose one over the other.

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Plastic Portable Crates: These crates are lightweight and easy to move around.  Depending on the style, the dog can see out through little holes or slates on the side of the crate. They come with a metal door that can be adjusted to swing either way.

Not all plastic crates are created equal, they vary in price to reflect the quality and thickness of the plastic. The higher end plastic crates have doors that are sturdier and hold up to a little pressure from newly crated dogs. Some models come with wheels for easier transport.

Pros:  Lightweight. Works great for traveling in the vehicle, by plane and in hotels. Smaller plastic crates have the option for two doors.

Cons:  Anxious dogs can chew the plastic. Uncomfortable for larger dogs.

Folding Wire Crates: These sturdy wire crates come with a removable plastic tray. They fold down to easily relocate or pack for travel.

Visibility is high in the wire crate. Dogs can have the option to see what is happening around them. Wire crates also work well with a fitted crate cover.

The quality of wire crate you purchase may depend on your dog.  Heavy duty wire crates can prevent dogs from trying to escape and hurting themselves.

Pros: Better ventilation and easier to clean. They can be made into household furniture. All sizes can offer one or two doors.

Cons:  Heavy. Some models can develop rust over time.

Soft-sided CratesThese crates are made with a heavy-duty canvas or nylon material.  This type of crate is made for dogs who are very comfortable with going in a crate.  The soft-sided crate works well for a calm dog. Dogs who do not scratch and chew household items do well.

Pros.  Lightweight, portable features like extra handles and clips, folds down easily. Some airlines allow small soft sided crates to sit under the seat in the cabin.

Cons:  Can be destroyed by anxious dogs or dogs that like to chew. Zippers can wear down on less expensive models. Harder to clean.

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Based on your lifestyle, your dog’s personality and training you can feel confident about purchasing the right crate.  When learning how to crate train a dog, it’s also common for dog owners to have a household crate and a crate for travel.

Now we need to measure our dogs and chose the right size crate that allows them to move around and get comfortable.

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How to Crate Train a Dog:  Choose the Right Size Crate

Choosing the right size crate is important.  First, get the dog’s measurements. Measure from the top of their head (or ears if they have erect ears) to the ground.  Next, measure from your dog’s nose to their tail. 

Now that you have these measurements, add 4 inches to the length and height to know the correct size crate.

Here is the general rule of thumb for buying crates:  a crate large enough for your dog to stand up, make a complete turn and lay back down comfortably. 

Puppy crates need to be smaller so that the puppy doesn’t use a corner to eliminate.  Wire crates often come with an adjustable panel, so you can move it as the puppy grows.

Follow the crate manufacturers guidelines for your dog’s measurements and weight to choose the right size.

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How to Crate Train a Dog:  Prepare the Crate

A dog crate is your pet’s little piece of home.  If possible, you will want it to be comfortable.  Some dogs like cushion and plush and other like cool vinyl covered pads.

  • Choose Bedding

If you have any doubts about your dog potentially chewing or destroying bedding, you’ll want to choose a non-destructible crate pad such as the Primo Pad or K9 Ballistics dog bed. Both fit snuggly into the crate and have tie downs for the corners and sides.

For non-chewing dogs, a soft crate pad or fleece blanket works great. You can make the crate a warm place for your dog to rest.

  • Choose a Comfort Toy

Dog breeders and dog trainers often recommend a behavioral aid toy that comes with a little heart that mimics the puppy’s heartbeat and a small heat pack.

Smart Pet Love has a stuffed puppy toy that has a removable heartbeat in it. It is known to recreate the intimacy and physical warmth pups had experienced with their mom and litter mates. The heartbeat function can be switched on and off as desired.

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It won’t take long before this toy is associated with warmth and comfort for your dog.

When you are first learning how to crate train a dog, keep in mind that some older puppies and adult dogs might have so much anxiety they will destroy anything in the crate. One suggestion is to introduce the comfort toy to the puppy while you are snuggling or sitting with your dog outside the crate.

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Tips on How to Crate Train a Dog

First, you’ll want to find the right location in your home.  Puppies often like to have their crate in the main living space, such as the kitchen or dining area.  They can watch their family or even nap knowing everyone is close by.

Every puppy and dog is different!!  Some dogs take to their crate right away and others take months to get comfortable. Patience, kindness, and persistence will be helpful with learning how to crate train a dog.

Tip #1 – Be consistent with crate training.

Tip #2 – Place puppy in the crate and give them praise and affection with the door open. 

Tip #3 – Feed all their meals inside the crate. Shut the door slowly. When they are done eating, open the crate right away and let them out.

Tip #4 – Puppies nap often, which allows you to quietly pick up your pup and place them in the crate.

Tip #5 – Practice “crate training” several times a day.  Grab your pet’s kibble or favorite treats and make the crate inviting.

Place kibble/treats outside the crate so they are familiar with it and comfortable approaching the crate. Next, toss kibble/treats inside the crate, they will go in to eat it and come right out, praise them!  Keep playing this game for several minutes and then a couple hours later, do it again.

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Eventually, you can shut the door with your dog in it.  Praise them and let them out.  Keep extending the time they are spending in the crate.  Praise your dog.  If you use a wire crate, you can drop kibble/treats in while they are inside.

Tip #6 – The American Kennel Club suggests to frequently give them food stuffed toys to enjoy in the crate.

Tip #7 – Practice leaving the house.  Go out to your car while your dog is crated and come back in and let them out.  Keep extending the time away until your dog is comfortable with the crate.

Closing Tips of What Not to Do

When learning how to crate train a dog, you want to be conscious of four things:

  1. Never use the crate as punishment. 
  2. Do not provide water in the crate.
  3. Limit the time your dog stays in the crate.
  4. It’s okay if your dog squeaks a bit in the crate. Treat & praise when they are quiet.

Keep in mind, your dog ultimately wants to be with you.  Crates make safe comfortable places for your pet to sleep and stay safe while you are away.

Crates = Dog Haven

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Once you mastered how to crate train a dog it will be wonderful for both you and your dog.  It’s amazing to see your dog choosing to take a nap in their crate during the day.

Once you understand more about your dog’s behavior and the reasons behind learning how to crate train a dog, you can begin choosing the appropriate crate.

Plastic, wire, and soft-sided crates all have pros and cons, so you can match your dog and lifestyle with the appropriate crate.

Lastly, it takes patience and consistently working with your dog to make them feel comfortable with their new haven.  

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