Crate Training for Puppies and Dogs

Wondering how to begin crate training your puppy or dog, or even whether you should?

Crate training gets a dog so used to being closed into a crate that he or she can safely be left in it for hours at a time, though only when necessary. The method has its pros and cons. If it works for your dog, it gives both you and the dog a wonderful flexibility in many situations.

Crate Training: PRO

Crate training helps tremendously in potty training puppies and adult dogs.

Your dog can be confined when it is necessary, without undue stress on the dog or serious wear and tear on your home.

If your dog ever has to be left at a veterinarian's office, travel on an airplane, or be evacuated from your home, being in a crate then will be far less stressful if he is already crate-trained.

It's a nice way to include a puppy in what is going on without your having to tend him constantly, for example, if you are giving a party.

Many dogs will seek out their crates to relax in.

Crate Training: CON

It may take some time to get your dog accustomed to being left in the dog crate, and you will need another way to confine him so you don't push the crate training too fast.

Some people might leave their dogs in the crates too much. How much is too much? It depends on the dog and situation, but it should only be a few hours at a time.

Crate training isn't suitable for some dogs. For example, a dog who has spent a lot of time in crates or cages (in a shelter or at a previous owner's) may become very upset. You may or may not be able to overcome this with patient training.

Dogs with separation anxiety may become more upset in a crate than in a larger space.

A strong, frantic dog can get out of most crates, perhaps hurting himself in the process.

Some people just hate the idea of confining their dogs this way. Learning more about crate training often overcomes this dislike, but if you find that it doesn't for you, then use alternatives to crates.

A Basic Crate Training Method

First, of course, you need a crate. Select a good location for the crate -- or more than one location. In your bedroom is good at night, but when you are home during the day, it's best to have the crate near where people will be. Either move the crate around, or some people have two crates. Don't put the crate where sunlight coming in from a window will make the air hot for the dog.

Tie the door open, or even take it off at first. Let the dog notice the crate and examine it if he wishes.

Bit by bit, make it more interesting. Throw toys or treats in. Talk lovingly to him if he goes in. Pet him while he is in the crate.

Begin feeding the dog in the crate. When he is comfortable going in (and this can be anything from an hour to several weeks), then begin closing the door for short periods of time while you are right there.

If he whines to get out, don't let him out and don't sweet-talk him until there is a moment when he isn't whining. Then you can let him out. If you let him out while he is whining, you are teaching him that whining works with you.

With each of the steps, pay attention to what the dog indicates about his feelings. Crate training is most effective when it isn't rushed. If he is uncomfortable at a particular step, back up to a previous one.

Once he accepts the door closed while you are there, begin going elsewhere in your home and gradually lengthening the time you are gone. Having toys in the crate is useful here.

Then leave the house for a very short time and come back, working up to leaving longer and longer.

Close the dog in at bedtime and let it out first thing in the morning. If you are housetraining a young puppy, you will probably be going outside with it in the middle of the night for a while.

And that -- in a nutshell -- is how to crate train your puppy or dog.

Rosana Hart has crate-trained most of her dogs -- the ones who accepted it naturally. More information about crate training, including how to choose a crate and alternative methods, can be found at Rosana's website, http://www.training-dogs.com. This site is about positive, pain-free methods of training dogs.

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