While there is some controversy surrounding the topic of crate training, it can be very beneficial for both you and your dog when done right. It is a great way to house train your dog and provide him with a safe space that is all his own.
It can also help with treating separation anxiety. So there are plenty of great reasons to do it. It just needs to be done right. Read our guide to learn more about how to crate train a dog safely and correctly.
Crating can go two ways. When done well, it follows your dog’s natural den instincts to sleep in a confined, secured place. When done wrong, it can be an abusive extended solitary confinement that leads your dog to self-destructive behavior.
This is where the controversy comes from. Some owners use the crate as a punishment tool; they over-use it and leave their dog inside for far too long; or they allow it to become messy and unpleasant inside.
You want to make the crate a positive experience which has as much to do with using the right training method as it does with being a responsible owner after training is complete. Here are a few guidelines for using the crate in a positive way:
When you bring the crate home, don’t immediately put him in and lock the door. Set it up and leave the door open. Place some treats or toys inside to encourage him to go in. Allow him to stay inside with the door open so he doesn’t feel trapped.
Start placing your dog’s food bowl in the crate so that meal times (which are great times for your dog) are associated with the crate. This will help make the crate a positive place that your dog enjoys.
At first, leave the crate door open while your dog enjoys his meal. But after a few meals successfully in the crate, start to close the door while he eats. Open it again immediately when he is finished.
Over time, as your dog gets comfortable, start to leave him in a little longer after meal time is over. Only add 1-2 minutes each time.
If your dog starts to whine after meal time is over and he’s still in the crate, let him out and cut a few minutes off of how long he stays in next time. But don’t respond to the whining directly or he will learn this works to get your attention. Instead, wait for a break in the whining and open the crate to let him out at that time.
Once your dog seems comfortable and stress free while hanging out in the crate after meal time, you can start introducing him to being in the closed crate when it’s not meal time. Place treats and toys inside and when he is all the way in, close the door.
Stay beside the crate for a few minutes after closing it. Then, go out of the room for a few minutes so that he starts to get used to the idea of being by himself in the crate. When you come back, hang out beside the crate for a few more minutes before opening the door and letting him out.
Gradually increase the amount of time as you did during meal time. When your dog is able to stay in the crate for 30 minutes without your presence in the room and without signs of distress or discomfort, he is ready to be left in for short periods while you leave the house.