Why Should I Crate My Dog?
Teaching your dog to settle happily in a crate is particularly useful when toilet training a puppy or an older dog. Crating also helps prevent destructive or obnoxious behaviours when you can’t be present to supervise; provides a secure place to rest when family activity gets too much; gives you the option of safely transporting your dog on planes, in cars etc; lets you board your dog with out having to worry about stress; and lets you take your dog to dog sport events such as Flyball and Agility without the dog needing supervision all day.
It is much kinder to set the dog up to learn calm relaxed human appropriate behaviour than to leave a dog to develop his/her own behaviours without your guidance.
What Sort of Crate?
There are a variety of crates available on the market, for training purposes a collapsible metal crate may be sufficient. If you intend transporting your dog on an aircraft a plastic travel crate may be worth the investment. If you compete with your dog, a lightweight canvas crate will be suitable when the dog has learned good behaviour in a crate. The crate should be sized so that there is just enough room for him/her to stand up and turn around comfortably.
Setting the Crate Up for Success
The process may take several days or even weeks or as little as just a fewdays depending on your dog’s temperament. It is important only to proceed to the next step when your dog is comfortable with the present situation. Remember to always toilet and exercise your dog before crating.
- Place the crate in a quiet area, close to where the family spends most of their time. In the crate place soft bedding, water, chew toys, and treats. Remove the door or secure it so it can’t swing.
- Place a few treats in the crate and see if your dog will go in on his/her own. Let your dog go in and out freely making sure you replace the treats frequently to encourage him/her to go in.
- Begin feeding your dog meals in the crate, placing the bowl to encourage your dog into the crate a little further each time.
- When your dog is readily entering the crate to eat meals replace the door. Start closing the door for a few seconds while your dog is eating, gradually increasing the time with the door shut.
- Keep working with this until you can leave the door shut for the whole time your dog is eating without your dog becoming restless or vocal.
- Gradually extend the time again but only release your dog while he/she is calm and quiet, if your dog starts to vocalise or scratch you have extended the time too quickly, back up a few steps and try again.
IMPORTANT: When you release your dog take it to eliminate, and have a pat or gentle interaction with him/her.
- Again start to increase the time that your dog will stay calm in the crate.
- When he/she will wait calmly for 10 minutes you can begin to send him/her to the crate giving him/her a command such as ‘crate’ or ‘in’ and placing some treats in the crate. Close the door and wait close by for 5 minutes or so. If your dog has remained calm, release him/her and start to build up the time. If your dog has begun to vocalise or exhibit restlessness, work on a shorter duration and only release when calm and quiet.
- When your dog is happily going into and staying calmly in the crate for about 15 minutes start to move out of sight for a few minutes at a time, releasing and rewarding only when calm and quiet, and only building up the time if your dog is calm and quiet.
- When you can leave your dog happily in his/her crate for approximately 30 minutes start changing the location of your crate; start taking it to training (this is any sort of dog sports) and building up the behaviour in new locations with increasing distractions.
Somewhere along this journey your dog will learn to love and respect his/her crate, your dog will begin to look for his/her crate in many situations and often regard it as his/her chill out zone.
A crate is not the ultimate solution for every behavioural problem. If your dog becomes distressed or anxious at any stage, seek advice from your instructor. A crate should NEVER, NEVER be used as a punishment as it is supposed to be a calm and relaxed place. Do not leave your dog in the crate for longer than his/her bladder can cope. (Puppies 1 hour for every month of age, i.e. 2 months old = 2 hours maximum).