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Your New Dog :: Crate Training

Crate training uses a dog's natural instincts as a den animal. A wild dog's den is his home, a place to sleep, hide from danger, and raise a family. The crate becomes your dog's den, an ideal spot to snooze or take refuge during a thunderstorm.  

The primary use for a crate is housetraining.  Dogs don't like to soil their dens. The crate can limit access to the rest of the house while he learns other rules, like not to chew on furniture and are a safe way to transport your dog in the car.

Crating caution!

If not used correctly, a crate can cause a dog to feel trapped and frustrated.  Never use the crate as a punishment. Your dog will come to fear it and refuse to enter it.
Don't leave your dog in the crate too long.  A dog that’s crated day and night doesn't get enough exercise or human interaction and can become depressed and/or anxious. You may have to change your schedule, hire a pet sitter, or take your dog to a doggie daycare facility to reduce the amount of time he must spend in his crate every day.
Puppies under six months of age generally shouldn't stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time. They can't control their bladders and bowels for that long.  The same goes for adult dogs that are being housetrained.  Physically, they can hold it, but they don’t know they’re supposed to.
Crate your dog only until you can trust him not to destroy the house.  After that, it should be a place he goes voluntarily.

Selecting a crate                        

cargo crate.jpg                         soft sided crate.jpg                     wire crate.jpg

Several types of crates are available: Plastic (often called "flight or cargo kennels"); Fabric on a collapsible, rigid frame , and  Metal collapsible crates.

Crates come in different sizes and can be purchased online or at most pet supply stores or from pet supply catalogs.  Your dog's crate should be just large enough for him to stand up and turn around in. If your dog is still growing, choose a crate size that will accommodate his adult size.  You must block off the excess crate space so your dog can't potty at one end and retreat to the other to sleep.

The crate training process

Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training:

Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate

Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket,  or towel in the crate.  You may want to place a blanket/towel/sheet over the crate, leaving only the front open so it feels like a cave to the dog.  Open the door or remove it and let the dog explore the crate at his leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away.  If yours isn't one of them:

Step 2: Feed your dog his meals in the crate

Step 3: Lengthen the crating periods

Step 4, Part A: Crate your dog when you leave

Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at night

Potential problems

Whining. If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether he's whining to be let out of the crate, or whether he needs to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from his crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining.  If your dog is just testing you, he'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at him or pounding on the crate will only make things worse.

If the whining continues after you've ignored him for several minutes, use the phrase he associates with going outside to eliminate. If he responds and becomes excited, take him outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore him until he stops whining.  Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what he wants. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem.  If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again.

Separation Anxiety. Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but he may injure himself in an attempt to escape from the crate. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counter-conditioning and desensitization procedures. You may want to consult a professional animal-behavior specialist for help.