Opinions vary about the value of crate training, a crate can be a very useful tool when house training a young puppy,
or even an adult dog. A crate can be a place of sanctuary, a place of retreat from the busy home life. Some experts
consider properly conducted crate training as imperative as appropriate healthcare, timely neutering, and obedience
training. At the other end of the spectrum are people who consider crates as inhumane to pets.
Not all dogs respond the same way to crates. Some gravitate to them willingly; others detest them and will injure
themselves in them while trying to escape. Why the difference? Nurture and developmental experience have a lot to
do with the answer. Dogs forced to stay in crates, or other small confined places, under extreme adverse
circumstances develop a "post-traumatic" association and will panic when confronted with similar confinement. On the
other hand, a dog that has been well managed in a crate as a youngster may positively revel his crate as a place of
security and comfort and take to readily.
Bad experiences in a crate can include lengthy confinement, (too many hours at a time) or infrequent attention during
confinement, and absence of attachment figures. For dogs that have had unpleasant experiences in a crate,
confinement may be viewed in the same light as prison to an ex-inmate - an experience to be avoided.
Good experiences in a crate include circumstances that permit the crate to be viewed as a retreat or place of comfort,
freedom to come and go (the door is left open periodically so that the dog is not always confined), company inside or
outside the crate, and regular feeding and bathroom trips.
For a dog that has been well acclimated, a crate can be a haven, a place of comfort, a retreat from the world, a den, in
fact. Many dog owners think that, because dogs are den dwellers at heart, they will all automatically appreciate a
crate. But real dens do not have doors. This is why care must be taken
to encourage your dog to view his den as a retreat or sanctuary.
SUCCESSFUL CRATE TRAINING
No matter what age you begin crate training your dog, all experiences within the crate should be good ones.
For you, careful crate training can help to deal with housebreaking. Most dogs respect their1 den, and dogs by their
vary nature directs them against soiling the nest area. A crate can be used to confine a dog between unsuccessful
excursions to a selected outside "bathroom" area.
Ideally, begin with a very young pup (the most impressionable), and establish good memories with each exposure to
the crate. This can be arranged by:
Allowing the pup free access to the crate so that they can come and go at will prior to confining them
· Make the crate comfortable by using a blanket, pads, and perhaps some toys inside of it.
· Praise the pup every time he goes in the crate!
· Confine the pup (shut the door of the crate) for short periods of time, at first, ensuring that company is at hand
(either you or a familiar family member)
· Never use the crate as a place of punishment!
· Make sure that no one disturbs the pup when he is inside the crate so the crate comes to be
appreciated as a place of refuge.
Using the above guidelines, there is no reason that the dog should not gravitate toward the crate for rest and
relaxation. The dog will find the crate among his favorite places in life. Unfortunately, because of bad experiences,
many dogs grow up loathing their crate with a vengeance, acting out in one way or another whenever they are
confined to the crate.
An important reason for crate training is housebreaking that involves the use of a crate or cage. The often-stated
reasoning is that the animal is placed in a cage that is just large enough to be a bed. Dogs do not like to soil their
beds because they would be forced to lay in the mess. It works, and while in these confines, most pups will control their
bladder and bowels for a longer time than we would expect.
Young puppies, at 8 or 9 weeks of age can often last for 7 or 8 hours, however, no one recommends leaving them
unattended in a crate for that long in normal circumstances. During housebreaking, whenever the puppy is inside the
home but cannot be watched, it is placed in the crate. This might be while you are cooking, reading to the children, or
even doing yardwork, or away from home.
The last thing you do before you put the dog in the crate is take them outside to their favorite spot. The first thing you
do when you take the dog out of the crate is yet another trip outside to the favorite bathroom spot.
No food or water goes in the crate, just a blanket, a pad and maybe a chew toy to occupy their time. Overnight is
definitely crate time. As your faith in the dog grows, leave them out for longer and longer periods of time. Most people
do not recognize an important advantage of crate training. It does more than just stop the dog from messing in the
It also teaches the dog something very important. The puppy will learn that when the urge to urinate or defecate
occurs, they can hold it. Just because the dog feels like they need to relieve themself, the pup will learn that they do
not have to and can hold it.
This is the main reason why puppies that have gone through crate training have fewer inside mistakes later on.
Make sure you buy the right size cage. You want one that has the floor space that provides just enough for the puppy
to lie down. But cages are useful throughout a dog's life and it would be nice if you did not have to keep buying more
as he grows. Well, that is not necessary......
Simply purchase a crate that will be big enough for him as an adult, but choose a model that comes with or has a
divider panel as an accessory. With these, you can adjust the position of the panel so that the space inside the cage
available to the pet can grow as they do. Using too large of a crate can often cause long term problems. The puppy
will go to one corner of the cage and urinate or defecate. After a while, they will then run through it tracking it all over
the cage. If this is allowed to continue, the instincts about not soiling his bed or lying in the mess will be forgotten and
the puppy will soon be doing it every day when placed in the crate. Now a housebreaking method has turned into a
behavioral problem as the puppy's newly-formed hygienic habits becomes his way of life.
Step by step......
1. Start by placing the crate into the area it will most likely be used in. This area should be a relatively quiet, low
traffic area where the dog will have little chance of being disturbed while resting. Leave the door open for the
remaining steps. Make sure the crate has some type of comfortable padding inside.
Find what type of treat your puppy enjoys and have some nearby to encourage training
2. Introduce the puppy to the crate gradually. You might even want to play or cuddle with the puppy near the crate for
a while to get them comfortable just being in the same room, or near it. While playing, move closer to the door of the
crate. At an appropriate time, encourage the puppy to go inside by patting at the inside of the crate with your hand. Do
not force the pup inside by any means. If you associate punishment at this stage of the game, you will quickly lose.
The puppy may be shy, and this is where you can use a treat or toy to further encourage them inside. When they go in
and come out, praise them for it! This is the most important step of any training regimen. If your puppy is fetching
items you play with them, use this as the encouragement if needed. Start by tossing the item near the crate, then near
the door, then at the door, then just inside the crate, and so on. Let your puppy repeat going inside the crate several
dozen times, and you will need to praise them accordingly.
3. When the puppy seems unafraid of going inside the crate, let them go in and then restrain them at the door with
only your hand for a few seconds, then let them out, praising them for it. Wait several minutes, them repeat the
process, increasing the time you restrain them at the door with your hand. to 1-2 minutes at a time.
At this time, you would use a command like "crate" or "house" to reinforce verbally what you want the puppy to do.
Repeat this several times until the puppy seems to be getting the hang of it. This may need to continue over a period
of hours, or several short sessions over a few days.
4. Continue your training sessions by doing the same as above, but use the door as the restraint this time. At first,
stay near the crate and encourage the puppy, then let them out and praise them. Repeat, by letting them back in the
crate and move further away from the crate. Repeat this until you can move far away, and the puppy is comfortable.
Remember to use praise everytime! Eventually the puppy will stay in the crate comfortably, and start sitting quietly and
5. Time to work on crate training the puppy for "doing their business"
Puppies need to "go" about every 2-4 hours, just like a baby! Knowing this, you will need to recognize his behavior
when they need to "go" Some puppies will start sniffing the floor, looking for scent markers, or circling around sniffing.
With crate training, you will need to establish a schedule with your puppy. First teach them the rout to the door they
will go out. Take them to a favorite spot outside after feeding, first thing in the morning, after you arrive home, and
before bedtime. After several days of this, they will start to learn this routine themselves.
As your puppy gets older (5-7 months) they will be able to "hold it" for longer periods of time. Eventually you will be
able to leave the dog in the crate all day (8 hours) for a regualr workday until someone comes home to let them out.
Crate Training Your Adult Dog
The following is a program by which older dogs can be introduced or even reintroduced to crates as a place of refuge.
The goal is to systematically desensitize the dog by making the crate appear as benign as possible.
· Position the crate in a medium-high traffic area of the house and make the interior of the crate comfortable and
· Enrich the space with minimal food and treats/toys and initially, always leave the door open.
· Feed the dog progressively closer to the entrance of the crate, and reward him with praise as he gets closer
to the crate.
· Eventually, move the food bowl across the threshold of the crate and then just inside the crate so that he has to
put his head and shoulders inside in order to eat
· Move the food bowl progressively further towards the back of the crate so that the dog has to go further
inside to eat
· Always praise the dog for being in or near the crate
· Do not confine the dog in the crate until he shows that he will enter willingly and of his own accord
· If things go well with the acclimation, the next thing is to try closing and fastening the door for brief periods, while
staying in the area.
· Gradually, the duration of confinement can be increased. Eventually you may be able to leave the dog
confined for considerable periods of time and have tranquility prevail.
· When this has been accomplished, start using a schedule technique as with a puppy method above.
Gradually move the feeding away from the crate and associating it differently. Set a schedule and stick with
it. Old dogs can learn new tricks if you are persistent enough
· Do not leave the dog alone in the crate while you are away until he is perfectly comfortable being in it while
you are there
The program may take time but it will work. Note: With any behavioral modification scheme, like crate training, the
golden rule is that if there is no progress in 3 to 5 days, change the strategy. It is important to emphasize throughout
training and beyond that the crate should never be a place in which the dog has any negative experiences.
Make sure you keep the crate clean, and good bedding inside.
Do not encourage the puppy to "go" inside the crate by putting newspapers or housebreaking pads inside the crate.
Do not put the dog into the crate for punishment. Do not associate anything negative with the crate. This should be
the dogs secure, safe place.
With time and patience, you will be successful and the relationship between you and your dog taken a big step
towards a helathy, happy life!