How to Train Your Dog to Use A Crate

Easy
2-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

Crate training dogs can become an important part of everyday life for your family. Puppies take comfort in their crates while their owners are away. If your puppy is going to be left alone for extended periods of time while you are working or out of the house, think of your dog's crate as her personal bedroom. As you begin to crate train her, give the crate a special name that she will recognize as her special place to go and be safe while you are away. Keeping your dog crated while you are out of the house will keep your belongings safe from puppy attacks. Many owners find their couches saved from chewing, doors, and baseboards saved from marking, and the dog left feeling safe, comfortable, and self-contained within a confined space when using a crate. Puppies, especially, can become overwhelmed when left alone in your home while you are gone. If left to the entire house alone, your puppy could get into garbage or household cleaners, which could cause harm. Children's toys could also be destroyed, or other household items such as your furniture. For a puppy or an adult dog, an entire house with free reign is a lot of space to wreak havoc while you are away.

Defining Tasks

A crate big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around is big enough for your dog to rest, sleep, and quietly play while you are away from her. While you will want a crate that is big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in, you want to make sure that it's not too big. Too much space could make your dog feel uncertain and unsafe. If left with too much space, your house training dog may use part of the crate to urinate, separating a sleeping area from a potty space. This could mean if you have a dog who is going to grow a lot over the first two years of her lifetime you may need to partition a large crate off or use different crates as your puppy grows into a larger dog.

Depending on the age of your dog, it may take about two weeks and possibly up to four weeks to get your dog not only used to the crate but also feeling as if the crate is her home away from home when you are not around. It is important to use the same word each time you command your dog to go inside her crate.

Getting Started

You will need:

  • An appropriate crate for the size of your dog.
  • Treats for rewarding your dog and enticing her to get into the crate.
  • Bedding and toys for comfort and entertainment while your dog is in the crate.

Some owners provide a small dish of water for their dog while in the crate. However, if you plan to be gone for an extended period, your dog may have an accident in the crate, leaving her feeling discouraged

Remember, do not use the crate as punishment. It should be a safe place for your dog. If she associates the crate with punishments, she is not going to want to be in her crate when you are away for extended periods of time.

The General Crate Training Method

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General Crate Training method for Use A Crate
Step
1
Introduce the crate to your dog
Place the crate in a busy area within your home such as your family room or near your kitchen to introduce the crate to your dog.
Step
2
Encourage her to enter
Bring your dog over to the crate with the door open for her to sniff and explore. Set a small treat inside and encourage her to go inside and walk around. Do this several times over the course of the first day you have the crate.
Step
3
Feed inside the crate
If possible, you can give your dog a meal inside the crate to create a level of comfort for her.
Step
4
Increase duration
Once your dog can spend approximately 30 minutes inside the crate with you at home without fear or anxiety, place her in the crate with a treat, your verbal command, bedding, and toys.
Step
5
Leave the house for a short period
If possible, the first few times you leave the house should be short trips. Take a walk around the block, make a trip to the grocery store, or run an errand or two. When possible, try not to make her first time in the crate without you home a full day for you at work, for instance.
Step
6
Repeat
As much and as often as you can, repeat this process to get your dog used to the crate for longer times. Note that a house training puppy may only be able to make it for a few hours without the need to go outside.
Recommend training method?

The Night Sleeping Method

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Night Sleeping method for Use A Crate
Step
1
Location
If you are training a puppy to sleep in a crate at night, you may want to start with the crate in your bedroom or any hallway near your room, so your dog feels close to you and safe.
Step
2
Introduce and encourage use of the crate
Using the method above, introduce the crate to your dog with verbal commands and treats.
Step
3
Leave her in the crate
Using a keyword and treats, leave her alone for small periods of time.
Step
4
Tucking in
Begin your nighttime routine with your dog in the crate and the door open.
Step
5
Close the door
Once your dog settles down, you can close the door while still talking to her and letting her know you are nearby.
Step
6
Head to bed yourself
If you do not like the crate in your bedroom or a hallway near your bedroom you can move it once your dog is comfortable understands the verbal commands such as “let's go night-night” and begins to enter the crate on her own when she is ready for bed.
Recommend training method?

The Luring Your Dog into the Crate Method

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Luring Your Dog into the Crate method for Use A Crate
Step
1
Strategy
If your dog is uncomfortable with the crate training process, you can lure her into the crate.
Step
2
Use a food lure
Place her food inside the crate as a lure.
Step
3
Encourage her to enter
With a soft voice, encourage her to get inside.
Step
4
Keep her in while eating
Sit with the door open, blocking the doorway as she eats.
Step
5
Encourage her to stay inside
Provide a comforting voice and tone while she is inside the crate.
Step
6
Reward on release
When it is time for her to come out of the crate, make a big deal of releasing her. Tell her she is a good pup, and offer her a special treat reserved just for crate release time.
Step
7
Repeat
Each time you need to place her in the crate, try this method until she understands she is safe and secure as well as loved.
Step
8
Understanding
This method works for dogs who may have been abused or locked in small cages or crates for extended periods of time without love and encouragement. An abused dog may associate a crate with a past life and will be fearful of it. Showing her she is safe, and you will return while providing her love and attention will teach her to trust you and her safe space more over time.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Lucky
Labrador Retriever
7 Months
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Question
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Lucky
Labrador Retriever
7 Months

My dog would usually go to his crate and go to sleep as usual. A couple weeks ago, he started whining in his crate for a couple minutes after we put him in there. Up until a couple of days ago, he started barking nonstop as though he was not crate trained.

What's wrong with him, and why is he doing this? Is he trying to test the limits? I suspect so. If he is, what do I do? Reward him when he's quiet?

P.s. the crate is his bedroom.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
129 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kien, If he is not having accidents in the crate during a normal day, then he is likely just testing limits because of his adolescent age. He probably thinks that being out of the crate is more fun and so he is protesting being crated. Stay firm and if that is the case the phase should pass. You can reward him by going to him when he is quiet and quietly dropping a couple of treats inside. You can also give him a hollow chew toy such as a Kong, stuffed with kibble dog food and a little peanut butter when you put him in there during the day. Check out the video that I have linked below and add some structure to going in and out of the crate to establish a calmness and respect related to you and the crate. Generally spending some time every day or so doing a bit of training in general should help to build his respect for you at this age. Be sure to be consistent with your rules and enforcing them at this age also. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7lyzbgTXjU Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Guaro
French Bulldog
1 Year
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Question
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Guaro
French Bulldog
1 Year

We rescued Guaro about 2 months ago, at the shelter they said he is about a year old, he is not house broken yet, we are crate trainning him, also it seems like he was abused and he is really shy and nervous, he loves his crate even when we are at home and we keep it open. We have Cutie a 2 year old maltese mix, she is really well behaved and house broken completely. Can we leave Guaro in his crate and Cutie loose while we are not at home? Cutie doesn't enjoy the crate and we leave her unsettled and barking.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
129 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tatiana, If Cutie was left out of a crate in your home while you were gone before you got Guaro, Guaro does not seem aggravated by Cutie when he is in the crate, and Cutie is not pestering him through the crate walls, then Cutie is fine to be left out while Guaro is crated. If you have never left Cutie out while you are gone, then leave the house for five minutes and see how she does. If she does okay, then leave her out for ten minutes another day. If that goes well, then leave her for thirty minutes. Gradually increase how long you leave her out for while you are gone. A long trip to the mailbox, a walk around your neighborhood, or a short trip to a nearby store are good times to do this. Keep adding more time until you have reached two hours. If she does alright for two hours for a week to two-weeks straight, then try leaving her for a normal work day or day where you are gone. Just be sure that you are not gone for longer than she can hold her bladder for. If she handles the full amount of time consistently, then she is ready to be given freedom in your home while you are gone. If she destroys something or begins having accidents, then you need to wait another three months and then try again using the same gradual process. If Cutie is fine being left out but seems to aggravate Guaro when she is free and he is confined, then confine Guaro in a part of the house that Cutie cannot get to. For example, put Guaro's crate in a bedroom and close the door so that Cutie cannot come in, or use a baby gate on your stairs if you have multiple levels in your home, and place Cutie downstairs and put Guaro's crate upstairs, so that she cannot get to him to bother him. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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